The Building Crafts and Conservation Foundation (BCCF), our pioneering Kings Lynn based charity https://heritageskills.org.uk has been established as the first group in the country to aim to provide comprehensive education and training in heritage craft and conservation skills.
We will offer:
- A unique concept of offering a range of heritage skills training under one roof
- A unique mix of academic and practical training
- Use of real buildings for practical skills training
- Local people opportunities in training and employment in a very deprived area of East Anglia, thus contributing to wellbeing in the local community
- Provide a community of people of all levels of skill where synergy of learning exists
Genuine goodwill and support has been offered by all in the Industry who have been consulted.
By creating a regional centre of excellence for a neglected sector of the building and construction industry, we will provide opportunities
- For those on the programme to contribute to the restoration of Historic properties whilst learning
- For a range of extra-curricular courses for homeowners and others, including school pupils – the heritage students of the future
- To link with institutions and trainers in the EU, enabling our students to learn abroad and to bring EU students to England in exchanges
- And for local businesses to derive many potential benefits from working with us.
BCCF was created in 2014 (charitable status being granted in January 2018, Charity Number 1176700), because its founders knew from their own experiences and work in the built heritage field that there was a woeful lack of skilled crafts people around to maintain and restore the large number of both secular and ecclesiastical buildings. Furthermore, the understanding of those who specify such work often lacks practical appreciation as a result of their purely theoretical education.
Having carried out considerable research across the UK, it was obvious that there was no coordinated approach in universities, FE colleges and elsewhere in terms of heritage skills education and training. Amongst many bodies there was also a bias towards theoretical and academic training and practical training was relegated to ‘second best.’
BCCF has set out its plans to combine the two strands together in a series of courses, including a degree course working with Anglia Ruskin University, which will require use of The College of West Anglia in Kings Lynn for much of the academic element, and another site, outside the town, but within easy distance, where the practical courses will be based. Beyond this we will operate special projects where students will work in real site situations to carry our restoration work. The focus of the BCCF activities in establishing, coordinating and delivering a varied programme of courses will be a Heritage Skills Centre. Furthermore, we expect to influence national thinking and policies in the built heritage sector.
There are over 5 million listed buildings, pre-1919, in England, which will require some kind of on-going maintenance or restoration. There are also those historic buildings that are not listed but are an integral part of the history of the country.
East Anglia alone has some of the most important medieval buildings in Europe, and it is vital that there are skilled artisans to look after them. Out of the workforce in the sector of 109,000 there is a skills gap in UK of 76,000 – only 33,000 having the appropriate skills (National Heritage Training Group 2013). This situation is further deteriorating, as the sector has an ageing workforce and replacement with younger people is not happening at the necessary rate.
Repair and maintenance of historic buildings directly generates £9.6 billion pa in construction sector output. (Heritage and the Economy – Heritage Counts 2017). Our research shows that general builders are undertaking Heritage building work which they are neither qualified nor trained to do. Work is carried out piecemeal, of inconsistent quality, and with no national body taking the lead in bringing trainers together to ensure that essential overall quality (Heritage Crafts Foundation 2017).
Yet heritage tourism is a vital part of the UK economy. In 2015 domestic and international tourists made 192 million trips to visit the UK’s cultural, historic and natural heritage assets, generating £16.4 billion per year, with a £20.2 billion gross value-added contribution to UK GDP and 386,000 jobs (Oxford Economics 2016). Suffolk and Norfolk are the second and third counties most popular in England for heritage church visitors, Suffolk for stained glass and Norfolk for its church interiors (National Churches Trust’s ‘Explore Churches 2016) However, visitors also expect such buildings to be well maintained and to have welfare facilities. There is a need to maintain and restore all heritage buildings, bringing much needed finance into local economies.
The Building Crafts and Conservation Foundation (BCCF) plans to lease a Barn on the Houghton Estate, West Norfolk, to turn into a Heritage Skills Centre for practical building craft skills training linked to academic work that will be undertaken at The College of West Anglia, King’s Lynn, Norfolk and with other potential partners.
The centre, which is accessible by public transport, will comprise office space for BCCF staff, flexible workshops for the various skills to be taught, teaching spaces, storage space for materials, welfare and toilet facilities, a common room and kitchen together with on-site parking. It is on a bus route.
It is within the BCCF plan, and integral to the effective integration of academic education with skills training, that local buildings in need of repair and restoration be used to develop on-site training. This would be executed by our partner heritage contractor of considerable experience in East Anglia but also involving those on our programmes as they develop their skills and knowledge.
Additionally, heritage materials are very low tech and environmentally friendly. These together with use of renewable energy sources will help to enable the centre to be environmentally sustainable.
