Date of issue: 23 March 2017
For more information contact Alison McClary, 0207 456 0905, email:
Images available

SPAB’S 2017 Scholars hit the conservation trail

There is no parallel in the architectural conservation world to the annual SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) Lethaby Scholarship. The four newest recruits to this long established training scheme for young architectural and building professionals now join a roster of talented individuals, many of whom care for the most significant buildings in Britain.

Kristian Foster, 33, architect, Aoife Murphy, 31, structural engineer and Lilian Main, 26, architect have embarked on a prestigious nine-month programme of site, workshop and studio visits across the UK.

The aim is for SPAB’s Scholars to gain hands-on experience of building conservation in action guided by experts in the field and to use this knowledge to inform their own approach in their working lives. Their travels will enable them to meet fellow architects, building specialists and craftspeople working in traditional ways. The

Their travels will enable them to meet fellow architects, building specialists and craftspeople working in traditional ways. The Scholars have already toured 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.

This highly regarded educational scheme has run for more than 80 years. Since 1930 it has set over 150 young architecture and building professionals on the road to positions of great responsibility in the conservation sector.
The Scholarship continues to have enormous relevance. With growing concern at the lack of skilled professionals with the knowledge needed to deal sensitively with historic buildings, SPAB knows that the best way to learn about construction and repair methods available today is out on site.

The SPAB Lethaby Scholarship is awarded annually to up to four young architects, building surveyors or structural engineers who have completed their college-based training and have a demonstrable enthusiasm for historic building conservation. After spending the first six months as a close-knit group, they separate for the last three months of the programme, developing their own specific areas of interest relating to the life and culture of the British Country House.

Former SPAB Scholars are among the today’s leading UK conservation experts, caring for many of the most significant buildings in Britain – some are cathedral architects, some look after palaces, great country houses, National Trust houses and English Heritage sites. Others care for lesser known gems of equal historic and architectural interest. The Scholarship is a prestigious and rigorous educational award designed to foster excellence and promote understanding of the unique skills and crafts that continue to underpin our built heritage.

Notes to Editors
For more information contact Alison McClary, SPAB press office
Telephone (dd) 0207 456 0905 / Email:

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

The SPAB Lethaby Scholarship
The oldest of the British national amenity societies, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings introduced the first post-graduate specialist training in building conservation in the 1930s. The founding members of the Society, who advocated a policy of sensitive, conservative repair (rather than restoration), realised they needed to demonstrate how this could be put into practice, and that it would be necessary to pass this knowledge on. The architect Philip Webb was the leading light of this group and a number of young architects trained under his guidance. They discussed major repair problems with him, worked on his sites alongside the craftsmen and took responsibility for the day to day supervision of the work. In 1930, with financial support from the Royal Institute of British Architects, the SPAB decided to award £60 for a Scholarship to a young architect to study "the methods of repair now become traditional among the architect and builder members of the Society", and it was named the Lethaby Scholarship in memory of Professor W R Lethaby. The SPAB is grateful to the following organisations for their generous support: Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Dance Scholarship Trust, Drake Trust, Alan Baxter Foundation, Norman and Underwood.

2017 SPAB Scholars’ biographies

Kristian Foster
Age: 33

BA (Hons) Architecture, De Monfort University 2007
Diploma in Architecture, Kingston University 2014
PgDip Architecture, Westminster University 2016
Employment: pH+ Architects, London 2014 - current

Born and brought up in North Staffordshire, Kristian became interested in the built environment at an early age. Seeing the hand-drawn plans of his aunt’s new home when he was eight sparked his fascination with buildings.
Spending his teenage years sketching buildings he began to admire the heritage of Leek and observed the decay of the industrial buildings of the potteries. Witnessing the loss of this heritage and its irreplaceable value, Kristian left school at 16 to join an architectural practice to train as an architectural technician. Returning to college, he studied for his A Levels before starting his architectural studies. Taking his Part 1 at De Montfort University offered him a good technical training, and moving to Kingston University gave a different perspective on the theory and art side. It was whilst undertaking his thesis on mills that Kristian first heard about the SPAB from a tutor.
Whilst studying, Kristian also worked at several design focused architectural practices. Through the Scholarship he hopes to gain a good grounding in conservation so he can pursue a career in conserving historic buildings and finding solutions for their continued use.
Part of a local group, he has been involved in the unveiling of hundreds of Minton tiles which for decades had been covered by wallpaper. Kristian's intention is to continue to protect and champion North Staffordshire and to work to stop future loss of the area's heritage buildings.

Aoife Murphy
Age: 31
BA Mathematics, Trinity College Dublin 2007
BAI (Hon) Civil Structural and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College Dublin 2007
Employment: Fletcher EQR, Christchurch New Zealand 2010 - current

After graduating from Trinity College, Aoife worked for 3 years designing elements for industrial buildings. Losing her job in 2010 she took the opportunity to go travelling and found herself in Christchurch, New Zealand as an earthquake struck the city. Joining a company working for the Earthquake Commission, she immediately got plunged into a unique set of circumstances and became involved in the repair of earthquake damaged buildings. As a senior engineer, Aoife now manages teams of engineers who assess sympathetic repair strategies which value retaining the look of the building whilst making them safer during earthquakes. Intrigued by repairing buildings in a way sympathetic to their method of construction, the Scholarship gives her the chance to pursue this. Having spent 6 years in New Zealand, she was preparing to return home to Ireland to continue her career but decided to apply for the Scholarship. Aoife has travelled to Africa with an Irish charity to build and repair schools and houses. Already in contact with the organisers of SPAB Ireland, she is keen to get more involved with the group.

Lilian Tuohy Main
Age: 26
BA Design in Architecture, University of Sydney 2012
MSc Architectural Conservation, Edinburgh University 2014
Diploma in Architecture, Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies, Centre for Alternative Technology 2017
Employment: Page\Park Architects, Glasgow 2014 – 2016

Drawn to the SPAB's pragmatic approach, Lilian starts her Scholarship having just completed her Part II studies at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales. Her decision to study here was informed by her interest in the relationship between architecture and health– from the food we eat to the buildings we inhabit and the cities we live in. After completing her Part I architectural studies in Sydney, and seeking to learn about more than just contemporary design, Lilian's travels took her to Nepal, where she spent time helping to repair traditional buildings. It was here that she realised that heritage, health and sustainability could be inextricably linked, and it was this experience that fueled her desire to work with existing buildings. Moving from Australia in 2013, she completed the Prince's Foundation Summer School and then an MSc in Architectural Conservation at The University of Edinburgh. Whilst enjoying education, Lilian's most valuable lessons have come from her time at Page\Park Architects in Glasgow, working on the restoration of the Glasgow School of Art, along with other Category A Listed buildings on Isle of Bute. Now based in Cumbria, she enjoys any outdoor activity that gets her outdoors and up a hill.