2019 SPAB Scholars start nine-month conservation journey

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There is no parallel in the architectural conservation world to the annual SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) Scholarship. A group of young architects, surveyors and engineers are awarded a nine-month learning placement to gain practical building repair skills from the some of the UK’s craftspeople. The four newest recruits to this prestigious training scheme for young building professionals now join a roster of talented individuals, many of whom care for the most significant buildings in Britain.

Surveyor Daniel Shemming and architects Christian Montez, Holly Spilsbury and Bethan Watson have embarked on a nine-month programme of site, workshop and studio visits across the UK. The scheme runs in parallel to the SPAB’s Fellowship programme for craftspeople.

The aim is for the 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. On their travels they will meet fellow architects, building specialists and craftspeople working in traditional ways.

Starting with a week in the south east of England they have already visited projects at Westminster Abbey and Hampton Court Palace, as well as small-scale, domestic projects in central London.

The group will move further afield over the next six months visiting castles in the Inner Hebrides, exploring the country’s cathedrals, building with mud in Cumbria and visiting slate quarries in Wales.

Since 1930 the Scholarship scheme 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 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, for the last three months of the programme they separate to develop their own 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. The Scholarship is a prestigious and rigorous educational award designed to foster excellence and promote understanding of the unique skills and crafts that look after our old buildings.


2019 SPAB Scholars’ biographies

Daniel Shemming

BSc (Hons) Building Surveying, Anglia Ruskin University 2015 (Part-Time)
MCIOB Chartered Construction Manager, CIOB 2018

Suffolk County Council, Suffolk 2009 - 2016
National Trust, Cumbria, 2016 – 2019

From an early age, Daniel grew up learning from his grandfather, a skilful engineer, on various craft and building projects. With a hands-on nature and curious mind, he was keen to understand how buildings and their fabric came together, developing an admiration for traditional craft skills and an appetite to apply these himself. Following this passion, Daniel worked at Suffolk County Council’s Estate Department, where he undertook to repair of several beautiful and important buildings on the Council’s Farm estate. Daniel moved to work at the National Trust in the Lake District, where he has worked on various projects including repairing and reopening St Bees Foghorn Station and strengthening of the floor at Allan Bank. The Scholarship offers Daniel the chance to gain a much deeper understanding of building conservation throughout the UK and to see how the SPAB philosophy is practically applied in different contexts.


Christian Montez

SEMTA Advanced Apprenticeship in Mechanical Engineering, Hereford, 2007
BA(Hons) Architecture & Planning, University of West England, 2011
MArch Masters of Architecture, University of West England, 2015

T.J. Crump Oakwrights (timber frame designer & maker), 2012 - 2015
Border Oak D+C Ltd, Herefordshire (design engineer), 2015
Nick Joyce Architects, Worcester, (architect assistant) 2016 – 2019

Inspired by his Grandfather, Christian studied Mechanical Engineering where he discovered his interest in the structure and detailing of buildings. After working as an engineer he gained a degree in Architecture, and worked as a timber frame designer and carpenter with companies specialising in the construction of oak framed houses. Since he joined Nick Joyce Architects in Worcester, he has been working on the conservation, repair and alteration of historic buildings, gaining a love of vernacular construction and the regional nuances within timber framing.


Holly Spilsbury

BA (Hons) Architecture, The University of Kent 2011
MArch (Dist), The University of Manchester 2016
RIBA Part 3, RIBA North West 2017

Purcell Architects, York, 2012 – 2019

Holly has fascination for historic buildings; their materiality, the crafts involved in creating them and understanding the lives of the people that inhabited them. Holly undertook her Masters at Manchester School of Architecture, where she won the Faculty Alumni Prize for consistently outstanding work. She won the SPAB’s Philip Webb Award Award in 2015 with her work displayed in the V&A Museum in the subsequent exhibition. Since joining Purcell Architects, Holly has worked on a wide range of projects from joinery design at Bettys Ilkley, the repair works at Ledston Hall and involvement in the masterplanning of Auckland Castle. Returning to She is also an associate lecturer and design tutor at Manchester University. Holly looks forward to the Scholarship as a great opportunity to build on her existing conservation knowledge, gaining hands on experience and indulging in her love of sketching.


Beth Watson

BSc(Hons) in General Architectural Studies (RIBA Part 1), University of Bath 2013
MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design (RIBA Part 2), University of Cambridge 2016
RIBA Part 3, RIBA North West, 2017

Harrison Brookes Architects - February to August 2011
RealGap building project, Costa Rica - February to May 2012
Archifact, Auckland, New Zealand - October 2013 to February
Wright and Wright Architects, Camden Town - June 2014 to September 2014
Caroe Architecture Ltd, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London - October 2016 - present

Beth’s passion for historic places developed from her studies and experiences working on significant buildings, including conservation programmes in New Zealand and Italy. These projects include: New College Song School, Oxford; The Geffrye Museum; St Marylebone Parish Church; and St Paul’s Cathedral, London. Beth has previously undertaken long-term study trips in Italy and Costa Rica (where she organised and led a three-month construction project). Beth is a tutor for the ‘Culture of the City’ Italian summer school. She was jointly awarded the SPAB’s Philip Webb Award in 2016 for her Masters project exploring post-earthquake heritage reconstruction. She loves to travel, keeps sketchbooks and an online blog, and enjoys a variety of crafts in her spare time.


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