Finding specialist conservation training up here in the North can sometimes be difficult – so much so that we have to send our people as far away as West Dean College in Sussex for what we consider to be essential training.
Five of our team recently attended West Dean College, an internationally renowned centre for conservation and professional development, for a four day Building Conservation Masterclass focussing on the Conservation and Repair of Masonry Ruins. It was a fascinating and practical course run by top Conservators, Researchers and Master Masons – all current or former key personell at English Heritage.
But why should we have to travel so far for training when our region has such a rich built heritage? The North East’s conservation areas account for approximately 13% of the region which is home to 12,148 listed buildings (Unfortunately, a high proportion of these buildings, 8.5% of Grade I and Grade II* listed building are at risk). We also have two world heritage sites – Durham Cathedral and Hadrian’s Wall, along with 46 English Heritage properties, 10 National Trust Properties and 37 registered parks and gardens of special historic interest. Despite all of this, the North has an acute skills shortage and a lack of conservation orientated courses and training opportunities.
The Historic Skills Initiative is working hard to raise awareness of the problems the industry faces. They recently held the North East Heritage Skills Fair at Gibside Hall which is the biggest event of its kind in the North and we were there to help support the initiative.
More information on the skills gap can be found in the NHTG Summary Report – Skills Needs Analysis of The UK Built Heritage Sector.