These strands of the BCCF structure will benefit both the estate, and other commercial enterprises within the surrounding area.
BCCF is proposing a skills training centre as it will be bringing all the skills training together on one site a site which is already the focus of heritage skill companies such as Cliveden Conservation. This will be a unique scheme in England.
Together with the restoration of buildings, employing local contractors, local people with office and other skills in the Centre could help local employment needs in a deprived part of Norfolk. It could also be bringing in course attendees, their families and friends into a part of the county with beautiful countryside, villages and churches that are away from the more popular coastal areas.
- National brand benefit
Nationally, this need is become high profile, especially due to the Heritage Crafts Association’s reports and lobbying https://heritagecrafts.org.uk/ and the Heritage 2020 initiative http://www.heritage2020.net A business which recognises this need and is seen to be doing something about will receive national brand recognition among influential people in the heritage industry.
- BCCF is a national pioneer.
There are no other centres covering all heritage skills within one co-ordinated operation. Great brand recognition may be gained locally and nationally by being associated with such a cutting-edge venture in this field
- Local brand benefit
Locally, apart from BCCF there is a big focus on heritage. Due to its proud history as a significant port, King’s Lynn and surrounding area boasts a fine collection of heritage buildings. The town has been granted Heritage Action Zone status by Historic England. Local brand recognition will be further boosted by being associated with BCCF locally and with nationally significant work at this time.
- Local economic regeneration
Many young people in West Norfolk face long-term unemployment and limited training opportunities. Parts of the area are in the lowest 10% nationally in terms of income deprivation, education and employment (ONS 2015) 18.6% of children live in income deprived families (The 2013 Strategic Needs Report, Norfolk Community Foundation). Boosts to brand recognition will be made by any business which is seen to be active in helping to regenerate the local economy and increase young people’s opportunities to improve their prospects by learning new skills
- The tourism advantage
Given the tourism interest in heritage in our area and nationally, local businesses offering heritage buildings, and hosting heritage skill workshops, as visit attractions will boost their local profile
- Having access to a skilled labour force
Given the skilled labour shortage in the industry, any business with a means of accessing trained and skilled qualified workers and professionals, would have an advantage over competition for contracts
- Boosting green credentials
Heritage buildings are closer to being carbon neutral than modern buildings.
As well as being more energy efficient, the materials used are sustainable, e.g. lime for mortar, plaster and lime wash, and the use of recycled stone, bricks and timber.
BCCF’s courses will teach students the importance of sustainability in the historic environment; indeed, why retaining and restoring old buildings is so important in the prevalent throw-away culture.
In these times of widespread concerns about environmental issues, association with BCCF is likely to be advantageous in winning public sector tenders and standing out from the competition.
The American Institute of Architects recently declared that the greenest building is the one that already exists.
- Chairman of BCCF.
JULIAN WILLIAM SEBASTIAN LITTEN (b.1947) was educated at St Peter’s Collegiate Boys’ School, Wolverhampton, and Cardiff University. He has a PhD from Cardiff University in History & Archaeology and an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts in Built Heritage Conservation from De Montfort University, Leicester. On the curatorial staff of the Victoria and Albert Museum between 1966 and 1999, he was Visiting Lecturer in Built Heritage Conservation at Canterbury Christ Church University College, Kent between 1999 and 2004. He currently dedicates his time to built heritage and burial law issues and lives in north-west Norfolk.
- Trustee Secretary.
Jennie Hawks has had a wide experience of working in the voluntary, public and private sectors, having started her working life as a teacher. Her work experience has included running an EU Network in work experience for disabled undergraduates and graduates (Leonardo da Vinci programme), managing the London Centre for a US university. Additionally, she has had experience of equal opportunities management in the private sector, and chairing health service complaints panels.
From 2007-2013 she worked as the Historic Places of Worship Support Officer for the Diocese of Norwich, England, which has over 600 churches. She gained a great deal of experience of working with both rural and urban churches in encouraging churches to be open and welcoming as well as centres for use by local communities. Art Alive in Churches was an initiative established at this time to encourage a better public understanding of the importance of the arts in religious history and in ecclesiastical buildings.
Since 2013 she has lived in Cambridge. She is working with colleagues on a university degree course in built heritage conservation and craft skills, and also works with the Future for Religious Heritage an EU organisation.
- Education Co-ordinator.
Tony Smith MA Cantab BArch Dip Arch PGCE Architect
I am an architect who has spent his career in both practice and in education with a particular interest in Heritage buildings and their conservation. I have been interested in building history since my school days and was fortunate enough whilst with the University of Cambridge Estate Management Service to have worked on both University and College buildings. My aim is to bring my experience in both architecture and education to bear upon the development of a new Built Heritage education and training framework in West Norfolk.