Calling all architects, building professionals and craftspeople

Calling all architects, building professionals and craftspeople – have you got what it takes to be a 2018 SPAB Scholar or Fellow?

“From challenging personal conservation philosophies to trying out traditional crafts under the guidance of master craftspeople, the SPAB Scholarship has exceeded all expectations.” – 2016 Scholar, Gethin Harvey (architect).

“I feel confident discussing with anyone the pros and cons of various approaches to conservation. The Fellowship hasn’t just given me the knowledge to improve, it’s given me the confidence” – 2016 Fellow, Thom Evans (stonemason).

Scholar Aoife Murphy woodworking

Aoife Murphy (2017 Scholar) woodworking

The search is on for our 2018 Scholars and Fellows. If you’re an architect, building surveyor or engineer interested in building conservation then think about applying for the SPAB Scholarship. We’re also looking for craftspeople with a passion for old buildings and conservative repair for the Fellowship programme. Applicants must have completed their apprenticeship and demonstrate a high level of competence. These programmes offer a training opportunity like no other.

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Triona Byrne (2016 Scholar) mixing lime mortars at Duart Castle

After completing the nine-month programme, previous SPAB Scholars and Fellows have gone on to become experts in their field. Both the Scholarship and Fellowship programmes give successful applicants behind-the-scenes access to some of the country’s most fascinating built heritage projects.

SPAB Scholars and Fellows at Hampton Court Palace

Scholars and Fellows (2015) on the scaffolding at Hampton Court Palace

We aim to give our Scholars and Fellows first-hand experience of conservative repair in action; they will be meeting professionals involved in the full range of building management issues, working on site and in workshops and studios throughout the UK. Scholars spend the first six months travelling from site to site together, in the last three months they study, together or apart, aspects of the nation’s country houses.

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Solid earth wall construction with 2014 Fellow Alex Gibbons

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2015 blacksmith Fellow Joe Coombes-Jackman

The Fellowship is a six month programme but is divided into three blocks of two months, enabling the Fellows to return to their employment between each block. During the first two blocks they travel as a group, making daily site visits, studying repair projects, and meeting professionals, contractors and craftspeople. The final block is devoted to the individual needs and interests of each Fellow in consultation with their employers.

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2015 Fellows with Fellowship organiser, Pip Soodeen.

The application deadline for the Scholarship and the Fellowship is Friday 1 December. For more information and an application form please visit the Scholarship and Fellowship pages on the SPAB website. The Scholarship and Fellowship programmes run from mid March until the end of the year.

To get in touch with the programme organisers email education@spab.org.uk

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Lead theft: a heavy toll on heritage

By Kristian Foster

During our April travels, news reached us of the lead theft at St John the Baptist Church in Inglesham. The significance of this church to William Morris and the SPAB made it a particular talking point, and reinforced how devastating lead theft can be.

There’s the damage of losing such critical protection from the elements, the cost of the replacement materials, the insurance costs and the cost of alarms or additional security. When thinking about replacing the lost material one must consider the compromises to authenticity, detailing, appearance, workability and performance. Though there are alternatives to lead, we’ve grown to really appreciate how wonderful lead is.

Hands-on learning is one of the most rewarding elements of the Scholarship. It imbues us with a respectful understanding of the material, its detailing, workability and the skills of those crafting it. In just the last few weeks we’ve been fortunate to develop our understanding of lead.

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Aoife Murphy, cutting out Code 7 Lead Clips, St Mary’s West Tofts

We enjoyed several days with architect Ruth Blackman and family, of Birdsall Swash & Blackman Ltd, Norfolk. They’ve worked passionately for years to safeguard four empty churches in villages taken over for military training operations in 1942. The Stanford Training Area is accessible to contractors for a few days each year, during the lambing period. The most basic and essential repairs are undertaken. We joined S&L Restoration on the roof of St Mary in West Toffs, with its Pugin chancel.

Here we had the task of cutting strips of code 7 lead to form support clips for the base of a sacrificial valley flashing, preventing roof leakages in the infrequently accessed church is vital. Edges were scraped from clips to promote a clean bond during the hot works. The contractor easily demonstrated how to cut a clip, holding the cutter with one hand and gently pulling the lead strip with the other. We mostly reverted to the force of two hands on the snips!

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Scholar produced Lead Clips to secure the base of the flashing

Ruth organised a demonstration and a chance to core weld on some left over lead. Oxygen and acetylene gasses were combined and ignited to create the welding flame, the right blue colour indicated the required temperature. We lowered the flame onto the lead joint until the weld pooled, then rapidly flicked the flame to the side. We continued to melt the adjacent spot until this spot pooled and lead dripped across to combine with the previous melt. All the time carefully ensuring the flame didn’t burn through the lead below. It was all in the wrist and the timing.

