Date of issue: 23 March 2017
For more information contact Alison McClary, 0207 456 0905, email: alison@spab.org.uk


Stonemason Gregor Alcorn, 28, stained glass conservator Jack Clare, 26, carpenter Dale Perrin, 25 and plasterer Paul Walters, 34 are the latest recruits to a unique educational scheme designed to nurture and develop the hands-on skills needed to care for old buildings. Chosen as the 2017 William Morris Craft Fellows, the talented group has now begun the countrywide conservation ‘grand tour’.

Since 1987 the SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) has organised the Fellowship to foster a new generation of outstanding craftspeople with the knowledge and expertise to pass on essential skills for working with historic materials. The prestigious scheme runs in parallel to the SPAB’s Scholarship programme for architectural / building professionals.

The aim is for the Fellows to gain broad, practical experience and knowledge to enable them to bring a strong awareness of craft diversity to their future professional roles. The Fellowship also equips them with the skills necessary to lead and manage historic building contracts, while deepening their understanding of the importance of gentle repair - the keystone of the SPAB approach.

In March, our 2017 Fellows (and Scholars) began their six-month itinerary of site, workshop and studio visits. Starting with a week in the south east of England they have visited projects at Canterbury Cathedral, the atmospheric Abney Park Cemetery in London and Hampton Court Palace. The group will move further afield over the next 9 months visiting castles in the Inner Hebrides, thatching in the West Country and repairing ruined mills in Derbyshire. They will visit significant conservation projects, workshops and studios in all parts of the country where they will learn about traditional building techniques from skilled craftsmen and women who have already established careers in the field.
Keep up to date with their progress on the SPAB’s blog dedicated to Fellows and Scholars: http://spabscholarsandfellows.wordpress.com/

Interest in craft building skills is steadily increasing as people turn to more sustainable and traditional methods of construction. Yet, ironically, these same skills are under threat as fewer young people are encouraged to pursue careers in these areas. Nationally, heritage bodies are concerned that there are simply not enough people training to continue Britain’s distinctive buildings crafts and each year SPAB’s Fellowship becomes more relevant. Three or four Fellowships are awarded each year depending on available funding.

As usual, the SPAB’s 2017 Fellows are a committed and talented group (see biographies below) with each individual looking to enhance a particular skill and further their knowledge of traditional craft techniques.

Notes to Editors
For more information contact Alison McClary, SPAB press office
Telephone (dd) 0207 456 0905 / Email: alison@spab.org.uk

SPAB is Britain’s oldest building conservation body. It was set up by William Morris to oppose the destructive restorations of the Victorian era and promote the alternative of “conservative repair”. By law it must be notified of applications to demolish listed buildings in England and Wales and comments on hundreds each year. Today its broad remit is to advise, educate and campaign. The Society also trains architects and craftsmen; produces a range of helpful publications and campaigns on issues like VAT. It also has a separate section devoted to Mills. For more information about SPAB, courses, advice and other publications go to www.spab.org.uk

The William Morris Craft Fellowship
Craftspeople from any trade employed in the repair of historic buildings on site or in workshops and studios may apply. Candidates must have completed their apprenticeships and demonstrate a high degree of competence.
Fellows will have the opportunity to develop their own particular craft skill to new levels of excellence. The course of practical training is divided into three blocks of two months, enabling the Fellows to return to their employment in between each block. During the first two blocks the Fellows travel in their group. They make daily site visits, study repair projects and meet professionals, contractors and craftsmen. On site they experience craftsmanship first-hand and discuss traditional building construction and techniques. The final block of training is devoted to the individual needs and interests of each fellow in consultation with their employers. The programme runs from mid-March to December. There are no course fees as training and administration costs are borne by SPAB as part of the award. Many former Fellows have risen to positions of responsibility where they are able to impart their knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm to other craft workers. The SPAB William Morris Craft Fellowship is helping to raise the standard of building conservation skills and the skills of the craftsmen and women involved. For more information visit our website: http://www.spab.org.uk/education-training/fellowship/

