Conservation Masters Graduation, 2016-17

Conservation Masters degrees this year were awarded on Saturday 20 January by the University’s Chancellor, Sir Malcom Grant, at the Graduation ceremony in Central Hall on the Heslington West campus, together with an honorary degree awarded to the journalist, Orla Guerin MBE, who gave an inspiring and moving address.

In all, 18 students graduated with their MA in Conservation Studies and Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings) from the 2016-17 year. A number of others, who were finishing their studies part-time, will receive their awards at the summer graduation on 26 July.

You can watch the ceremony on YouTube here. The Conservation awards begin around 28 minutes in to the recording.

Jess Western and Tom Pinner celebrating at the graduation reception.  Tom is now working as Heritage and Design Officer with Babergh & Mid Suffolk District Council. Jess, from New Zealand, is planning to continue her studies in a PhD programme.


Scholastic recognition

There were several members of the graduating cohort who were recognised for their scholastic achievement at an evening reception in King’s Manor after the graduation ceremony.

Of note, Amanda Brocklehurst received the prestigious conservation medal award from the York Consortium for Craftsmanship and Conservation. This is awarded by the Consortium to a student whose work has made a significant contribution to conservation practice. Amanda’s dissertation was an investigation of Grade 2 heritage buildings at risk in the North East of England and strategies for addressing the issues of neglect and under-resourcing. Amanda’s degree award was one of the highest distinctions in recent years. She is continuing to work as a conservation consultant in the North East.

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Amanda Brocklehurst receiving the prestigious conservation medal award from the York Consortium for Craftsmanship and Conservation.

The Department’s Conservation Prize for the highest marked conservation dissertation in the year was received by Helen Mulholland for her innovative research into proteinaceous additives in lime mortars. She also received the Yorkshire Philosophical Society’s Herman Ramm prize for the highest marked dissertation in the whole cohort across all programmes.

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Helen Mulholland received the Department’s Conservation Prize for the highest marked conservation dissertation in the year.

Meanwhile, Sara Volkman was presented the York Conservation Alumni Association’s award for her outstanding contribution to her year, as the student representative on Board of Studies and as an ambassador for the programme. She also received a distinction in her degree award. Sarah, from the USA, has been volunteering in the Honduras since the end of the programme and is now working back in the USA.

In addition to student achievement, Tracy Wilcockson was recognised for her three years of outstanding service as YCAA Chair prior to stepping down in the summer. Under her stewardship, the YCAA expanded its social media activity, worked to establish contacts with international alumni, and expanded its presence with current students of the programme. Tracy continues her work as a Preventive Conservator at the University of York’s Borthwick Institute for Archives.

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Tracy Wilcockson presented the York Conservation Alumni Association’s award to Sara Volkman for her outstanding contribution to her year.



Newcastle-upon-Tyne YCAA Alumni & Student Study Trip

York Conservation Alumni Association is delighted to announce its free Spring study visit to explore the northern city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne on Saturday 17 March 2018.

Designed by Michael Atkinson, YCAA’s new Chairman, and bonafide NorthEasterner, the day will involve two walking tours to take in the city’s sites and buildings in order to explore the rich heritage at the historic heart of the city and the iconic setting of the quayside and bridges.

To book your free place on the tour, please register on the tour’s Eventbrite page.


Newcastle-on-Tyne: A Context

The city developed around the Roman settlement Pons Aelius and was named after the castle built in 1080 by Robert Curthose, William the Conqueror’s eldest son. The city grew as an important centre for the wool trade in the C14, and later became a major coal mining area. The port developed in the C16 and, along with the shipyards lower down the River Tyne, was amongst the world’s largest shipbuilding centres. The city was a powerhouse during the Industrial Revolution with advancements such as the invention of the steam turbine and ‘Davy Lamp’ credited to the area.

The Tyne at Newcastle in the mid-C18. Image: UGC /

Cultural heritage also flourished and by the C18 the city was the fourth biggest printing industry in the UK. Establishment of the Literary and Philosophical Society in 1793 attracted intellectuals and academics.

