Building Conservation Trainee, Cameron Page, reflects on his 6-month placement at the Museum, which ran from January – June 2016.
“I have enjoyed working on buildings old and new throughout my career, and over this time I have discovered and embraced the importance of conservation. In 2014 it became a logical progression for me to pursue my passion for the built environment, and I enrolled on a degree course studying Historical Building Conservation at The Building Craft College.
My education about our building heritage has been both fascinating and inspirational, and as part of my course I attended several field trips to the Weald & Downland Museum. I found it to be an amazing site, which gave me the opportunity to put into practice the conservation philosophies I had learnt in the classroom, further excelling my knowledge within the heritage sector.
With its abundant collection of buildings, countless leading experts and undisputable passion for our heritage, I recognised that a traineeship at the Museum would propel my knowledge and unwavering enthusiasm for historical conservation.”
Q. What did you already know about the area of work and why did you want to undertake the traineeship?
A. Carpentry is probably one of my weaker trades – something I recognised and aimed to improve on; I undertook a joinery course along with my degree course to further my knowledge in this field. This has taught me a new practical skill with regards to woodworking tools and basic joints, which I also applied to a course module on timber-framed buildings. Apart from this my knowledge was limited on the subject.
Timber is fascinating and its harmonious suitability for construction has been documented for thousands of years. With this in mind, it would be imprudent of me not to immerse myself in the subject and the pursuit of knowledge regarding this intriguing material.
Q. What would you say were your main achievements during the time of the traineeship?
A. You need only take a stroll down to the site of the medieval house from Sole Street to one of my main achievements from this traineeship. This medieval house is a handsome assembly on an already stunning landscape and I feel truly privileged to have helped with its re-location and conservation.
Q. What have you enjoyed most during the traineeship?
A. It’s been fantastic working with a great team of people at the Museum. I have learnt so much about the appraisal of a timber-frame building. I’m extremely thankful to my team leader, Joe Thompson, as well as fellow trainees Claire Vidler and Richard Toogood, who have willingly passed on their expert knowledge.
Undertaking the traditional conversion of an oak tree trunk into timber boards is one exercise that sticks out for me. This gave me real insight into the cycle of work that goes into a timber-frame building; planting and growing trees, the conversion methods and tools used to produce a usable construction material. I rapidly gained an insight to the life and skills of a medieval carpenter.
Q. What has most challenged you during the traineeship?
A. To construct a medieval timber-framed building was a very exciting prospect for me. I had brought the first timber from Sole Street into the Gridshell workshop 6 months prior to the raising of the frame. I found it challenging to maintain the patient and methodical mindset needed for its appraisal.
Although the final construction phase was very appealing, I soon learnt that this is only a small part of the overall appraisal and completion in the conservation of a timber-frame building. Their complex and quite often fragile state requires careful analysis and a meticulous attention to detail. It is this that rewards us with the stimulating discovery of the past.
Q. How do you think you will use your experience in the future?
A. My experiences at the Weald & Downland Museum have really helped me to progress with my study in the conservation of historic buildings. For my last project at university I have been able to produce work focusing on the appraisal of an historic timber-framed building.
I will be submitting a 1:20 scale model of Sole Street as part of the project. This has been a useful assignment, enabling me to revise my new found knowledge. It has also enabled me to teach others with the use of the architectural model as an educational aid.
I hope to continue learning with the view of having my own opportunity for conserving our buildings of heritage.
The Museum team would like to thank Cameron for his hard work and Seaward Properties Ltd, for their valued sponsorship of this Building and Conservation Trainee position.