Hands on fun at All Souls Bolton

Up north on Tuesday to attend the excellent Roofing Technical Day at All Souls Bolton, cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust and currently part of a Heritage Lottery Funded project.

Jenny Martin of Carefoot plc gave a quick and competent welcome and overview of the project and the day ahead.

This was followed by Alan Gardner’s interesting and informative talk on issues surrounding the use and supply of traditional roofing materials illustrated with examples from past projects. Along the way we learnt that a presumption against the use of membranes was a good starting point and that by using reclaimed materials instead of new and locally sourced we may be unwittingly adding to the problems of theft, limited supply and diminishing skills.

Next Adrian Walker of Lambert and Walker made a plea for better and safer working conditions for roofers. He pointed out that poorly considered access can often lead to poor quality work and that the inclusion of a scaffolding design within the tender documents can help to stop the quality and safety of access being compromised by the competitive tender process.

A tour of the roof gave us all a chance to see works in progress and to ask questions of the craftsmen on the job. On the way back we also had a chance to view the interior although access was limited by ongoing construction.

A generous lunch was then enjoyed by all. This was followed by practical sessions in lead working and slate and stone tile roofing with ample opportunities to get your hands on the tools and materials and really mess things up!

The day ended with a question and answer session which quickly focused on what can be done to stop the competitive tender process driving down quality. I’m not sure that Adrian’s question ‘How do you find out who’s good?’ was answered but the discussion was certainly food for thought.

For what its worth my view is that we need to educate the decision makers – they need to be invited and encouraged to attend days like these – so much more of the same please CCT/HLF!

Free and highly informative – what’s not to like? Check out future Technical Training Days at Alls Souls at http://allsoulstraining.eventbrite.co.uk/  - but be quick tickets are going fast!

Finally a BIG thank you to:

All the craftsmen on site who made it such and interesting and informative day.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (http://www.hlf.org.uk/)

The Churches Conservation Trust (http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/)

Alan Gardner Associates. (http://www.alangardnerassociates.co.uk/)

Carefoot  plc (http://www.carefootplc.com/)

Lambert Walker (http://www.lambertwalker.co.uk/)

Colm O’Kelly – Regional Project Officer Dorset and Somerset

SPAB Maintenance Cooperatives Project


SPAB Old House Eco Course – Maintenance is Key

Helped out at the Old House Eco Course in Hammersmith on Saturday. Well worth considering going to the next one in Coventry on the 14 June (contact: education@spab.org.uk) – and not just if you own an old house as many of the ideas for making old buildings more sustainable and energy efficient are equally applicable to places of worship.

The day was excellently organised by Lucy Jacob (SPAB Course Organiser) with Jonathan Garlick (SPAB Technical Officer) acting as a very knowledgeable MC.

In the morning Marianne Suhr and Roger Hunt, the authors of the accompanying book (‘Old House Eco Handbook’ available from – www.spab.org.uk/publications) took it in turns to cover how walls, windows, doors, roofs, ceilings and floors could be adapted to make old buildings more energy efficient in ways that were not detrimental to their historic fabric and aesthetic appeal.

Marianne and Jonathan together with Pip Soodeen (SPAB Fellowship and Scholarship Organiser) provided a specialist advice clinic over the lunch period aimed at attendees with specific issues.

Roger started the afternoon session with a review of the relative merits of energy supply alternatives. After this Chris Newman (Parity Projects), Marianne, and Jonathan (gamely standing in for Paul Mallion of Conker Conservation) used case studies to show how the ideas covered in the morning session had been applied to real world projects. This was followed by an extended and enthusiastic question and answer session. Roger then outlined the likely future relationship between old houses, energy efficiency and sustainability and finally Jonathan brought it all to a conclusion.

Along the way we learnt that the positioning of radiators under windows was the result of a male inability to understand curtains (controversial!) and that maintenance is key – wet walls are cold walls and draughts due to holes in the fabric can undermine any insulation installed – so timely repairs and regular cleaning can make a real difference to a buildings energy efficiency.

Colm O’Kelly

SPAB Maintenance Cooperative Project Regional Project Officer Dorset and Somerset