Building conservation in Ireland – an Irish Scholar’s perspective

By Triona Byrne

For two countries so close to each other geographically, Ireland and England have very different attitudes to building conservation. We spent two weeks in Ireland recently as part of the Scholarship, and after living in the UK for 6 months, it was eye-opening to see the contrast in built heritage first-hand, and explore the socio-economic reasons that have led to this.

There are myriad explanations for the obvious contrast, not least that the two countries have had mightily different histories – while England has a history of colonisation, Ireland’s past is brimming with invasions and conflict, up until very recently. Economic reasons also play a huge role. Ireland’s economic cycles tend to fluctuate wildly, with drastic cycles of ‘boom and bust’, whereas Britain’s economy has smaller cycles of recession and prosperity. This has a huge impact on the construction industry and the finance available for conservation projects, which also impacts the lure of construction or an apprenticeship/trade as an attractive career path for young people.

Ireland’s building stock includes several structures surviving from prehistoric times – places like Newgrange, a stone age passage tomb, along with many ring forts, dolmens and burial tombs. However these are not as easy to spot as the early medieval round tower, a common sight on the skyline. Although these are not uniquely Irish, a vast number were built around the country from 500 to 700 AD when Ireland was made up of many monastic settlements. Ireland became known as ‘The Land of Saints and Scholars’ due to the flourishing arts and learning of this time, when the rest of Europe was struggling through the Dark Ages. The round towers built at this time were defensive structures, with tiny windows and doorways several metres above the ground, accessed by a retractable rope ladder. Irish round towers are unique in that they have a stone cap, unlike similar round towers built elsewhere in Europe at this time.


Irish round tower

More common again are ruined structures from the time of Norman and Anglo-Norman invasions, dotted around the countryside. The tower house, the ubiquitous building of this era, was a tall, defensive, stone structure, designed to keep out invaders and provide a good vantage point around the surrounding land. These structures had thick walls, narrow windows (or none at all) and defensive features such as machicolations. These were clearly not ideal living conditions, and so it is not surprising that they were abandoned and let fall to ruin as the Middle Ages drew to a close. However it is interesting to contrast the buildings of this time with those being built in England, where a typical village was comprised of a church, a manor house and timber framed cottages. This village structure was not possible in Ireland, where attacks and invasions were a regular occurrence and a strong defensive building was the optimal home. Peasants of this time lived in small mud huts with a roof of organic matter, none of which survive to this day.


Ruins of an Irish tower

Between the 12th and the 20th century, the Irish and English fought bitterly for control over Ireland. During this time, the English were generally the stronger side and under their reign, much of Ireland’s culture was suppressed, including the Irish language, traditions and religion. This influenced the building of churches – the Penal Laws stated that “when allowed, new Catholic Churches were to built of wood, not stone, and away from main roads”. Hence the majority of Catholic churches in Ireland today were built in Victorian times.

Probably the most famous Irish building is the traditional Irish cottage. These cottages were built by and for farming families, usually with a stone plinth, earth/cob walls and thatched roofs. Windows were very small, due to the cost of glass (particularly while there was a window tax) and the cottages were one-room deep. This one-room depth was most likely due to the length of timbers available to form the typically A-framed roof.


A sketch of a thatched cottage near Portlaoise

There were predominantly two types of cottage layout – one where the front door opened directly into a parlour (where the hearth was located) and with bedrooms at either end of the house. The second type had a front door opening in to a small lobby, which was created by a jamb wall standing perpendicular to the hearth. Some jamb walls had a “spy window” that allowed a person sitting at the hearth to see anyone entering the house.


Typical cottage layouts

For me, these buildings define the Irish countryside and its history. They are part of our heritage and represent the industrious farming people who built them. Unfortunately, my views do not seem to be shared by the mainstream Irish public. The majority of these cottages are being left to fall into ruin.


Ruined cottage

As people today generally want houses with large, open-plan spaces and modern conveniences, they abandon the humble cottage and build new, contemporary buildings on the same plot of land. This results in the high number of ruined cottages that are all over the countryside. This is a sad state of affairs, and is in contrast to the UK where old buildings will usually be adapted for modern use. However the British approach can also be to the detriment of the building, as original walls are ripped out to create “bright, open living spaces”, which historic buildings are not famous for, and inappropriate materials are used. Neither the British or Irish approach is ideal, and it should be applauded when an old building is accepted for what it is and carefully conserved using traditional methods. We saw an excellent example of this in Stansfield, Suffolk recently where we spent a day with Bill Sargent limewashing an old thatched wattle-and-daub cottage that is being sympathetically repaired.


