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Follow stonemason Johnnie Clark on his SPAB Fellowship

27 March 2014
This year’s SPAB Fellows are (left to right) Johnnie Clark, Jamie Miles and Tyrone Oakley.

Stonemason Johnnie Clark is joining plasterer Jamie Miles and leadworker / plumber Tyrone Oakley on the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings' William Morris Craft Fellowship training this year.

SPAB’s unique William Morris Craft Fellowship training scheme fosters a new generation of outstanding craftsmen and women with the knowledge and expertise to pass on essential skills for working with historic materials. The scheme runs in parallel with SPAB’s Scholarship for architectural / building professionals.

SPAB has sent this year’s trainees out on the road to begin their prestigious six-month programme of site, workshop and studio visits. Their travels will take them to projects in all parts of the country.

The Fellows have already visited the Painted Hall at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and the Great Hall at The Houses of Parliament. They have had an introduction to blacksmithing and stained glass window repair and in the months ahead they will continue to learn about traditional building techniques from skilled and established craftsmen and women. You can follow the Fellowship on their travels on

The aim is for the Fellows to gain broad, hands-on experience and knowledge to enable them to bring a strong awareness of craft diversity to their work. The Fellowship also equips them with the skills necessary to lead and manage historic building contracts, while deepening their understanding of the importance of sympathetic repair.

Interest in craft building skills is steadily increasing as people turn to more sustainable and traditional methods of construction. Yet, ironically, these same skills are under threat as fewer young people are encouraged to pursue careers in these areas.

Nationally, heritage bodies are concerned that there are simply not enough people training to continue Britain’s distinctive buildings crafts and each year SPAB’s Fellowship becomes more relevant.

Three or four Fellowships are awarded each year, depending on available funding.

As usual, the 2013 Fellows are a talented group, with each individual looking to enhance a particular skill and further their knowledge of traditional craft techniques.

Johnnie Clark, the stonemason, has worked on Glasgow Cathedral almost all of his working life – 12 years.

During his time there he has met and learned from many SPAB Fellows and Scholars who have worked at the Cathedral as part of the SPAB courses. He also has an HNC in Construction Management and Advanced Stonemasonry Level III from Metropolitan College, Glasgow.

Johnnie enjoys debating conservation techniques and is passionate about the importance of honest repair work. He is currently responsible for training apprentices and looks forward to passing on the skills he acquires as a SPAB Fellow.

The Fellowship

Craftsmen and women from any trade employed in the repair of historic buildings on site or in workshops and studios may apply to take part in the training. Candidates must have completed their apprenticeships and demonstrate a high degree of competence. Fellows are usually in their 20s or 30s, but older candidates are not excluded.

Fellows will have the opportunity to develop their own particular craft skill to new levels of excellence. The course of practical training is divided into three blocks of two months, enabling the Fellows to return to their employment in between each block.

During the first two blocks the Fellows travel country–wide, in their group. They make daily site visits, study repair projects and meet professionals, contractors and craftsmen. On site they experience craftsmanship first-hand and discuss traditional building construction and techniques

The final block of training is devoted to the individual needs and interests of each fellow in consultation with their employers. The programme runs from mid March to Christmas. There are no course fees. In fact, the Fellows even have their expenses paid for them as part of the award.

Many former fellows have risen to positions of responsibility where they are able to impart their knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm to other craft workers.

The SPAB William Morris Craft Fellowship is helping to raise the standard of building conservation skills and the skills of the craftsmen and women involved.

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