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Locals build heritage skills

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Residents and building professionals learned how to conserve heritage stonework in workshops hosted by Copeland Borough Council.

The events, which explained the specialist methods needed for masonry in older buildings, were part of the Townscape Heritage Initiative, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Britain's Energy Coast, Copeland Council and Cumbria County Council. 

Eight professionals attended a 'masterclass' and 11 members of the public enjoyed a hands-on taster day. They learned about traditional walling, lime mortar, different repair techniques and much more. The workshops took place at St Bees Priory and included work on the remains of the original Lady Chapel.

Copeland's Heritage Champion Coun Michael McVeigh said: "We are pleased to be able to help people upgrade their skills through the Townscape Heritage Initiative. It means we can add to the skills base in our local businesses and show our commitment to looking after Copeland's beautiful heritage."

William King of William King Brickwork Solutions, said: "I sent three employees and they found it of great benefit. It’s important for professionals to have the right skills to work on historical properties, especially in an area with a rich architectural heritage.

"The course bolstered our knowledge of traditional skills, which are being lost through the generations. Too often I see modern methods and materials used on older properties, and whilst this may have solved short term problems, it has led to much worse damage down the line.”

 Ian McAndrew, properties manager at St Bees Priory, said: “We are delighted offer contractors and residents the opportunity to work on the original Lady Chapel and areas of New College Hall, under the guidance of a master stonemason. We have an appeal to fund conservation work to New College Hall, a Grade II building used initially during the 19th century as one of three theological colleges in the country, along with Oxford and Cambridge. The Priory itself dates back to 1120, and it’s important there are local contractors with the skills to preserve such important buildings.”

The Townscape Heritage Initiative is a five-year project begun in October 2013 with £659,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £394,000 from Britain's Energy Coast, £250,000 from Copeland Borough Council and £50,000 from Cumbria County Council. Grants are made to repair buildings and bring vacant historic floor space back into use, and to provide heritage skills training for builders, and community activities.