Heritage Building Skills

  • Lead Partner or Organisation: Bedford College
  • Other Stakeholders: Riverdale Stone; Connolly Foundation
  • Greensand Country Landscape Partnership Themes: Community Heritage, Community Projects
  • Forward Plan Themes: Caring for the landscape
  • National Lottery Heritage Fund Outcomes: Heritage is better managed,Heritage is in a better condition,People have developed skills

Written by: David Wilkins

This project involved the delivery of local building skills, using local material (sandstone) to a selection of learners through a work experience project. Re-skilling local operatives within Construction Companies and associations to provide knowledge and skills in relation to heritage building on local dwellings. This project also involved up-skilling lecturing staff in the awareness and skills of local heritage building skills (sandstone).


  • An excellent opportunity to collaborate with an expert stonemason (local) to deliver a work experience project for several bricklaying learners on a local church boundary wall (St Leonard’s, Old Warden)
  • Very good attendance at the employer 2 day hands on event. 16 individuals participated.
  • Good collaboration with Tarmac to provide materials for the event.
  • Support from the Connolly Foundation to finance part of the project to ensure it’s high quality.
  • Various re-skilling experiences for lecturers at the college.

Benefits to People

Benefits are described as above. New skills were learnt which can be applied to portions of the built environment within the local community. Additional skills for employability were developed among learners, as well as working on a local building project.

Participants within the project, both students and employers were from a broad range of the community, and those who engaged with the events were from Minority Ethnic Backgrounds and Female – both groups generally underrepresented in the Construction Industry.

Bringing a broader range of skills to the department within the College is pleasing.

Benefits to Heritage & Landscape

A selection of Bricklaying learners will be able to enter the industry and have an advanced awareness and ability to undertake heritage wall maintenance and repairs in sandstone, as well as renewal. Additionally, all employers and local associations who attended the event will be able confidently undertake this work, ensuring they use the correct transitional materials and technique.

Lecturers who were exposed to this training will be able to undertake additional training with future cohorts of learners to carry on this project legacy.

In due course, the additional skills provided within this project will infiltrate into maintaining the appearance of the built environment in the locality, and ensuring that traditional skills and materials remain in use.

Challenges & Lessons Learnt

COVID. The pandemic preventing the undertaking of quite an amount of training which was proposed for the lecturers within the Brickwork Department at the college. It was impossible to book the staff on any external training as all opportunities were suspended for a significant amount of time. We partially over came this by applying an expert stonemason to the project, who also enabled training to take place with staff throughout the delivery.

Additionally, there was some churn of Bricklaying lecturers, with 3 staff leaving and being replaced throughout the timeline of the project.


“An excellent 2 days, very informative and learnt a lot to take back to my volunteer activities in my park”

– Paul Burgess.

“A great course to be on. I really enjoyed learning and putting into practical skills our trainer taught us.”

– John Wing, Watson & Cox Construction.

“Superb – content & delivery was clear, concise and well managed. Very enjoyable with the satisfaction I can build a sandstone wall”

– Sarah Morgan, Central Bedfordshire Council.

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