The C20 brought about a steady decline in heavy industry during the interwar period affecting its coal mining and ship building pedigree. In response, the city has adapted and transformed itself into a cultural landmark.


The Study Day: An itinerary†

† The schedule of the day is subject to change pending the weather and any other unforeseen factors.

The visit begins at 10.45am, meeting at the glazed entrance portico of Newcastle Central Railway Station (1850, grade I listed), a distinctive public building designed in a classical style. A regular train service is in operation from York with trains departing at both 9.32am and 9.36am arriving direct into the city in time for the meeting point.

The Black Gate (1250, grade I listed/ASM) and Castle Keep (1178, grade I listed). Source: Wikipedia.

The morning walking tour concentrates on Old Newcastle and will take in the Church of St. John the Baptist (C12, grade I listed), historic market streets (Bigg, Groat and Cloth), The Literary and Philosophical Society (1822, grade II* listed), Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas (C14/C15, grade I Listed), The Black Gate (1250, grade I listed/ASM), Castle Keep (1178, grade I listed) and High Level Bridge (1849, grade I listed).

Lunch will be taken between 12.45pm – 1.45pm on Newcastle Quayside where there are a selection of street cafes and bars. Alternatively, a picnic lunch can be brought or bought on arrival at Newcastle Central Railway Station.

The afternoon walking tour concentrates on the Quayside and Bridges and will take in the Tyne Bridge (1928, grade II listed), Bessie Surtees House (C16/C17, grade I listed), Swing Bridge (1876, grade II* listed), St. Mary’s Church (C12, grade I listed), Baltic Flour Mills (1950) and Gateshead Millennium Bridge (2001).

The Tyne Bridge under construction in 1928 (now grade II listed). Source:


Please note: Both walking tours are expected to last 2 hours and do include some steep steps and slopes. It is highly advised to be prepared for inclement weather and wear comfortable walking shoes.

For those who are wishing to explore a little further afield, an additional visit to Ralph Erskine’s Byker Wall (1969-1982, grade II* listed) is also planned at the end of the day, time permitting.

Reserve a place

To book your free place on the tour, please register on the tour’s Eventbrite page. The tour is open to any YCAA alumni or current postgraduate, and accompanying friends and family. For any further information, please email Michael Atkinson.

Conservation of Fort High School by INTACH Bengaluru

Written by Sonali Dhanpal, Architect & Built Heritage Conservationist; Conservation Studies alumni (2016-17)



Built in 1907, Fort High School (Figure 1) is an unprotected historic building that stands two storeys high next to one of Bengaluru’s prized monuments, Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace on one side and a large open ground on the other. Despite its idyllic location, this courtyard building has withstood the test of time and stands as was intended over 110 years ago. At present it is used as a high school and pre-university college run by the government, catering to over 500 students annually. Its present use makes it a unique conservation project that will involve introducing much needed modern amenities to the school, accommodating the public grounds that surround the building while retaining the historicity of a heritage building.

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Figure 1. Front elevation  (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)



The site on which Fort High School stands is where the Mysore gate of the Bangalore fort once stood. It was the southern gate of the fort and it was here that in 1791 that the British martyred the soldiers of Tipu Sultan in the infamous Third Anglo-Mysore War. The building itself is equally important, as it was the first established government high school in the Mysore Province and was built at a time when the princely state of Mysore, under the administration of Maharaja Krishna Raja Wadiyar, began to develop the state. Opened as the English Vernacular school in 1905 and renamed as Fort High School 1907, the school boasts of associations with many prominent personalities of the Karnataka state.

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Figure 2. Gable ends and octagonal bays (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)


The building

The building fits the description of an Anglo-Vernacular style with elements of European architecture such as the scale and symmetry of the octagonal projecting bays (Figure 2) seen in the front elevation. The vernacular style is seen from the central courtyard (Figure 3) with rooms on all sides, the Madras terrace and sloping roof with Mangalore tiles (Figure 4). The ornamental features, such as the use of Roman arches with key stones above openings (Figure 5), gable ends with gable windows, and detailing such as cornices and wooden fascia, all give a colonial expression to the building.

