How To Become A Conservator.
Hello again, I haven’t counted how many months it has been since last writing this blog but It feels like a few. This is mainly down to the fact that I’ve had to knuckle down and pay attention to completing my education. You may recall that I was training as a conservator having qualified as a stonemason, well, I was studying on the Heritage Skills conservation course run at the City of Bath College under the excellent tutelage of Nigel Bryant who was responsible for the course coming into being.
Living in a heritage city like Bath, it seemed absolutely insane that the local college didn’t offer a course in conservation . You could call it a ‘gap in the market’ which Nigel identified. Nigel had been my stonemasonry tutor prior to the course and mentioned that he wanted to broaden the C.O.B.C portfolio by adding the course to the prospectus. From my own point of view it was impossible not to get metaphoric ‘ants in my pants’ at the idea as I’d been working on old buildings anyway and felt that my knowledge of correct techniques and procedures would be vital in career terms. Enrolling on the course was a bit of a no-brainer really !
So from September last year until early July this year I’ve been studying hard and working Mondays’ and Tuesdays on the course. The Mondays consisted of theory lessons where the ethics and techniques involved in conservation were taught. My classmates and I also had a wonderful opportunity to conserve a badly damaged Grecian Statue (Which we affectionately named ‘Doris’) You can read an article about that story here
Doris arrived looking like this:
and finished up looking like this:
The painstaking attention to detail in order to conserve the statue took countless hours but I think the effort really paid off.
On Tuesdays, we took the theory from the classroom and put it to practice in the real world by travelling to incredible Tyntesfield Estate just north of Bristol. This was part of a pioneering scheme which was a partnership between the college and the National Trust. Over the course of the academic year we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with a company called Nimbus conservation ltd, who were contracted to conserve Tyntesfield’s Orangery.
I learnt invaluable skills whilst working at Tyntesfield, I cannot recommend the conservation course highly enough for those who have an active interest in conservation and our national heritage.
Although the Orangery is far from complete in terms of works required to complete the main conservation, the transformation from how it was in September 2010 to how it is now is quite phenomenal . I feel very fortunate to have worked on it. During this time I also crafted a new crown moulding above one of the Orangery windowsto replace one of the damaged originals, so part of the privilege had been the opportunity to have a direct role in adding to the building’s history.
I’m incredibly pleased that I trained in stonemasonry, I’ve never looked back since I chose this path and found my true vocation, however my satisfaction will always be in equal measure to the fact that I stuck with the college for another year and took my NVQ level 3 in Heritage skills. It deepened my appreciation of stonemasonry greatly and brought with it a collection of invaluable skills that are complimentary to the craft and vital for the preservation of historic buildings.
Information about the Heritage Skills – conservation course can be found here.