2016 Scholars and Fellows announced

This year’s Scholars are: Triona Byrne, an engineer from Co Kildare; Declan Cahill, a building surveyor from London/Manchester and Gethin Harvey, an architect based in Norwich.

This year’s Fellows are: Peter McCluskey, a slater/roughcaster from Glasgow; Thom Evans, a stonemason from Ceredigion; Lizzie Hippisley-Cox, a stained glass conservator from York and Heather Griffith, a stonemason from Stirling.

Subscribe to this blog to keep up to date with the Scholars’ and Fellows’ countrywide conservation tour, starting in mid-March.


Past Scholars and Fellows: Where are they now?

Caitriona Cartwright, 1989 SPAB Fellow, talks about the Fellowship and how she took her craft down an unexpected path.

News_S&F_Caitriona Cartwright1
I got into masonry after studying History of Art at Manchester University. I’d always wanted to use my hands, to be a craftsperson, and was inspired by the study of medieval art and architecture. At university we had a very charismatic lecturer, Dr Paul Crossley, whose enthusiasm was infectious, but it did begin to occur to me that I would rather repair old buildings than study them. Straight after university I started the year-long City and Guilds course in stonemasonry at Weymouth College.

The process of just using my hands is terribly satisfying. I enjoy becoming completely absorbed by the task and having the satisfaction of producing a piece of work. I enjoy carving headstones in particular as my aim is always to make something fitting and, hopefully, beautiful. I hope this plays a small part in the healing process of grief.

I first heard about the Fellowship when I was working as a stonemason at Salisbury Cathedral, a colleague had done it the year before. The most memorable time on the Fellowship for me was the block I spent with John Green, a stonemason based in Ipswich. I was very impressed by him, his quiet confidence and his autonomy. I wanted to learn about stone conservation from him, I didn’t expect to become interested in lettering, but he was working away on a headstone while I was in his workshop and it just turned my head. It was a wonderful opportunity, John Green showed me another way of working with stone.

I’d been quite resistant to lettercutting at Weymouth College because one of the lecturers has said to me early on that as a woman I would probably end up making headstones. That offended my feminist sensibilities as I wanted to work on cathedrals, on building sites.

There have been many favourite projects, memorials especially. I was honoured to be asked to carve several memorials by Richard Attenborough. I’ve also carved a few things for Sir Roy Strong for his garden, the Laskett .

Caitriona Cartwright2
The Fellowship shaped my career in a very unexpected way. As I said, by meeting John Green, I just discovered a new path. It gave me confidence. In a way I discovered my voice. We met so many interesting people and entered into so many discussions. In the end it equipped me with the skills and confidence to become self-employed, and to work on smaller projects that fitted around my children when they were small. Now they have grown up I’m quite happy to carry on as I am!

Scholars and Fellows hit the conservation trail

Scholars and Fellows on the scaffolding at Hampton Court Palace

Scholars and Fellows on the scaffolding at Hampton Court Palace

This year’s Scholars and Fellows have started their countrywide tour. They have a packed programme to look forward to that will run from March to December.

The group have already visited the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace, where they have had a practical bricklaying session. In the next few weeks they can look forward to lead welding at Norman and Underwood, the lead-casters who made the King Richard III ossuary and the kind sponsors of the Scholars’ car this year, an introduction to milling at Charlecote Mill in Warwick and timber framing at the Kent Woodland Centre.

In the coming months their travels will take them to significant conservation projects, workshops and studios in all parts of the country where they will  learn about traditional building techniques from skilled craftspeople who have already established careers in the field. Don’t miss out on any blog posts, sign up for email updates from the Scholars and Fellows blog.

Image from left to right: Niall Bird, David Burdon, Oliver Wilson, Emma Teale, Joe Coombes-Jackman, Ben Hornberger and Joanna Daykin.


Glorious Mud!

By Alex Gibbons

I thought I’d take the opportunity to write about my favourite thing…mud! Last week SPAB ran the first ‘Glorious Mud’ courses in Slawston, Leics. The East Midlands has a rich cultural heritage of building with earth, which unfortunately goes relatively unnoticed compared with other clay-rich subsoil regions such as the South West and East Anglia. One reason for this, suggested by Anthony Goode who hosted the event, could be that the residents of the East Midlands continue to proudly refer to their earth building tradition as ‘mud’. Some might say that this is a less appealing name than ‘cob’ or ‘clay lump’, but I think it reflects the beautiful simplicity of the material and technique perfectly. The aim of the week was to get people interested, excited and educated in the mud building tradition of the East Midlands in the hope of bringing sexy back to mud. And I think we did a pretty good job!

After a couple of days setting up with Anthony, we were ahead of the game when the course delegates arrived on the Wednesday. There were about 25 of us in total, including local self builders, architects, conservation officers, Scholars, Fellows and a good group from the SPAB HQ in London.