2017 Fellows’ Biographies
Gregor Alcorn
Stonemason, Shetland, Historic Environment Scotland        
Age: 28
BSc Hons Environmental Geography, University of Stirling     2008 - 2012
Advanced craft stonemasonry / SVQ Level 3 Stonemasonry     2013 - 2016
Employment: Elgin Coservation Centre
After leaving school in Cheddar, Gregor moved to his birth place, Stirling, to study for a degree in environmental geography. Whilst at university he saw a video featuring SPAB Fellow and stonemason Graham Campbell at the Elgin Conservation Centre and it piqued Gregor’s interest. Independently, Gregor took short courses in stonemasonry at Lincoln with a former cathedral mason to see if he had a good eye. After graduating he sought to gain some building experience through work exchange websites with opportunities abroad. He worked on a couple of straw bale houses and a watermill in France then undertook hotel work until he was offered an apprenticeship for Historic Environment Scotland in Shetland. Successful in gaining the post, Gregor has carried out lime harling, lime pointing, monument maintenance and some stone carving projects. He has used his own initiative to develop his knowledge of stonemasonry, such as meeting with Japanese masons whilst travelling through the country on holiday. He is a member of the Mountain Bothies Association which helps repair shelters in remote parts of Britain for walkers and climbers. He carves for pleasure and would like to make more use of this talent, learn other skills and pass those on to others. Gregor has taken part in the European Stone Festivals in Frieburg (2014) and Salzburg (2016) has twice been a member of the best stonemasonry college team in the UK and twice attended SkillBuild finals at the NEC winning gold in 2016.

Jack Clare
Stained glass conservator, Holywell Glass Limited                
Age: 26
BA(Hons) English Literature, Bath Spa University 2009-2012           
Postgraduate Diploma, Newspaper Journalism, Cardiff University    2012 - 2013

Jack and his father Stephen Clare have been great supporters of the SPAB for many years, hosting visits and lecturing. Jack did not enter straight into stained glass conservation, he studied English literature and journalism, and worked as a sub-editor on a newspaper before committing full time to the family firm. He has found these skills have helped in the report writing side of the job. Jack is an ICON member and enjoys travel, taking in historic sites wherever he can. Jack works with conscientious practitioners who place great value in making the correct conservation decisions and he wants to develop a greater understanding of other parts of a building so he can ensure a holistic approach as he develops his career. At interview he said his first priority is to ensure the nation’s most beautiful stained glass is conserved in a manner befitting its significance
He believes in collaboration between conservation disciplines and feels the Fellowship is the best platform to develop this understanding alongside honing his own skills.

Dale Perrin    
Carpenter/Joiner, self employed                        
Age: 25
Training:  Carpentry apprenticeship NVQ Level 3, Colchester Institute    2007 - 2010/ Bakers of Danbury, ACA Distinction

Dale completed his apprenticeship in carpentry with Bakers of Danbury which introduced him to the idea of conservative repair. He worked on Spain’s Hall, an Elizabethan house near Finchingfield in Essex, many churches and other listed buildings undertaking floor repairs, oak shingle roofing and a good range of carpentry repairs. Dale then became self employed and has worked for private clients and local companies such as Chelmer Builders in Great Dunmow where he has gained further experience working on traditional buildings such as The Priest’s House in Felsted, Dunmow Park and other properties throughout Essex, Suffolk and Hertfordshire.  Dale has most recently worked with a SPAB member Lydia Roe on her timber framed home, learning and working through repair techniques together to retain as much of the historic fabric as possible. Lydia says his attention to detail and his research preparation before attending site has been a great asset to the project. Lydia, Joe Bispham and architect David Whymark all recommended the Fellowship programme to him. Dale enjoys all sporting activities and travelling.

Paul Walters
Plasterer Just Lime limited, self employed                    
Age: 34
NVQ Level 3 Plastering, Tywi Centre 2012 – 2013
Site Management Safety Training Scheme, Alpha Training     2015
BSc (Hons) Sports Science, University of Wales Cardiff    2001 – 2004

Paul considers himself fortunate to have experienced several careers all of which he’s been very passionate about. Working as a climbing instructor, he took groups on climbing holidays across Europe. It was during this time he began to learn how to plaster. He met a local mason who pointed him towards the Tywi Centre in Llandeilo, a heritage skills college upskilling existing trades to heritage trades. Paul embarked on their NVQ3 in heritage plastering, where he gained invaluable experience at Ty Mawr Lime and local conservation builders Jones & Fraser. Whilst on one of his placements on the Traditional Building Skills Bursary Scheme (TBSBS) he met a previous SPAB Fellow Julie Haddow. Upon attaining his NVQ3, he was asked to be on the board of directors at the Tywi Centre and he now runs his own successful business, Just Lime Ltd. He has hosted several TBSBS trainees and remains passionate about passing on his knowledge of the sector and his trade. The Fellowship programme has been a recurring theme in his working life and he has found other Fellows to be amongst the most knowledgeable and passionate people he’s encountered. Paul takes a measured approach to his work and what can be accomplished; he believes in the ethos of conservative repair and strives to overcome the effects of decades of ignorance on the buildings he works on. He hopes to influence not just his employees but also the principle contractors, architects, building control and conservation officers he works with and to change the circumstances in which the craftsperson rarely gets to make the decisions that matter.