Steven Tyson, student of our MSc Programme in Architectural Conservation reflects on his recent Conservation Plan for St. Andrews Chapel Maidstone

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and St Andrew’s Chapel

 The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) purchased St Andrew’s Chapel in the winter of 2018, following its successful negotiations and proposals to rescue the Grade II* listed building which was in a derelict state and languishing on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register. This purchase has provided the SPAB with a perfect opportunity to promote their approach to conservation, which remains firmly based on the minimal intervention approach set out in William Morris’ inaugural manifesto of 1877. The building, which has witnessed many alterations and additions over its five centuries of history, has a wealth of evidential, historic, aesthetic, and communal significance. Despite its high intrinsic and extrinsic values, no-one could have predicted in 2018 just how valuable this building would prove to be as an educational resource following the 2021 Covid-19 lockdown.

The generosity the SPAB extended to the University of Kent included an introductory informative lecture, use of pre-existing laser scans, architectural drawings, photographs, and other associated documents of St Andrew’s Chapel. The information proved sufficient for decay mapping drawings to be produced of the exterior and interior of the building, as well as enabling three-dimensional axonometric drawings of the building to be produced. The wealth of available resources ensured that the Intervention at Historic Building module could go ahead as an entirely online solution to the problems created by the 2020 pandemic. Students embraced the situation and produced some extremely impressive work which included tracing the building’s history, mapping the building’s condition, documenting its significance, and proposing a sustainable new use for the building for both present and future generations. The SPAB were extremely impressed with the extent, variety, and quality of the work, when invited back to watch a number of presentations conducted by the students.

The proposals for new use of the building, which may well have been a fifteenth century Cistercian gatehouse chapel, provided a variety of ideas such as a gallery, museum, café, restaurant, wedding venue or a possible return to part-time residential use similar to the schemes offered by the Landmark Trust. All the presentations demonstrated a minimal intervention approach in order to protect the significance and setting of the Medieval chapel, as well as providing detailed theories on the building’s phased developments. Even though research in the building’s monastic and secular use proved to be inconclusive, the building is certainly worthy of its designation and will provide the SPAB with a valuable educational and heritage asset that present and future generations will benefit from.

Steven Tyson

Here are some excerpts of Steven Tyson’s work on this module:

St. Andrews Chapel in the late-15th Century, Reconstructed Axonometric Views


St. Andrews Chapel, converted to a dwelling after the Dissolution of the Monasteries (mid-16th Century view).


St. Andrews Chapel, Intervention Proposal

The SPAB shares its 3D Laser Scan of St. Andrews Chapel with the students of the MSc Programme in Architectural Conservation

This year’s module ‘Intervention at Historic Buildings’ was delivered in collaboration with the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), and gave the students the opportunity to develop a conservation plan for St. Andrews Chapel in Maidstone. To help the students document the building, the SPAB generously provided access to its laser scanning survey of the building. Shown here, this model became the basis for this year’s student projects.

St. Andrews Chapel, Maidstone. Laser Scanning produces images of extreme accuracy and detail.

This survey technique produces models that provide considerable information about historic buildings and their condition.

This model constitutes an invaluable record of the buildings current condition and makes it possible to investigate the cause of its decay.

The south elevation of the Chapel present us with a ‘palimpsest’ of different phases. One of the students’ tasks was to retrace these phases and propose their own interpretations of the history of the building and its transformations through time.

View of the chapel’s late-19th-century extension.

Laser scanning models can form the basis for accurate depiction of historic buildings in plan. They also help to document the buildings’ interior.

Repairing a Late Medieval Chapel: Learning from the ‘Old House Project’ of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) – Rosalind Webber

St. Andrews Chapel, South Elevation (drawing by Rosalind Webber, 2021)


For the last two years, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) has been surveying and repairing St Andrews Chapel, near Maidstone. Converted to a house after the dissolution, the fifteenth-century chapel is a monument of great rarity and significance, but after decades of neglect it is now in an advanced state of decay. Having recently purchased the building, the SPAB is working to determine the best ways to preserve, conserve and develop the building for future use whilst still retaining its cultural significance to its surrounding area.

I was introduced to the SPAB through The University of Kent, where I am currently finishing my Masters in Architectural Conservation. In 2020, I visited the site of St. Andrew’s Chapel and had a guided tour by Matthew Slocombe and Jonny Garlick around the site. Having only just been uncovered from numerous layers of vegetation, St. Andrew’s lay in a sorry state. Damp had penetrated into the mortar, cracks were appearing in the masonry, and most worryingly of all, the west wall was bowing outwards at an alarming angle. Having already commenced with vital repairs and monitoring and ensuring the building was secure from vandals, the SPAB have been working around the clock to ensure the survival of the building, while using it at the same time for education purposes, documentation and apprenticeships.