Rose Cottage, Stansfield, Suffolk

Since Ireland achieved independence nearly 100 years ago (excluding Northern Ireland), Irish people have taken strides to distance themselves from the poverty and oppression that maintained a stronghold on the country for so long. This sadly includes many of the beautiful buildings that were built by British landlords and landowners from the 17th to the 19th century, many of which were destroyed or else let fall to ruin. It also includes the humble cottages and farm buildings that are a reminder of the poverty of the past. Ireland’s lack of a large public funding body for built heritage like the Heritage Lottery Fund in the UK, and organisations like the National Trust and the SPAB, all contribute to this lack of appreciation for building conservation. However, I believe the attitude of the general public is slowly changing and Irish people are beginning to realise that our rich built heritage is a valuable and unique asset that must be protected. I am hopeful that the philosophies of the SPAB can spread to Ireland and that there can be a shift in the public perception of our past and the beautiful buildings that connect us to it.


Lismore Castle in Ireland where the Scholars stayed for a week


The philosophy of repair

by Declan Cahill

Over the past couple of weeks we have visited sites where we have been told about various approaches to the treatment of historic stonework. This has got us debating, discussing, agreeing and disagreeing about which approach would be the best one in each situation. As someone who believes that not one rule can be applied to all situations, I have found it very interesting to look at these approaches and to think if I would do the same, and if not what the alternatives might be. Since 1887 the Society and its members have been fighting for the timeless beauty of historic buildings that comes naturally with age. But what is important and sets each approach apart is what level of intervention is required to stave off decay, and that we do not lose this beauty by being too heavy handed in our intervention.


Villa Saraceno

Recently we were very lucky to be invited to Villa Saraceno with the Landmark Trust. You can read more about our trip in a forthcoming blog post. Here I am going to touch on the approach they are taking towards the preservation of the stonework at the villa. The villa is predominantly brick built and rendered, with stone detailing to the windows and doors. The stone is a white limestone that was used in most of Palladio’s buildings. During our visit we got the chance to learn from Serse and Katrin from PT Color, who explained the methods they were using to preserve the stone and minimize the loss of flaking stone from a door jamb.

The conservators were using lime-based consolidants for flakes with larger openings and an acrylic resin on the finer flakes. The edges of the flakes were then closed using a lime-based mortar. On an annual basis the conservators visit the site and try to prolong the life of the worst delaminating stone. This painstaking process is very admirable, but on further discussion it’s important to think about the other factors that inform this decision.


Stone consolidation at Villa Saraceno

Firstly the significance of the villa, it is an early incomplete example of Palladio’s design that incorporated the functionality of the farmstead with the grandeur and geometry of the country retreat. The white limestone of the area is inherently a softer limestone and the jamb that was being worked on faced the north west, thus exposing the stone to the worst weather conditions. The conservators’ argument against using shelter coats was that you would not see the original stone face. Do we let the stone age and decay, accepting that the stone will one day need replacing, or do we do our utmost to prolong the life of the stone? Are we preventing the stone from gracefully aging? And if we are to intervene at what stage do we begin this intervention?

Just seven days after standing in front of the door jamb at Villa Saraceno, we were back on English soil and visiting St. Leonard’s Middleton Parish Church to look at the south porch of this medieval church that has had minimum intervention since its conception in 1412. The parish’s website describes the porch as ‘romantically crumbling away’ and it is exactly this romanticism that the church is at risk of losing.


‘Romantic’ south porch at St Leonard’s church

The parish has decided that now is the time for intervention, and the church architect’s proposal is to de-frass the stonework to give it a ‘carved’ face again. We were able to see a test panel that had been produced by a stonemason for discussion.


Examples panels of de-frassed stonework

It is important to add that the present stonework is laminating but there isn’t any excessive loss of stone; it is in a state that is beautiful to look at due to the natural patina of age. By taking this approach the church’s aesthetic will be altered forever and layers will be lost from its history. We can only hope that the parish see what they will be losing and that a more respectful approach will be chosen.


Natural patina to the south porch stonework

The case at Middleton reminded me of the origins of the SPAB when the Society was also known as the ‘Anti Scrape Society’. The Society was founded on a belief that we should approach the repair of historic fabric with minimum intervention and only act to prevent future damage. We must respect the original craftsperson’s work; that is currently in danger of being forgotten at Middleton but is being championed at Saraceno.