We opened the bidding with tea (the only way to start any day of mud building) and several very interesting lectures on building with earth regionally and internationally by Jason Mordan and Stafford Holmes, as well as an introduction in the mud building tradition of technique of the East Midlands by Anthony.

After another quick cup of tea, it was time for course delegates to get their hands dirty! Guided by time-served mudman Derek, myself and Anthony, we began to make repairs to the bee damaged wall at Slawston. The wall had been a victim of masonry bees who had made their home in it – an all too common sight in earth buildings across the world. Mud has a great ability to store heat overnight in its thermal mass and is very easy to burrow in to, making it a perfect place for the bees to make their home.

P1110545Although the wall looks in a pretty sad state of repair, it is built so wide that really the bee damage is only superficial. Given enough time the bees will eventually burrow far enough to cause structural damage but with good maintenance this is unlikely to happen. Everyone got stuck in, mixing by foot and applying by hand. Mud building is a very labour intensive process but working together makes it great fun as well!


Course delegates also had the opportunity to make mud bricks and blocks, as well as a small rammed earth wall. Local school visits were run along side the main course, where participants had the chance to get their hands dirty and take their knowledge of making mud pies to the next level!


In the evening we were joined by building archaeologist, David Smith who gave an extremely interesting presentation on local mud buildings, rafterless thatch and much more.

The following day the weather was looking a little threatening so we ‘made hay while the sun shone’ and began by finishing the repair of the wall and wrapping up the practical element of the ‘Glorious Mud’ course.

Glorious Mud_8

When the rain started coming down again, we retreated inside for more lectures (and tea!), this time from architect Chris Granger, who had built a community centre in Bolivia with his wife, architect Scholar Chloe, using adobe blocks last year. After this, we handed over to Earth Building UK. I gave a presentation on modern buildings using earth as the main structural element and Dr. Paul Jaquin spoke about rammed earth buildings and the structural performance of earth. Earth Building UK is a not-for-profit organisation that fosters the conservation, understanding and development of building with earth in the UK.


After this it was back to architect Stafford Holmes, who gave presentation on a project he has lead in Pakistan, using lime to stabilise earth blocks in flood zones, so people can re-house themselves relatively cheaply in buildings that won’t wash away when the next floods come.

All in all, an extremely enjoyable and informative week, and I hope the first of many more to come! I think it really gave everyone a respect for the physical work that’s involved in building with earth, and how much easier they are to repair than to re-build.

I’d like to say a massive thank you to Anthony Goode for inspiring and arranging the course, to everyone at SPAB for organising, to all the speakers and to Derek for the practical sessions. May the East Midland mud buildings enjoy a resurgence of interest and sympathetic repair!

If you would like to find out more about building with earth, please visit www.ebuk.uk.com


Celebrating Craftsmanship

It’s all over for another year. The 2013 Fellowship programme, that is. We celebrated this year’s Fellows’ craftsmanship and enthusiasm for the SPAB philosophy with an award ceremony in November. The touring Fellows made a stop in London so they could be presented with their William Morris Craft Fellowship certificates in the impressive surroundings of Ironmongers’ Hall.


Nearly 100 guests were welcomed with a speech from Lord Cormack, Chairman of William Morris Craft Fellowship Founding Committee. Lord Cormack remarked that “without craftspeople the grand designs of architects cannot be realised” – a theme that was echoed throughout the day. SPAB Director, Matthew Slocombe, introduced each Fellow, commending them individually for their dedication to their craft and the Fellowship.


When SPAB Scholar Martin Ashley (of Martin Ashley Architects) addressed the room he spoke of the enduring nature of craftsmanship, “crafts have existed forever and will exist forever; the William Morris Craft Fellowship ensures this”.

Dorian Crone, SPAB Scholar founding and current member of the Dance Scholarship Trust, closed the event. He drew parallels to the Lethaby Scholarship, which runs parallel to the Fellowship programme, and spoke of the great things that can happen when architects and craftspeople pool their knowledge.

Here’s what this year’s Fellows had to say about their experiences over the last 6 months:

Johnnie Clark, stonemason Fellow from Glasgow

“The appreciation and understanding I have gained of all the different crafts involved in the field of conservation has allowed me to approach my own work with greater confidence. I am involved in apprentice training, which is major focus at the Cathedral and I can pass all that I have learnt onto the trainee stonemasons. In terms of my own craft, I have been able to move out of my comfort zone and understand the regional differences in materials, adapting to the many types of stone and tools used.”

Jamie Miles, plasterer Fellow from Chesterfield

“Personal highlights have been the 2 weeks spent at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales where I had the opportunity to repair an old lime kiln and build a slaking tank before firing up the kiln and seeing the whole process involved in producing quicklime. I feel the knowledge and confidence gained from my time on the Fellowship will be invaluable to me and my company in the future.”