In the summer, armed with masks, anti-bacterial, and sun cream, I joined the team at Boxley Abbey in their first socially distanced Working Party. The SPAB rely on the enthusiasm of heritage experts, students and hobbyists to volunteer their time and help bring their projects to life. With fourty people socially distanced on the sites of Boxley Abbey, a Cistercian Monastery founded in 12th century (now a ruin) and St. Andrews, Chapel, the atmosphere was alive with people sharing stories of heritage buildings they had worked on and techniques they had used to sympathetically repair and restore them for future generations.

St. Andrews Chapel, repair of the roof (photo by Rosalind Webber, 2020)

Whilst at the working party, I prepared bricks ready to be laid in a wall by sanding them to uniform size and shape, reconstructed a part of the abbey rubble wall, repointed brickwork on the inner wall of the abbey precincts and witnessed the burning of lime in the site’s bespoke lime kiln! After a tour of the work taking place on St. Andrew’s roof, we explored the newly discovered sewage system (no longer in use) that connected various buildings within the abbey.

As part of the MSc in Architectural Conservation, we are surveying and documenting St. Andrew’s Chapel, taking into consideration the materials used in the construction. We are also identifying the different phases in the development of the building, and will soon develop a conservation plan to ensure the building is functional for future generations.

This includes creating numerous elevations, sections and plans to determine the overall condition of the building. Different sections of the building are constructed out of different materials and this is a key indication into the phasing of St. Andrew’s. As a result, phasing plans, and drawings need to be made to illustrate what the building may have looked like at different stages throughout its history.

Unravelling the wonder that is St. Andrew’s has been puzzling and challenging, but to the most part a true joy and I look forward to working with the SPAB in the future.

St. Andrews Chapel, repair of the roof (photo by Rosalind Webber, 2020)

Thoughts from a Medieval Chapel – Studying Architectural Conservation at Kent

When I joined the MSc course of Architectural Conservation at the University of Kent, I didn’t know much about British heritage and practice. Driven by my passion for historic sites, I came to discover astonishing architectural styles and historic preservation practices and philosophies. The ‘Conservation Principles’ module confronted me with some tricky questions. Should a historic building be saved partially or totally? Why do we care about its preservation? When was the building destroyed and what has been lost? How should we preserve? I soon realised that answers based only on personal views and culture can be biased… Only by studying the cultural, geographical, socio-economic and political context of a historic building can we really understand its significance and proceed to restoration.

Purcell Room artist lounge, Queen Elizabeth Hall and auditorium, London

There are different attitudes to conservation. It was fascinating to compare philosophies as different as those of Violet le Duc, John Ruskin, Cesare Brandi, and Camillo Boito, as well as conservation charters such as those of Venice and Athens. In addition to conservation philosophy, the programme introduced us to historical societies, charities, trusts, funding bodies and community involvement regarding heritage. I realised that besides understanding the UK planning system, one should be familiar with the work of amenity societies and funding bodies. After all, successful historic preservation in the UK lies in the combination of a robust legislation with the work of societies such as the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) and the Victorian society, organisations such as English Heritage, and funding bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.

After this initial focus on policies, laws and philosophies, it was time for action… I was very excited to hear that the Spring Term module ‘Intervention at Historic Sites’ (January through April) would be delivered in collaboration with the SPAB and would be based on the Society’s ‘Old House Project’, the preservation of St. Andrew’s Chapel, near Maidstone. Alas, I missed the first guided visit to the chapel. Visiting it a few days later with a classmate was one of most exciting moments of the programme. This was a unique chance to experience an unspoiled medieval building, which is very little known. Formerly part of the Cistercian Boxley Abbey, the chapel was converted into a dwelling in the 16th century. Abandoned for decades, the chapel is now in an advanced state of decay, but is not entirely derelict. Some of its features, such as the late-Gothic mullioned window, the Tudor chimneys, the post-dissolution half-timbered extension, and the early 20th-century fireplaces survive and reveal the complex history of the building.

Drawing the chapel, looking at its decay, retracing its history, and reflecting on repair methods was rewarding, and designing a proposal of adaptive reuse added to the pleasure… Here are some samples of my analysis of the decay of the chapel:

St. Andrew’s Chapel, Analysis of Decay, Asma Haddouk, 2020

I look forward to visiting the site again, to take a long walk through the narrow pilgrims’ way near All Saint’s Church. I will then follow Boarley Lane from which I can enjoy the scenery around Boxley Abbey’s gate. I will admire the mysterious remains of the Cistercian monastery, particularly its medieval Barn. After another visit of the monastery garden, I will return to Boarley Lane and St Andrew’s Chapel, which lies just before the motorway, waiting for its repair.

St. Andrew’s Chapel, Preliminary 3D model, Asma Haddouk, 2020
St. Andrew’s Chapel, Preliminary Cut-Away perspective showing the roof, Asma Haddouk, 2020

Visiting Canterbury Cathedral

Recently, the students of the MSc in Architectural Conservation visited Canterbury Cathedral. Our student, Chandler Hamilton writes: We had the chance to tour the sections of the Cathedral that are under repair. All these areas are normally unavailable to the public. I focused on Gothic Architecture in my undergraduate degree, and for me, this was a unique opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes tour of a structure that I have studied intensely in the past. The tour started off with meeting the Head of Conservation and Site Manager, Heather Newton, who basically has my dream job! She gave us an introduction to the conservation project and an itinerary for the day. The project that started in 2016 and is set to finish around October 2021 is a 25-million-pound development that is focusing on the roof of the cathedral.

