A Day in the Life of a Conservation Projects Manager
Working for the Churches Conservation Trust as a Conservation Projects Manager means that no day is ever the same. With so many buildings in the West region, all completely different from each other, full of beautiful ancient stonework details and wonderful carved timber ceilings the best days are on site. This could be meeting talented local craftspeople to debate the philosophy of repairs and interventions or finding yourself high up on a scaffold in deepest Devon with your face pressed against a medieval timber roof boss with original paintwork not inspected this close for hundreds of years.
Yes, there are many days spent in the warmth of the office with spreadsheets and condition reports making sure that you have all the information to be able to manage the budgets efficiently and make informed decisions on the care and maintenance of these venerable structures but these will be punctuated with phone calls from glaziers arranging visits to repair stained glass or a whole range of expert ecologists, archaeologists, monument conservators and heating engineers helping to advise on a new project. We work with conservation accredited surveyors, architects, and structural engineers to monitor the condition and develop projects and a range of highly talented conservators and dedicated contractors who undertake routine maintenance to stave off decay or undertake once in a generation projects.
Though it is a serious job with responsibility for the condition of high level masonry towers and spires there are wonderful moments like at Low Ham where the community fundraised for a paint conservator to remove inappropriate modern paint from a sixteenth century timber rood screen and I was able to stand next to her on the scaffold and watch her uncover the original colours of the angels robes, not seen for over a hundred years. Some of the sculpture housed in churches to remember loved ones is hauntingly beautiful and the range of materials we have to think about conserving, from brass plaques to timber effigies, carved alabaster and Purbeck marble statues to limestone gargoyles means that learning about the technical side is often fascinating.
Working with highly skilled colleagues also means we have fantastic back-up for the ‘phone a friend’ option as though the job is home-based I’m part of the National Conservation Team who meet regularly. Occasionally, we get to enjoy the diverse events organised by our wonderful volunteers and in the last few weeks I have found myself at a psychedelic light show in Medieval St Mary’s in Shrewsbury and the most serenely beautiful Bach concert in Alton Priors in Wiltshire. There’s never a dull moment!
Meriel O'Dowd, Conservation Projects Manager, West Region