Despite having been interested in historic buildings since I was in single digits, I have come to professional conservation by quite a roundabout route. Being an autodidact, every so often I find myself in a situation where a nagging worry creeps into the back of my mind that someone is going to pop up at, for example, a site visit, and say “Just what makes you qualified to insist on that?” While I’ve been fortunate that both in my current post with the Diocese of London and in my previous position with the Victorian Society it’s been possible to pick up a lot of very valuable knowledge on the job and from eminently knowledgeable colleagues, the corollary is that one acquires it in dribs and drabs. So I was delighted on taking up this post to find that there was a budget for training built into the post and so the opportunity to flesh out some of the background.
That said, there are an awful lot of training courses on architectural conservation out there and one really needs an introduction to give one a steer. A very good place to start is the Repair of Old Buildings course started in 1950 and run twice a year by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, which my colleague Matthew Cooper and I attended during the first week of October. The Society’s pedigree is impeccable – founded in 1877 by William Morris, this is one of the oldest architectural conservation organisations in the world and has been able to boast among its staff and members some of Britain’s greatest luminaries in the field.