2015 Yearbook

32 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 1 5 those distinctive details that give local architecture its character and interest. At Dolgellau, a small market town in the south of the park area, a townscape heritage initiative (THI) ran for five years with grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund, resulting in the conservation and repair of buildings in the town centre and the reinstatement of features which contribute to its traditional character. A key aim of the THI was to provide craft training so that lost skills could be revived, and to encourage all those involved in conservation to look more carefully at the original details and understand how they work. The detailing of the random slate roof of a building close to Dolgellau provided the training opportunity required. Penmaen Cottage is a Grade II listed 18th-century vernacular farmhouse which was on the NPA’s buildings at risk register. The building had not been lived in for over 40 years and its owners had applied successfully to Cadw for a repair grant to restore it. The use of the building for training was made a condition of the grant, and this element of the work was funded by Snowdonia NPA and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Jordan Heritage Roofing was appointed to restore the roof and Terry Hughes of the Stone Roofing Association was appointed as a specialist conservation consultant. Despite decades of neglect and its traditional construction without a single lead flashing, the roof was largely intact. The random sized slates diminished in size with height. Generous laps and a slight curvature in the rafters ensured an extremely tight construction, and well-haired lime torching on the underside had survived in many areas. The outer part of each gable wall rose slightly to form a shallow parapet, as if to contain a thatched roof. The slates were bedded against this upstand in mortar, tilted gently to direct the flow of water away from the edge. Equally unusual, and easily overlooked by the non-specialist, was a half-cut valley detail; the slates of the dormer roofs were swept into the body of the roof, lapped by cut slates. The detail was constructed to spread the flow of water across a larger area of the dormer roof, minimising the risk of penetration. Training was provided at each stage of the project and was free to attend. The short courses were well attended by contractors and professional consultants from the local area and from across the UK, by students from organisations such as the SPAB, and by officers from Cadw, the NPA and local authorities. Three videos were made as the work progressed covering initial inspection (‘Looking’), understanding the construction (‘Thinking’), and the process of restoration (‘Doing’). All three can be found on the Stone Roofing Association’s website (www. stoneroof.org.uk/historic/Historic_ Roofs/Penmaen_Cottage.html), and the first, which teaches people to look at original details as the roof is being stripped, was shown to each group before going on site. LOOK, THINK, DO Only the most important buildings at risk ever grab the headlines, so it is easy to overlook the huge variety of components that together form the historic environment: from the small components that contribute to the texture of a random slate roof or the wonky reflection in an old sash window, to the large components that define the character of a street or a landscape. In the countryside it is often the most humble of structures and their relationship with the landscape that define the significance of the place. Conserving this diversity requires an equally diverse range of skills. Conservation professionals, conservators and craftspeople are key components in the protection of historic buildings and places, but the skills of many others are required too, whether dealing with historic buildings or other components of the historic environment. Outreach through training, publications and the media is crucial. Terry Hughes’ simple message of look, think, do (or perhaps, stop, look, think, do) needs to be applied at all levels and in all corners of the historic environment. Jonathan Taylor MSc IHBC is the editor of The Building Conservation Directory. He prepared the article with the help of Terry Hughes of the Stone Roofing Association and Snowdonia NPA officers Gwilym Jones, Carwyn ap Myrddin and Arwel Thomas. Above, Richard Jordan leads a training course on the newly lathed roof of Penmaen Cottage and, below, one of the students learning to cut slate (Photos: Terry Hughes) The restored roof (Photo: Gruffydd Price)