Conservation Skills Centre breathes new life into National Trust’s Home Farm in West Oxfordshire

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The Victorian Model Farm on the Buscot and Coleshill Estates has a long history of agricultural innovation. Now, it is set to become the National Trust’s new hands-on learning hub for conservation skills, creating a bold new future for the redundant Model Farm outbuildings.

Throughout the UK, building skills and rural crafts are in decline. Fewer people know how to repair our old buildings or care for our landscapes. The National Trust and the SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) wants to plug this knowledge gap by offering practical courses focussing on traditional skills such as letter cutting and lime plastering at Coleshill Home Farm.

With its Conservation Skills Centre at Coleshill, the National Trust aims to build a community focussed on heritage building and craft skills with workshops for resident craftspeople, exhibition space and affordable small business units. The centre will also offer courses, community space, volunteering opportunities and new activities for visitors.  

Christian Walker, General Manager of the National Trust’s West Oxfordshire portfolio said: “It is exciting conservation in action to bring new life to these largely redundant historic buildings but it is especially inspiring to see the model farm become a hub of activity to host those practicing conservation skills as well as hosting courses and events to share skills to inspire others in order to conserve our historic environment.”

SPAB Director, Matthew Slocombe said: “The SPAB’s involvement with Coleshill goes back many decades so we are delighted to bring our much-loved, and well-tested hands-on courses to its repaired Home Farm.”

The farm at Coleshill, with its rich history of innovation and education, was at the cutting edge of UK agriculture in the mid 1800s, with visitors coming to learn about best practice in farm building design, agricultural technology and livestock management. 

Constructed in 1854 and designed to make best use of its gently sloping site, the farm is a superb example of a ‘model farm’ of the period. Designed by the Earl of Radnor’s agent Mr Wells Moore, the layout demonstrates a remarkable understanding of farm management with a nod to innovative but practical design. Gravity was harnessed to move feed and muck via a tramline through the hillside farm whilst an advanced ventilation system and innovative flooring ensured livestock did not stand in the wet. Built from honey-coloured Cotswold stone and roofed in stone tiles, the farm is a welcoming setting for learning and enjoyment and, thanks to its new use as a skills hub plus a café and second-hand bookshop, it is resuming its place at the heart of Coleshill village and the local community. 

SPAB and National Trust courses on offer

Lime Plastering: Friday 8 - Saturday 9 October (2 day) - £490pp.  £90pp bursary places . Bursary places are made possible through the generous support of the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers.  

Letter Cutting: Friday 22 - Sunday 24 October (2.5 day) - £440pp  

Lime in Building: Thursday 11 November (1 day) - £150pp  

Hot Limes: Friday 12 November (1 day) - £150pp 


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