West Suffolk College BTEC Level 3 Course

Construction and Conservation in the Built Environment Course


Since 2012 Bury St Edmunds Town Trust (BTT) has been working with West Suffolk College on historic building conservation training for construction students at the College. For some years the Trust provided a free lecture course covering the main historic building trades for selected students at BTEC 2 & 3 levels. In 2018 it decided to change from lectures to practical training for construction students as this was found to be of more use and interest to them. The Trust arranges and part sponsors the conservation elements of the course.

The course, which is currently (2021-22) being taken by the BTEC Level 3 construction students at the College, includes the following conservation elements (sponsoring organisations identified in red).

Tour of Bury St Edmunds. An introduction to the historical development of buildings in East Anglia. Led by Peter Riddington, BTT.

11 High Baxter Street, Bury St Edmunds. Current BTT restoration project – practical work experience for students.

Oak framing – training day in Raydon Woods. BTT funded.

Wattle & daub and lime plastering – training day at Orchard Barn. BTT funded.

Stone and flint – maintenance work led by Andy Cunningham.

Brickwork – visit to Bulmer Brick & Tile Co, and training in bricklaying with lime mortar.

Conserving sliding sash and other window types – training provided by Ventrolla.

Archaeology – current excavation site visit led by Britannia Archaeology.

Holkham Estate, Norfolk – Day 1. Tour of estate repair workshop and current repair and conservation projects. Day 2. Sustainability tour led by estate Learning and Sustainability Manager. Coaches funded by BTT.

BTT will also be making an annual Achievement in Building Conservation Award to the student on the CCBE course judged jointly by BTT & WSC to be outstanding.

BTT wishes to thank its sponsors, including Bury St Edmunds Town Council and Bedfords Estate Agents, that are supporting the course either by voluntarily providing training or financially. We would be unable to run the course without their help. We are also grateful for the encouragement of English Heritage during the current year (2021) and look forward to developing our work with them in the future.

Why the course is important

Why is the course of such significance?  It is the first of its type in England. No other BTEC Level 2 or 3 course provides mandatory conservation training as part of its standard trade teaching – normally students have to opt for the specialisation. In Bury St Edmunds, for example there are more than 6,000 (pre-1919) historic buildings. At a time when so many tradespeople with traditional skills have retired it is essential to ensure continuity if these important buildings are to be properly maintained. They will also shortly be required to be retro-fitted to reduce their carbon footprint – work that will need an understanding of the how it should be carried out in these structures. Not least, the specialist training provided will help to give young people joining the building trade an excellent opportunity for employment at the start of their careers.