A man on scaffolding repointing a historic structure
Repointing in progress on a historic building © Historic England Archive. Image Reference DP181673
Repointing in progress on a historic building © Historic England Archive. Image Reference DP181673

The Heritage Building Skills Programme

The Heritage Building Skills Programme is a major five-year in-work training and apprenticeships programme in the North of England, running from 2021-2026.

Programme updates

Summer School 2023

Grade II* Hopwood Hall in Middleton, Rochdale Borough, dating from the 15th century, is hosting a summer school to pass on essential and at risk traditional heritage crafts to trainees from across the North of England.

The summer school will see trainees take part in a series of craft workshops delivered by master craftspeople, designed to help tackle the critical shortage in essential skills needed to rescue historic buildings across the country.

The Hall - one of Greater Manchester’s most important surviving halls - is the ancestral home of Hopwood DePree, the American actor, writer, and filmmaker who is working alongside local volunteers, Historic England, Rochdale Borough Council and Hopwood Hall College - to restore and transform it into an artistic and cultural venue.

Over the two-week course at the Hall, trainees will learn about traditional heritage crafts including plasterwork, working with leaded glass, and architectural woodcarving at Hopwood Hall College, alongside master crafts people and experts from Historic England.

During the summer school, the trainees will take part in hands-on and classroom learning in various trades and learn the conservation principles, which will give them the foundation to develop into the master-craftspeople of the future.

During the plastering workshop they will replicate the decorative mouldings found on the walls of the Banqueting room, dating back to the mid to late 19th century, and later, carve decorative wooden features found in the hall. The mouldings will be stored for future use in the restoration.

A team of local volunteers who have devoted many hours to the restoration effort at the Hall will also share their knowledge and insights with the trainees.

Induction Event 5-6 December 2022

New apprentices welcomed to the Heritage Building Skills Programme.

On the 6 December 2022 Historic England hosted an induction event in Leeds to welcome seven new heritage construction apprentices to the Heritage Building Skills Programme.
The induction gave the new apprentices (a carpenter joiner, a painter decorator, two stone masons, and three plasterers) opportunities to meet their fellow apprentices, learn more about the Programme, ask questions of their peers, and be inspired by talks from heritage master craftspeople. Apprentices also got the chance to find out about the exciting ongoing transformation of Temple Works and to tour the beautiful, Grade II* City Varieties Music Hall.

The Heritage Building Skills Programme – a £4.325m five-year apprenticeship and training scheme for heritage construction skills focused in the North of England – is now into its second year, with 21 trainees and apprentices having benefitted from it to date.

The core objectives of the Programme are to address long-standing heritage skills shortages in the construction industry, provide opportunities for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and to do so in conjunction with restoring sites in the North of England on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.

Summer School at Wentworth Woodhouse July-August 2022

Building on Spring School, the first Summer School took place at Wentworth Woodhouse, Rotherham over 5 weeks in July and August.

19 trainees across all three tiers of the programme (Prepare, Enter, Sustain) spent time at the site working together with experts to help conserve the Ionic Temple and the Camellia House.

Participants also took part in a wide range of workshops, site visits and classroom learning, delivered by specialists from Historic England and other partners. The event was an invaluable opportunity to bring trainees across different tiers together and teach them about conservation of traditional buildings intensively in a multi-disciplinary group. It concluded with a Networking Day which brought over 60 delegates from across the sector together to celebrate the achievements of our trainees.

Spring School 2022 at Wentworth Woodhouse

In April 2022, eight Tier 2 trainees took part in a Spring School at Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham. The apprentices learned from heritage professionals at Pinnacle Conservation, Heritage Masonry Contracts and Donald Insall Associates, and undertook repairs to the South Pavilion which included leadwork, repointing, cleaning, gilding and joinery.

During the Spring School attendees visited the workshops of Excel Bespoke Plaster and Ridgeway Forge to learn about and try out craft techniques. Architect- led sessions at Wentworth’s Ionic Temple focused on significance-based decision-making processes in conservation. A survey the trainees helped to conduct will also inform the repairs that they undertake with the tier 1 and 3 trainees, at the Summer School later this year (July-August 2022).

An integral part of the training model for the Heritage Building Skills Programme is on-site training with expert teams at important Heritage at Risk (HAR) sites, and the Spring School provided an opportunity to successfully test this model before it is scaled up for the Summer School.

Programme Aims

The programme aims to:

  • Reduce shortages in heritage craft skills
  • Improve the condition of Heritage at Risk (HAR) sites
  • Create viable career opportunities for young people from less-advantaged backgrounds

A new training model

The programme will pioneer a new training model, which has two main elements:

  • A three-tiered training scheme for craftspeople to gain direct experience at critical points in their careers
  • On-site training with expert teams at some of the country’s most valuable historic buildings and places, identified by Historic England as ‘at risk’ and in need of rescue.

Tier 1 Prepare:

12x 9-week placements with heritage construction firms for students on full time construction courses. Students will be paid a bursary by Historic England and be paired with a mentor to help them develop their career aspirations.

Tier 2 Enter:

16x apprenticeships with heritage construction companies, which will allow students to complete a mainstream construction apprenticeship qualification. Apprentices will be employed by Historic England and seconded to heritage construction firms.

Tier 3 Sustain:

12x flexible opportunities for work-based training with very specialist heritage companies. Students will be paid a bursary by Historic England.

The programme will test this new training model, with the long-term ambition of expanding it across the country.

Contact details

Contact [email protected] for more information.

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Editor’s note: this programme was called The Hamish Ogston Foundation Heritage Building Skills Programme until October 2023.