Figure 3. Central Courtyard (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)


Figure 4. Sloping roofs with Mangalore Tiles (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)


Figure 5. Roman arches above openings (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)


Another interesting result of the detailed survey conducted was that more than adequate evidence was found to determine that the school was built in two phases. This evidence ranged from differences in structural treatment, surface treatment, closing of gable windows, addition of new joinery details between the original structure and the later intervention. A few of the other interesting elements are:

i.) A unique timber-steel composite truss is seen supporting 8 primary angular rafters and a series of secondary rafters running along 4 ridges and 4 valleys from a single intersection point (Figure 6). This type of truss is seen in three prominent rooms on the first floor.

ii.) Half-timbered walls with a brick infill are seen in three gable walls of the front elevation (Figure 7). While this is a common element in English Tudor architecture, it is a very unique feature in South India.

Figure 6. Composite truss with 8-planed roof (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)


Figure.7 Half-timbered brick wall (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)
Figure 7. Half-timbered brick wall (Photo courtesy: INTACH Bengaluru)


Contextual backdrop to conservation policy

Monumental imperial structures that demonstrate grandeur and affluence remain prized by conservationists and politicians alike. However, buildings at the other end of the spectrum, technical and institutional infrastructure that were built to accommodate daily operations of locals, remain yet to be recognized as worthy of conservation. While the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the State Authorities protect prominent heritage structures in Bangalore, Fort High School, despite its 117-year history, remains unprotected under either authority. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) listing of heritage precincts in the city includes Fort High School. Nevertheless, it remains a non-governmental organisation, which cannot pass legislation and plays the role of an advisory body to the ASI unless state legislation says differently, or private funding is donated to or raised by the organization to facilitate any conservation process.


Challenges of conserving an unprotected heritage building

The unprotected nature of the heritage building poses many challenges in the conservation of the structure. Does the school require restoration even though it functions as it was intended? What should be the extent of interventions? Do you limit the project to structural restoration? What principles will guide the work?  Navigating these questions and finding justifiable solutions has been the crux of the intervention plans. Other challenges are also presented, such as difficulty in retrieving primary literature sources that describe the original plan or offer the name of any architect involved. While this is the case for many buildings of this period, it leaves many proposals to rely only on scientific testing and visually available evidence. Another issue is that a public playground surrounds the Fort High School building. Hence it is often under threat of vandalism, forcing the recommended interventions to be ones that can withstand public use. The school also remains underfunded as it is run by the government, and upkeep and maintenance of the structure after restoration will be limited, hence any recommendations must be done with minimum required maintenance.



The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Bengaluru chapter is set to execute the project. The most important step before conservation has been to involve diverse stakeholders in the process. This has included the teachers, alumni, the Horological Society that has adopted the school, and other experts in the field of conservation. The study and assessment of this building began with the documentation and preparation of measured base drawings, followed by assessment of the condition of the structure in detail and mapping of defects on the base drawings. Appropriate interventions and proposals have been recommended for the building after consulting users and experts. The aim of the project is to restore this purpose-built building to its original glory and provide the impetus for further recognition of Fort High School as an integral historical landmark in the city of Bengaluru.

Studley Royal Park Student & Alumni Trip, September 2017

Written by Jenna Tinning, Conservation Studies postgraduate (2017-18).

At the end of a busy first week for the new 2017/18 Conservation Studies cohort, the students and alumni gathered together on Saturday 30 September 2017 for a study to trip to the World Heritage Site of Studley Royal Park, known by many as home to the ruins of Fountains Abbey. We were very lucky to be led through the day by the extremely knowledgeable Dr Keith Emerick, Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England, who has been involved in the conservation management of the site for many years.

