A review of the SPAB Working Party 2022

Three members of our team attended the SPAB Working Party this year. We were thrilled to hear of their experiences as they spent time learning from specialists who are passionate about historic buildings, traditional craftsmanship and building conservation.

Bonnie’s experience:

"I spent the week with two of my colleagues volunteering at the SPAB working party 2022 at Boxley Abbey in Maidstone. We attended along with 100 other people from different professions, such as site managers for historic building projects, surveyors, archaeologists, conservation architects, engineers, heritage consultants, conservation officers, experienced joiners, steeplejacks, plasterers, building performance analysis specialists, damp proof specialists and hobbyists who are interested in learning to repair buildings etc. It was a truly valuable experience, but even more so speaking with specialists in the conservation construction field who gave us the opportunity to gain insight on the traditional crafting skills, site/ building analysis methods, conservation decision-making processes, as well as the new technologies that are now available. 

We gained hand-on experience repairing and observing the works done on different parts of the scheduled monument and listed buildings under the guidance of experienced craftspeople and experts. We had the opportunity to observe and participate in the manufacturing and application of the lime mortar, from the local grey chalk and stones being burnt in the in-situ kiln, slaked, mixed, transferred to different workstations, applied on stone and brick walls and tended. The demonstrations helped us to understand what makes a good lime mortar and how it can go wrong.  This was certainly something we will detail further in the specification and inspection processes on our projects.

We were also shown the hewing process where a tree trunk was worked into a boxed-heart beam ready for sawing into smaller timber parts. At the timber station we were taught how to use the shave horses to make wooden pegs used for securing timber frames together and participated in repairing an old wooden barn door.

The enthusiastic timber specialist gave us a tour of the listed medieval barn (known as the Boxley Abbey Hospitium), showing us the difference in timber treating methods between Medieval, Georgian and Victorian periods.During the tour we learnt about the benefits of using a fast-growing tree, such as Cypress, as a source of timber which is more sustainable and structurally strong.

We all were able to partake in activities we were most interested in. It was an incredibly well-organised and fantastic learning experience. I am looking forward to attending next year.

Below are some photos taken during the week:

Gauge brickwork station where bricks were rubbed and cut into precise sizes with delicate edges, demonstrating the labour-consuming craftsmanship skills used in constructing prestigious buildings and structures.
Timber sawing.
Local chalk being burnt in the kiln on site.
Specialists and volunteers preparing an old timber frame window.

We would like to thank SPAB for organising the event – our team thoroughly enjoyed it!

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