Paint and plaster conservation at Gorton Monastery

Another site visit has taken us to Gorton Monastery, where Alan Gardener is applying these meticulous preservation and consolidation techniques to the consolidation of Victorian (and later) wall paintings, plaster and stone. Seeing similar techniques to those at Villa Saraceno being applied at Gorton is a timely reminder that we need to approach our work with respect and that historic fabric, no matter how old, has significance.

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.

Reuse and Repair

by Joanna Daykin

Stoke sub-Hamdon Priory
This little known National Trust property, was initially formed as the chantry chapel of St Nicholas in the 14th-century, funded by the first Baron Beauchamp. Today the site is little used, except by the local farmer to graze his sheep. While at the property with 2009 Scholar Meriel O’Dowd we were encouraged to think about possible reuse opportunities for the collection of buildings. We discussed how reusing a few buildings can generate sufficient income for their maintenance and the repair of other buildings on the site.

Stoke sub-Hamdon Priory

Stoke sub-Hamdon Priory

The stables at Stoke sub-Hamdon Priory

The stables at Stoke sub-Hamdon Priory


Court House, Chard
The Manor Court House in Chard was built in 1540, straddling a burgage plot running back from the main Street. The Court House decorated with early Tudor strap work is mostly still intact. Many changes to the surrounding building having mutilated the original plan form. However a new business plan which proposes that the buildings be made into a number of flats reserving the court room for functions was discussed. Even though this will possibly lead to dramatic alterations it may conserve the court room and its beautiful plaster, providing a viable future and use for what is now a decaying and poorly maintained building.

Plaster at Court House Chard

Plaster at Court House Chard

Shell Grotto
This folly in the gardens of St Giles was extensively repaired as part of a DEFRA Parkland Grant. The initial inspection could only be undertaken after it was excavated from a mass of vegetation overgrowth. Decayed roofs and piles of shells were found beneath. A process of sorting and cleaning along with investigation into its original decoration was painstakingly undertaken. Sally Strachey Conservation carried out the repairs in two phases, first by pinning and strengthening the ceiling from above and replacing the roof. Only then were they able to restore the fantastic interior by pinning and reprinting in the shells.

Shell Grotto, St Giles

Shell Grotto, St Giles

Wimborne St Giles
The 1st Earl of Shaftesbury built Wimborne St Giles in 1651 in the classical Renaissance style. The house expanded over the years, but became too unruly and in the 19th century about a third of the house was pulled down. The house fell into further disrepair and in 2001 the house was put on English Heritage’s at Risk Register. When the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury inherited the house he not only halted the building’s decline but began to renew the house’s former beauty. Panelling and artefacts removed and stored throughout the estate were returned to the house and the grand rooms of the house restored. The most dramatically repaired room was the dining room where only part of the panelling survives. A decision was made to keep the panelling in its partial condition and the room decorated and hung with paintings for reuse. Other rooms in the house await their repair as new funds are generated through the reuse of the grand ground floor rooms.

S&F 2015_Wimbourne St GilesS&F 2015_Wimbourne St Giles interior

The works in the house were approached with a different philosophy to the shell grotto. The existing fabric was retained with minimal repair and no additional replacement. However the shell grotto was nearly entirely restored. The approaches were suitable for the different situations telling the story of the house, which has seen much dilapidation before its resurrection by the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury, Whereas the purpose of the shell grotto would have been lost without completely restoring its interior which creates its fantasy atmosphere.  In many ways both Stoke sub-Hamdon Priory and the Manor Court House in Chard are at risk of being lost and their stories forgotten if new uses are not found for their buildings.

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.


Westminster Hall

 by Elgan Jones

We were kindly invited to join Patrick Duerden, Aliza Ross and Henry Sanders (SPAB Scholar 2012) of Donald Insall Associates on their site inspection of Westminster Hall. It is such a rare opportunity to view and inspect the fantastic 14th century roof timbers up close, which at the time boasted the widest span of any timber truss in Europe. We were also joined by carpenter and timber framer Tom Massey (SPAB Fellow 2014), his father Peter Massey, and structural engineer Robert Bowles.

After a quick frisk through the airport-style security, we stepped into the main hall and gazed in awe at the vast, clear space. Not a single column obstructed our view.


photo 3

Donald Insall Associates were overseeing the cleaning, conservation and repairs of the interior masonry walls, which date from the 14th to the early 20th centuries, and roof timbers. Patrick explained some of the logistical constraints of working in the hall, such as the scaffold which, if required, could be taken down and removed in six hours. This partly explained why the works were phased and confined to a few bays at any one time.

