Hands on history: our summer working party

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Working parties are a real highlight of our year. This week volunteers and specialists worked beautifully together to help repair our Old House Project and nearby Boxley Abbey, Kent. There were tons of hands-on activities to try, nights around the campfire and a huge amount of work was achieved.


We believe that the best way to learn traditional building skills is through hands-on experience. Our working parties are a fun way to learn from some of the country's leading craftspeople in a relaxed setting. For a week professionals, students and amateurs are united in their efforts to help a historic building, working and camping together. Sarah, a student commented: “On a normal building site I never feel comfortable. Here everyone is exceptionally welcoming.”

The campsite in the Abbey gardens. Credit: Christian Montez
We carried out timber repairs to the floor of a medieval barn, giving volunteers the rare chance to hew timber in the traditional way.  Under guidance of our archaeologist we continued investigations in the garden at the Old House Project and volunteers from local archaeological groups (MAAG and HAARG) were also undertaking a resistivity survey across the site. On an evening visit to the nearby Isle of Sheppey, the group gathered local septaria (calcium-carbonate based) and carried out promising trial burns on site. Experts from our friends Terra Measurement led volunteers in conducting a controlled survey of the entire site of the working party using pioneering SLAM technology (simultaneous location and mapping). Detailed scans were also taken of the historic objects we’ve uncovered at the Old House Project – including a decorative medieval floor tile; an 18th-century teapot; a whistle; and ceramic ginger beer bottles. Working under experts, volunteers also repaired historic garden walls, tried high-level rope access, learnt how to mix mortar and witnessed a lime burn at our field kiln. We were also pleased to welcome dozens of locals on guided tours around the site.
Volunteer Heather working on timber floor repairs in the medieval barn. Credit: Christian Montez
Our thanks to all our volunteers, experts, visitors and our hosts for their hard work, being great company and who all made it a week to remember. 
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