Another week we spent a day with CEL Ltd near Peterborough where we watched the process of sand casting lead. We discussed the health and safety issues of working with lead, the fortnightly blood tests for poisoning and the time off required if lead levels in the bloodwork is too high. CEL had separate changing and shower facilities to ensure working overalls were cleaned onsite, not contaminating the family washing machine. Sinks were highly decorated with the required hand-washing techniques and special abrasive hand soaps.

Discussion also focused on the problems of theft and trusting large suppliers to provide authenticity. CEL began as a single lead worker, evolving to become a main and roofing contractor with the skills to remove and recast existing lead in addition to supplying it. Lead is valued due to its versatility, durability and ability to be recast and recycled constantly. Created using three methods, milled lead, machine cast and sand cast, the lead casters at CEL spend 45 minutes preparing the sand bed before sand casting.

Videos of the processes:
https://youtu.be/WV1CmPcyKVQ
https://youtu.be/sp2EntUNL6k

Meanwhile lead is heated to 400 degrees and recycled lead is added to the furnace. Pure lead ingots can be added to ensure the correct chemical mix, preventing a pour that is too brittle. With the sand bed ready, the slag is removed from the lead, which floats due to lead’s density.

Video of the process:
https://youtu.be/1QMXcZvLGac

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Smooth sand bed ready for casting

Pouring the lead onto the prepared table takes a matter of seconds. The speed of the pour can control the thickness or code of sheet, along with a skim.

Videos of the processes:
https://youtu.be/8sehEh4xUiE
https://youtu.be/iPKpuXxSw1Y

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Lead quickly cooling once cast onto its sand bed

Sand casting allows CEL to provide the required size of sheet to reduce waste, measured cut and rolled after the casting. The cut sizes are weighed to ensure the correct thickness and ensure quality. CEL supply to Clare College, Sandhurst and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Reims to name a few.

Videos of the processes:
https://youtu.be/nSrjnO17sxM
https://youtu.be/qk9X9LIGsis

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Rolled lead sheets ready for distribution

In addition to learning about the sand casting, we were also able to cast lead roses and discuss more decorative works. Lead is a versatile metal used in windows and statues such as the urns we noted in our first week’s visit to Hampton Court Palace.

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Scholars’ lead cast roses

With the two visits fresh in our minds we could really appreciate the discussion on the re-leading of the dome at Brompton Cemetery with MRDA Architects and contractors Bolt and Heeks. Here, previous details were being improved with better drip and expansion details to add longevity to the repairs.

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Repairs to the Dome at Brompton Cemetery

Lead was also used to offer drip details in timber frame repairs at projects visited throughout Shropshire with Treasures & Sons contractors, such as the 1640’s decorative gatehouse at Stokesay Castle, protecting impressive carvings.

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Protective Lead drip detail inserted at Stokesay Castle

These detailing issues were explored further in the recent SPAB Repair of Old Buildings Course, covering roofing in general and highlighting the issues of expansion and snow loads potentially allowing water ingress to lapped joints if poorly detailed.

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SPAB Repair of old buildings course, architect Peter Pace’s lecture on roofs

With such a valuable, ancient and versatile material, we hope that thefts do not deter its use or lead to irreplaceable losses or damage to buildings like the Inglesham Church and its paintings. A donation page for the repair of Inglesham Church has been set up by the Churches Conservation Trust.

Scholars on the road again

By Aoife Murphy

As our first month draws to a close we have been thinking about what has jumped out at us the most. We couldn’t actually choose though. This nonstop month has thrown so much exciting information our way.

I have particularly enjoyed trying out the trades. We have had the opportunity to try work in a forge, plaster using materials like wattle and daub, carve lime wood, carve chalk stone, hew timber and rub bricks. This has given me a new appreciation for the detail and skill involved.

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Blacksmithing with Owlsworth IJP

We’ve had a chance to visit well-known beautiful places such as Canterbury Cathedral and Hampton Court Palace. However we got a different view to most people. We got to go up on roofs, behind closed doors and into the workshops.

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Scholars and Fellows at Hampton Court Palace

Every site visit has been unique and interesting for a different reason. The smaller sites such as Brook Hall and Landguard Fort have been fascinating as the work being carried out tries to be respectful to previous reincarnations of the building.

The people we have visited every day are so passionate about their work. It’s a pleasure listening to their stories. My favourite topic is how they have fallen into conservation. Everyone has a unique path into the area. There is no direct route. You have to seek it out.

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Aoife woodworking

For the first two weeks we got to spend a lot of time with the Fellows. This is something I feel should be encouraged as much as possible. The different knowledge and points of view open great dialogue and discussion.

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Find our updates on Instagram at #spabscholar2017