Patrick also explained about some of the challenges they experienced in cleaning and conserving the Reigate stone, it is susceptible to decay on exposure to the atmosphere. Sir Christopher Wren once said: “that which is to be most lamented, is the unhappy Choice of Materials”. The performance and quality of Reigate stone can vary greatly depending upon its original bed depth and source. Cleaning methods which could introduce further moisture into the stone were avoided to prevent damaging the stone further. Instead, cleaning systems such a brushing and pyrex latex cleaning were used.

Wk14_Westminster Hall frieze_Elgan Jones

A combination of poulticing and Nano-lime technology was used for conserving the detailed figures within the frieze. Sections of the frieze were conserved using shelter coat and, in order to avoid the uniform flat colour which can often catch the eye, a two coat system was used. Interestingly, the colour of the base and top coat were slightly different so that the top coat could be slightly brushed back revealing the colour of the base coat.

In areas where the decayed friable stone posed a risk to visitors below, the approach was to replace it with Chicksgrove limestone, a more durable stone which aesthetically was a close best match to the Reigate. The profile of the new stone was cut to match the original form and not the current weathered face.

Aliza showing the Scholars sections of the tracery that was failing.

Aliza showing the Scholars sections of the tracery that was failing.

The masonry aspect of the project also includes conservation of the Norman triforium concealed behind the wall’s Victorian stone cladding.

The masonry aspect of the project also includes conservation of the Norman triforium concealed behind the wall’s Victorian stone cladding.

The project also included the cleaning and conservation of the 14th century roof timbers and installation of a new lighting scheme to improve the overall presentation of the Hall.

The great mystery of the Hall is the form of its original roof. Not until the 13th or 14th century could carpenters create roofs significantly wider than the length of the available timber, and so it was assumed that a single or double row of columns was needed to support the Hall’s roof. However, recent archaeological explorations suggest these theories have no foundation and that the roof may have been self-supporting from the beginning.

Sectional through the principal hammer beam showing the dimensions of the timbers. Herbert, C. and Gribble, E. R. (1922) Early English Furniture & Woodwork. London: Waverly Book Company.

Sectional through the principal hammer beam showing the dimensions of the timbers. Herbert, C. and Gribble, E. R. (1922) Early English Furniture & Woodwork. London: Waverly Book Company.

Initially the roof timbers will be vacuum cleaned to remove the build-up of dirt and dust before a closer inspection to examine and prepare a schedule of repair is undertaken. As the scaffold had not long been erected this work had not yet been undertaken however it did give us an opportunity to view the detail and construction techniques of the hammer beam trusses and how the later concealed reinforced steelwork introduced, by Frank Baines in 1914-23, integrated with the historic timbers.

Set the Stage

by Charlie Wellingham

The Scholars were very generously invited to attend the SPAB’s 2014 Repair Course; a full time week of lectures from leading construction and heritage experts, which is held twice a year for professionals and home owners. The highlight of the busy week is always the site visits – when delegates get a chance to witness the practical application of the SPAB conservation philosophy first hand, and discuss some of the challenges that can occur when contending with the realities of site work within historic structures. The first of this year’s visits (and for me, the most interesting) was to Wilton’s, the world’s oldest surviving traditional music hall, in Wapping Docks in East London.

Wiltons Music Hall

Originally the property was 5 individual houses in an early 18th century domestic terrace, which were adapted and enlarged in various ways until 1850 when John Wilton purchased the land and constructed an enormous hall space across the garden plots of all 5 residences. Further acquisitions and ‘knock-throughs’ by Wilton transformed the former bedrooms and family rooms into a dense warren of front and back of house spaces to support the growing popularity of the hall. However Wilton’s ownership was a short one and by 1890 the hall became a centre for the surrounding Methodist community and it remained so amidst increasing dilapidation until 1940 when it was finally abandoned and left to decay. A compulsory purchase and demolition proposal from the council nearly proceeded in the 1960s until it was saved thanks to the campaigning of a group of passionate high profile supporters such as Sir John Betjemen and Spike Milligan, who recognised the cultural significance of this Victorian survivor. It was listed Grade II* in 1970, and finally reopened as a theatre and music venue in 1997.

The hall survives as originally built by John Wilton

The hall survives as originally built by John Wilton

This miraculous rebirth might sound like an expensive and time consuming project given the state the building was in, but upon entering Wilton’s it is clear that this was no highly-polished crisp and gleaming refurbishment; the spaces were occupied with a very ad-hoc ‘make do and mend’ mentality, more in common with squatting than reverent restoration. This gives the entire venue an evocative and ghostly atmosphere (where surface fixed theatre lights cast long shadows across peeling plasterwork, and the deeply textured tooled brickwork that grins through beneath), that seems both wholly appropriate and totally unique.

