It’s already November and time for my third THI progress blog. It feels like I haven’t been in the office much at all recently. University has been particularly busy with field trips, placements, and deadlines piling up with terrifying regularity. The last intern Chris had warned me that time management would be a challenge and I am beginning to see what he meant.
Last month I attended my first Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) conference at the Friends Meeting House, Manchester. The theme was Vernacular Architecture and a series of knowledgeable guest speakers provided their views on the subject and took part in discussions.
IHBC Conference 2015
The day also included a selection of guided tours so I opted to visit the fascinating Chetham’s Library. It was established in 1653 and is the oldest free public reference library in the United Kingdom. We didn’t get to spend too long on our trip as the timetable was rather rigid, but what I did see was very interesting and I will be sure to return in the near future.
A tour of Chetham’s library
We are continuing the theme of vernacular architecture in an upcoming piece of university coursework. The project looks at Chester and the evolution of its architectural styles over time. We visited the city and explored a range of buildings along the famous rows, picking out key features and clues to the area’s history and development.
Our field trip to Chester to discover more about its architecture
I’ve just this week handed in another piece of coursework, this one being an essay discussing the nature of conservation in the 21st century. I researched and discussed philosophical approaches to the topic through time, juxtaposed with past approaches and modern day thinking. It was eye-opening to learn about the thought processes of conservation theorists like John Ruskin and William Morris and how they differed from architectural heavyweights of the day such as Sir George Gilbert Scott and Violette-le-Duc. I never realised conservation has been such a controversial issue for so long!
Another recent field trip was an afternoon to…Prescot. I expected this to be something of a busman’s holiday but we were actually able to access a property I’d never been to.
No. 48 St Helens Road
Just a short walk from the town centre, St. Helens Road contains an unassuming oddity in the form No.48. Entering this house is like stepping back in time. It hasn’t been touched for years with examples of its past history still clearly visible. The house was surprisingly spacious for a terrace with each room a generous size. The pièce de résistance however lies at the rear of the building where the remains of an old watchmaking workshop can still be found. These workshops were a common sight in Prescot but only a rare few now survive. As a result, this property and its adjacent neighbour are both Grade II listed.
The old watchmaker’s workshop still to be found in Prescot
Elsewhere I have also been working on placement at the Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service (MEAS) at their archive in Bootle. The small team have been busy updating thousands of paper records onto a digital database through a monotonous but important process of categorization. When complete the database will allow staff to investigate the environmental factors affecting geographical sites across Merseyside and allow any significant heritage assets nearby to be considered before any future works.
My big task now is to come up with an idea for my Masters dissertation. I have some thoughts in mind, but they need refining. Hopefully some inspiration will appear sooner rather than later. Fingers crossed.