February 2007

The Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) learning programme breaks new ground in the construction industry with a series of heritage craft skills taster days.

A set of heritage craft skills taster days involving gilding, stone carving and woodworking have been run at the ORNC for students aged between 14 and 16 years who are at the point of making decisions about their future studies. The hands-on workshops offered students a unique experience, learning from some of the leading practitioners and tutors in the field. The ORNC is one of this country’s finest examples of Baroque architecture, at the heart of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, and is able to provide the opportunity for the students to see for themselves how the techniques are used in a real life situation. 

One of the students involved described the day as “a great experience and opened my eyes to this industry” and a teacher who accompanied the students on another day spoke of the “fantastic venue as pupils can see displays of gilding all around them as they work”.

In partnership with CITB-Construction Skills, David Ball Restoration Ltd and the Building Crafts College the ORNC learning team developed this one day programme that includes practical workshops on stone-carving, woodworking and gilding for Year 9 and 10 students. The gilding sessions took place in the Painted Hall itself, which is highly decorated with gold leaf. The workshops targeted those who have an interest in heritage and conservation and are looking towards the creative arts and DT but may not have considered the construction industry as a career choice. 

This pioneering project could not have come at a better time as both the industry and those that work to preserve the UK’s heritage are increasingly challenged by the growing skills deficit of highly skilled traditional craftsmen (see Notes to Editors for background information).  Following this successful pilot session a further programme of workshops will run in May and October involving a number of other secondary schools within SE London.

Jo Hall from the Old Royal Naval College said “These buildings provide an ideal opportunity for young people to get out of the classroom to see craftsmen at work on outstanding examples of our architectural heritage.  It is vital that more people become skilled in these crafts, so that the vast range of historic properties in London and the UK can be maintained and conserved for the future.”

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