Seventeen years later and Wilton’s has grown into one of London’s most cherished venues, with a thriving roster of music and theatre, a bustling cafe bar, and a large participation and learning programme, run by Managing and Artistic Director Frances Mayhew (many thanks to Frances for leading the fascinating tour with the SPAB delegates!). Frances has now overseen several complex phases of work with Tim Ronalds Architects, including the structural repair of the hall roof, and will soon be embarking on the front of house works which will increase the amount of (and access to) community studio space. It was particularly interesting to discuss the conservation challenges of repairing the surfaces of a room without damaging the romantically derelict aged atmosphere of the space (an aesthetic that is now synonymous with the Wiltons ‘brand’).

Column at Wilton's

Column at Wilton’s

There is no denying that the worn patina of the rooms contributes to the fantastic building that Wilton’s has become but championing this single flavour (and falsifying the required new work with applied distress to complement the composition) can begin a concerning trend of aesthetic ‘taste’, where the layers of history are a commodity or asset, and may even be tempting to mimic or recreate for rival enterprises. An interior design fashion of exposed dusty brickwork is plausibly foreseeable in light of the success of Wilton’s and the public’s appreciation for its quirky charms. Already instances appear to be increasing in frequency – Asylum Chapel wedding venue in Peckham is another good example. It doesn’t take a huge leap to imagine a revived ‘Anti-Scrape’ movement being required to oppose a thousand proposed Wilton’s wannabes from taking the hammer to their historic interiors. So perhaps this revelry of ruination is acceptable when it is agreed to be ‘authentic’; when the presentation of a dilapidated space ‘as found’ is exactly that – the state it was in when it was recovered and rescued. And what of the new doors that have been hand-painted to match the scruffiness of its 18th century surrounds?

For me the beauty of these neglected surfaces, the tactile erosion which speaks more of the building’s history than any number of interpretation panels, is only increased by the complement of smart and appropriate new design, inserted as required to bring the building back in to use and presented honestly with no agenda to mislead. Does the falsification of the new surfaces amount to set-dressing for a make-believe environment?

Scholar Elgan Jones treading the boards

Scholar Elgan Jones treading the boards

As ever these decisions should be reviewed in their context on a case-by-case basis, and in the case of Wilton’s Music Hall I will concede that this conservation approach is appropriate, if for no other reason than a major source of the theatre’s revenue is as a film set! At the end of the day you only have to walk through that old terraced house lobby and through the small door under the staircase into the cavernously vast and unexpected historic hall to agree; a bit of whimsy and theatricality is exactly what is required in this breathtaking space.

The project certainly gave us all a lot to think about and debate – which is a critical part of our studies as Scholars! Many thanks to Frances and her team for taking the time to explain their journey as client, and the philosophical and practical challenges currently being tackled by the Wilton’s design team in this thoroughly unique environment.

P.S Check out this great blog that documents the on-going phases of work at Wilton’s.

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.

Getting our hands dirty

There’s no better way to learn than through practical experience, and one of the many perks of the SPAB Scholarship is that we get to try our hand at everything! Here’s just a few things that the ever-enthusiastic Henry has been turning his hand to over the last few weeks.

Henry tackles the drains with Nick Warns at Swaffham Church, Norfolk

It’s hardly glamorous but the regular maintenance of gutters and drains is often the first step in keeping an old building in good shape, especially as the British Summer weather is being true to form! As William Morris advised ‘stave off decay by daily care’. You can find advice and tips on basic maintenance by visiting our sister site Maintain Your Building.

SPAB Fellow Sam shows us the ropes at her workshop with Simon Armstrong at Wells Cathedral Masons

An important part of the Scholarship and Fellowship scheme is that Conservation professionals and craftsmen travel and work with each other, giving them an insight into the others’ practice and respect to last a lifetime of working together to help old buildings. This was a great chance for us to see Sam, and award-winning stonemason, at work on her home territory, the glorious Cathedral of Wells.

Henry has a go at Thatching with Tom Dunbar, of Dunbar & Bunce Master Thatchers.

A great chance to learn from Tom, who completed the SPAB Fellowship in 1999 and is the only thatcher so far to be a SPAB Fellow!

Stafford Holmes (co-author of ‘Building with Lime) imparts his knowledge of Lime at CAT

Henry just can’t stop working! Some time well spent at the Centre for Alternative Technology, an education and visitor centre which demonstrates practical solutions for sustainability, set in the heart of Wales.