On the road with a SPAB Fellow

16 Nov 2018

Ross Buckley - a SPAB Fellow and metalworker from the Isle of Wight - tells us about his experience of the SPAB Fellowship scheme.

The SPAB Fellowship is an amazing and unparalleled opportunity for any craftsperson working with old buildings. The breadth of locations, building style and craft skills that I am being exposed to is staggering. In the past two months we have visited London, Shropshire, Wales, Somerset, Cumbria, Scotland, County Durham and Kent. Travelling from county to county is fascinating, seeing how the vernacular materials, styles and techniques change, as well as picking up on the local technical vocabulary.


One element that I particularly enjoy is the practical skills development days. One of the best weeks that I've had was with Michael O’Reilly, a traditional lime plasterer. He took me through the history of plastering, from early earth-based plasters right through to highly ornate techniques. Another outstanding experience was with Holy Well Glass. We explored the process of making a leaded light from scratch, cutting all of the glass, leading and soldering the panel and then the cementing process.


I am a metalwork specialist so the week I spent in Shropshire learning about the Ironbridge conservation was particularly outstanding. The opportunity to discuss repair and conservation techniques with craftspeople working in my field was fascinating. The decision on what elements were to be replaced and what was to be left was so interesting. A lot of the work on this project was being undertaken by Dominic Grosvenor of Barr and Grosvenor Foundry. Dominic was kind enough to give me a tour of his foundry the next day, where I was shown the whole cast iron casting process, from the pattern making through to the pouring and fettling as well as methods of cast iron repair. Finally I went to Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, the first iron framed building in the world. It was fascinating to study the construction methods: what had worked well, what had failed, and how repairs were being implemented.

I will be beginning my third and final block soon. This is designed to allow individuals to focus on areas of particular relevance to them, immersed in specific areas for longer periods. I will be on one to two week placements in forges and foundries across the country, looking at lead roofing as well as developing my knowledge of industrial buildings.

The wealth of knowledge and experience I’ve gained so far would be very hard to come by in a lifetime. The people that I have met now make up a diverse network of contacts, each of them eager to pass on their knowledge, and help wherever possible. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that has had a permanent effect on my approach to conservation.

  • Closing date for the SPAB Fellowship is 1 December. The programme runs from March to December in three blocks of two months allowing Fellows to return to work in between. Apply online https://www.spab.org.uk/learning/fellowship