Unlocking Historic Buildings

This course addresses a direct demand from previous HELM delegates, who have indicated a need for further training in how to interpret and understand historic buildings. A combination of taught sessions and practical exercises will give delegates the tools they need to be able to interpret the development of buildings, define their significance and inform decisions about their repair and reuse.

Who should attend?

This event is an introductory course aimed at local authority conservation and planning staff that deal with case work affecting both listed buildings and undesignated heritage assets.

Why should you join this course?

This course addresses a direct demand from previous HELM delegates, who have indicated a need for further training in how to interpret and understand historic buildings. We are therefore working with an experienced conservation architect and trainer, who will introduce the following through a combination of taught sessions and practical exercises:

  • The interpretation of conservation principles
  • The difference between old and new buildings
  • Dating of buildings and the main architectural styles
  • Traditional construction methods and materials including a brief opportunity to handle materials


At the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Interpret the development of historic buildings through analysing features such as windows, doors, roofs and floor plans
  • Define key maintenance issues affecting historic buildings, and their potential causes and treatments
  • Apply this knowledge to make informed decisions about the repair and reuse of historic buildings

Course outline*

09:30 Refreshments and registration
10:00 Welcome and introduction
10:15 Buzz session on why we value old buildings
10.35 Architectural styles and interpreting old buildings
11:45 Coffee break
12.00 Traditional building construction
12.45 Lunch, plus building issues exercise
13.25 Practical lime demonstration with an opportunity to handle materials
15.00 Coffee and review of building issues exercise
15:30 Case study exercise - an opportunity to apply what you've learnt
16:25 Final Q&A and evaluation
16.45 Chair's summary
17.00 Close

*This programme is subject to possible change, but start and finish times will not alter.

Delegates at a training session watching a practical demonstration of mixing traditional mortar.
A demonstration of traditional mortar at a previous HELM course in Oxford. © Historic England

Meet the tutor

James Innerdale is an architect specialising in the repair, conservation and adaptation of historic buildings in Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales. He was awarded the SPAB Scholarship in 1996 and subsequently worked as the Society’s Northern Officer. Having returned to architectural practice James continued to be involved with the SPAB as a corresponding member of the technical panel and voluntary caseworker. From 2013 to 2017 he worked part time as Technical Officer for the SPAB’s Maintenance Co-operatives Project developing and providing the training resources for volunteers working with Places of Worship and  continues to deliver the SPAB's Faith in Maintenance training. James also provides heritage skills training for a range of organisations aimed at professionals, contractors and homeowners.

Online resources

Prior to the training participants will be asked to watch two introductory screencasts, which are available here:

How to book

Please click on the following links to book your place

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