Tyrone Oakley, leadworker Fellow from Dundee

“The SPAB Fellowship has been a very edifying experience for me. The first thing I learnt was just how little I knew about anything whatsoever! The variety on the course has filled me with a great appreciation for historical architecture. I’ve been given a good understanding of our national crafts, both ancient and contemporary. But most of all my love of my own craft, leadwork, has reached a new level of obsession.”

The SPAB Fellowship is supported by English Heritage, Historic Scotland, The Monument Trust, William Morris Craft Fellowship Trust and William Morris Society. If you would like talk about how you can support the Fellowship get in touch with our Development Manager development@spab.org.uk.

From the Fellows’ sketchbooks

Throughout their 26 week long conservation tour the Fellows keep a sketchbook journal that they fill with notes and drawings from their travels to sites and workshops across the UK and abroad. Below are a few sketches from Tyrone Oakley and Johnnie Clarke from the first few weeks out on the road.

At Hampton Court Palace

TO_Hampton Court Palace2

by Tyrone Oakley

TO_Hampton Court Palace

by Tyrone Oakley

JC_Hampton Court

by Johnnie Clarke


The Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College and The Great Hall Westminster Palace

JC_painted hall

by Johnnie Clarke

TO_Painted Hall

by Tyrone Oakley


On site sketches


by Johnnie Clarke

JC_orchard barn

by Johnnie Clarke


by Tyrone Oakley


by Tyrone Oakley

Pargetting and Blacksmithing

by Tyrone Oakley

The Scholars and Fellows were recently in Audley End near Saffron Walden, Essex working on an unlisted 18th century house. Bill Sargent, a master pargetter, showed the group around the site. Bill and his team had carefully removed all the cement render from the property and were given the artistic freedom to put a banner of pargetting around the entire building. The client chose the images and symbols. What was most impressive was how little time it took Bill and his team to make the client’s ideas a reality.

Pargeting in Audley EndPargeting

Later that week the group arrived at the Fransham Forge where Nigel Barnett, artist blacksmith, introduced us to blacksmithing, forges and the use of blacksmithing in conservation. Nigel creates decorative and functional hand forged metalwork, including sculptures, architectural metalwork, ornate iron gates and traditional ironwork for historic buildings. He heads up the team of highly skilled metal craftsmen at his forge in Great Fransham.

forge2Nigel’s forge was incredible and all of his staff were very knowledgeable and welcoming. We had a go at making a coat hook and Nigel gave us a demonstration, producing a leaf shaped keyring from a bar of iron. We definitely all have a deeper understanding of metals and their use in conservation after visiting Fransham Forge.


Cottage Conservation

by Conor Meehan

On Thursday the group re-joined Jo Hibbert to visit a nearby cottage where she and her husband Ed, a joiner, were working alongside the enthusiastic home owners. All parties rolled up their sleeves to muck in; Tyrone showed the Scholars how to “boss” and “dress” some lead for the house drainage valleys. It wasn’t long before Ross and Hannah were up on the roof installing the shaped lead under Tyrone’s watchful eye. Richard and Conor helped Ed erect his crafted green oak framework for the newly designed porch. Mortises, tenons and dowels were integral to the framework design, not a nail or screw in sight.

The homeowners were conservation enthusiasts and were experienced in the use of local materials – so much so, that both the Scholars and Fellow were soon mixing mortar from lime, locally sourced clay and straw reaped from the field next door, and throwing it up on the exposed interior stonework. Spending the day working on a small project where everyone involved could call upon recent teachings and contribute was really rewarding.

Pole Chapel in Colyton Church The week finished with a visit to the Pole Chapel in Colyton Church where Jo Hibbert and Torquil McNeilage, 1992 Fellow, discussed the damage associated with major moisture infiltration to the 16th century chapel and the sculptured memorial monuments.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their week in Devon and Somerset, the hands-on experience of different conservation disciplines was invaluable. The group had the chance to learn from master craftspeople, including Fellow leadworker and patient tutor, Tyrone. The West Country sunshine and homemade cider made it all the sweeter.


2013 Scholars and Fellows hit the road

Stay tuned for on the road, hands-on updates from our new batch of Scholars and Fellows. The group have set off on a journey of discovery that will take them the length and breadth of the country as they gain first-hand experience in conservation skills and building crafts. For the next six months they will travel together, meeting fellow architects, building specialists and craftspeople working on historic sites and in workshops and studios throughout the British Isles. Learn more about this year’s Scholars and Fellows.

2012 Scholars and Fellows set off

This week the SPAB welcomed its new Scholars and Fellows. This bright-eyed troop set off to start nine months of travel up and down the country, visiting historic properties and construction sites, learning directly from skilled craftsmen and architects. This blog will be charting their progress through personal reports and photographs, the occasional sketchbook. All at the SPAB HQ wish them luck!