As one of National Trust’s flagship sites (though interestingly managed by English Heritage!) the visit was a brilliant example of sustainable management of a cultural heritage asset as a visitor attraction. Keith picked up on a number of interesting points about the challenges that are faced in making this a reality. We started the day with a bit of background to the site, where we discovered just how many partners are involved in its running and what it means to be a world heritage site – including the fact that ‘fountains’ must have a management plan for every six years, which in turn forms the guidelines for the conservation work on site.

Current students and alumni listening to Dr Keith Emerick’s (unseen) outlining of Fountains Abbey’s conservation challenges


Moving down to the Abbey we learnt more about issues with water drainage at the site and how efforts are being made to manage the impact of flooding, including the installation of some new porous floor tiling to help combat localised flooding. One of many highlights of the day was that we were given behind the scenes access to a large open space that used to be the dormitory of the lay-brothers above the cellarium, an area that is not currently accessible to the public due to the fact that there are large exposed archways on either side that are not cordoned off, meaning that visitors could be exposed to rather big drops off the edge! We discussed how the National Trust and Historic England are therefore working to open this space up to the public and the challenges they face in doing so – particularly to maintaining the aesthetic value of the site.

Standing in the area where the lay-brothers’ dormitory used to be, with the abbey’s nave and Huby’s tower seen beyond.


Another highlight of the trip was taking in the views from some of the many Georgian follies and features located within the grounds of the site, including the spectacular ‘Anne Boleyn’s Seat.’ Each had been carefully designed to provide a new and contrasting vista and experience for guests. Considering that every day the Fountains Abbey and Study Royal site now attracts so many visitors – an average of 350,000 a year – an important and interesting observation to note was that there is still always a quiet place within the landscape where you can go and take in the surroundings in peace, without seeing any others visitors if you so wish.

The “surprise view” from Anne Boleyn’s Seat, looking over the half-moon pond to Tent Hill and the abbey ruins beyond.


Unfortunately, because of the sheer size of Studley Royal Park with an area of about 800 acres, there was no way we could explore all the fascinating features of the landscape in one day, and therefore some aspects, such as St Mary’s Church, were left for us to explore in our own time. Overall, as can be seen by the feedback we have received, the day was a fantastic experience that gave us some really interesting insights into the management of such a diverse World Heritage Site, and it also proved a great opportunity to mix with our new course friends and alumni.


Student Feedback:

Just wanted to say that for me the Fountains trip was a really great opportunity to meet people. What with being in the first week…and just generally mixing us all together, it worked really well as a kind of induction event


I would like to thank the York Conservation Alumni Association (YCAA) for organising a visit to such an amazing place of historical significance and world heritage status. I believe that such visits on a regular basis will expose us to the practical world of conservation and create an interactive environment between the students, professors and professionals from the field. Looking forward to more such opportunities!!


The visit to Fountains was a wonderful experience…as for the ideas for other events, I recommend Saltaire, another world heritage site in Yorkshire.


The importance of field trips for studies like our own is very important, I think that they can be the equivalent of “a photo is worth a thousand words”: a well-organised field trip can worth a lot of hours reading and lecturing… so, similar trips as the one to Fountains Abbey will be more than welcome, although visits within the city of York are welcome as well!


The place chosen for the site visit was wonderful and we were able to understand many aspects that are concerned with heritage conservation – finer details of landscape planning, psychological planning in landscape, architectural details, colour palette of the place and of the trees, historical anecdotes gave an enriching experience.

Study day 2017 Part IV: Church of St Michael, Mytholmroyd

Written by Sean Rawling

Our final visit of the day took us to the Grade II-listed St. Michael’s Church in Mytholmroyd (1847-1848), which was majorly affected by the Boxing Day floods of 2015. The rivers Elphin and Calder reached record heights, leaving 1.2m of water in the church and its adjacent hall, as well as causing devastation throughout the homes and businesses of Mytholmroyd. The Church still holds a relatively large congregation of between 60 and 80 people. It is difficult to imagine the heartache for those who not only lost their homes, but also their community building as a result of the flooding!

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