Upcoming Masonry Conservation Workshop

Upcoming Masonry Conservation Workshop, 9-11 September 2022 – This innovative project combines the opportunity to learn new skills with caring for one of our historic churches

Keeping our church buildings open for generations to come requires – amongst others – two very important things: the craft skills to maintain them, and an engaged community that’s willing to support them.

An initiative in Redbrook, near Monmouth, is doing just this.

Caring for one of our historic churches

The church in question is St Saviour’s, built in the 19th century in the very heart of the Wye Valley. Forty years ago it had fallen into such a state of decline that the Diocese had started procedures for closure; thankfully today it’s still very much open to the local community and working in partnership with the local school, but like many other historic churches, it is in need of urgent conservation work. In 2021, inspecting architect Toby Falconer of Falconer & Gilbert Scott Architects had a brainwave. He would run a hands-on training weekend, whereby local people could learn new conservation skills whilst also helping to carry out some of the work that was needed. Gloucestershire Historic Churches Trust was proud to sponsor the project.

The weekend was such a success that it’s taking place again this year, between Friday 9 September and Sunday 11 September. ‘Practical Training in Lime Mortar and Conservation Masonry Skills’ is aimed at keen amateurs, as well as those already involved in building work who would like to develop a better understanding of conservation principles. Under the watchful eye of four highly experienced conservators, trainees will be learning a range of techniques such as raking out, mixing and pointing. An understanding of lime, and its use in renders and mortars, is essential for anyone working on old buildings. To supplement this, the weekend will include fascinating lectures and presentations covering a wide range of conservation issues and challenges.

In part, the aim of the project is to help in caring for this beautiful church to ensure its doors can remain open to all for years to come. But there’s more to it than that: this initiative is about showing that heritage can be a focus for a whole community, something that everyone and anyone can get actively involved in.

“This project could be a great example of how building conservation can be used as the catalyst for much more,” Toby comments. “It can enrich the community by engagement at many levels before, during and after the building works themselves.” It might well be that someone attending the workshop goes on to become a Master Stonemason, or simply that they discover a newfound love for our historic churches. Either way, it’s exciting to think of the potential.

‘Practical Training in Lime Mortar and Conservation Skills’ is taking place at St Saviour’s Church in Redbrook between 9-11 September. The full fee is £180, but there are a limited number of discounted and free places available to local people willing to commit to voluntary work on the church and for young people just starting out. To find out more and book your place, please contact mark@markbick.co.uk (01594 836418)

This weekend coincides with Ride+Stride, a nationwide initiative supported by the National Churches Trust. Find out more here.