Cathedral Roof and the famous ‘Bell Harry’ – Chandler Hamilton

We went all the way up to the top of the scaffolding on the western towers and saw a breath-taking view of the roof and the city of Canterbury. At the top you can see the difference in each piece of stone by how eroded it is. Since the cathedral was first developed, stone has been replaced throughout each century. One interesting fact that I did not know was that in the early-20th century, there was a shortage of materials and funding, so the builders created stone-like blocks out of cement instead. There is a course on the northern side of the cathedral where you can visibly see the cement.

MSc in Architectural Conservation Student, Chandler Hamilton on the roof of Canterbury Cathedral

We then moved down into the top of the nave where they are currently repainting the ribbed vaults and sealing off cracks. Not only was this the closest I have ever been to ribbed vaults and could clearly see every detail, but there was also an incredible view of the choir to look out to.

The ribbed vaults of Canterbury Cathedral – C. Hamilton

The last stop on this tour was the inside of the roof to look at the timber structures that are supporting the buttresses. Each piece of timber is extensively investigated for any signs of decay, rot, or damage, then decided on if it needs to be replaced or not. They are trying to preserve as much of the Victorian wood as possible, so they only replaced the end where two pieces connect.

Canterbury Cathedral, detail of the roof – C. Hamilton

Visit to the secret part of Canterbury Cathedral, by Zoi Kokkoni

That Canterbury Cathedral constitutes a fine example of Gothic and Romanesque architecture is widely known. What few people know is that this same building has been restored and partly rebuilt countless times, and, as a result, exemplifies various attitudes to conservation. In our last visit to this monument, we were accompanied by the head of Stone Conservation at the Cathedral, Ms. Heather Newton. Ms. Newton gave us a rare opportunity to explore “the unseen world” of the roof and the tallest tower, Bell Harry. The roof, mostly dating back to the Tudor period, has been divided to several rooms for fire protection. Its beams have been restored numerous times following the rotting of the original timbers. Circulation inside the roof was through a series of timber corridors, which offered access to the ceiling without loading the nave vaults below them.

The most challenging part of our visit was the ascent to the top of Bell Harry, the tower over the crossing. On the base of the tower, we found a sophisticated crack monitoring gauge and a humidity meter that records the micro-climate of the cathedral’s interior. After hundreds of steps, we reached a room where we found the pulley mechanism for the lifting of building materials. On the top of the tower, apart from the old bell mechanism, there is a microscopic meteorological station which is linked to a central computer inside the Cathedral. The highest point of the cathedral is exposed to the weather, and this has caused the decay of the limestone there. Unfortunately, as Ms. Newton explained,this decay seems to have been accelerated by “plastic repairs” carried out in the 1930s. These involved the use of cement mortar to fill cracks and to recapture the lost profiles of stone elements. This hard, impermeable mortar prevents the “breathing” of the wall and the evaporation of moisture. Trapped in the core of the wall, moisture accelerates stone decay caused by frost weathering and the crystallization of salts.

Zoi Kokkoni

View of the Roof of the Chancel of Canterbury Cathedral from the top of the tower over the crossing.
View of the Roof of the Chancel of Canterbury Cathedral from the top of the tower over the crossing.
Heather Newton, Head of Stone Conservation of Canterbury Cathedral (left) and students of the MSc programme in Architectural conservation on the top of "Bell Harry", the central tower of Canterbury Cathedral.
Heather Newton, Head of Stone Conservation of Canterbury Cathedral (left) and students of the MSc programme in Architectural conservation on the top of “Bell Harry”, the central tower of Canterbury Cathedral.

Basilica B at Philippi: retracing the phases of an incomplete monument, by Zoi Kokkoni

Basilica B at Philippi: retracing the phases of an incomplete monument

In the context of the event ‘Archaeology at Kent in 2014’, Dr Nikos Karydis presented the case study of Basilica ‘B’ in Philippi, an archaeological site in Northern Greece near Amphipoli. Apparently, Philippi was a strategic location in the Early Christian Period, when the city’s powerful Christian community decided to erect four churches. Chief among them were the timber-roofed Basilica ‘A’, and Basilica ‘B’, which was a domed basilica, a rare type in the region. The latter occupied three Roman urban blocks, which previously included the Palestra and a commercial building of the Roman Period.
Paul Lemerle, the archaeologist who surveyed the site, proved that Basilica ‘B’ was never completed. The reasons were neither the incapacity of the workmanship, nor the lack of materials. The research of Dr Karydis revealed the most reasonable cause of the collapse of the vaulting. It was shown that the building was constructed on the foundations of a previous building. Now, this earlier building was to echo the plan of the Basilica ‘A’, nearby. Hence, the building was initially conceived as a timber-roof basilica, but, at some point after the foundations were laid, the design changed. The new design abandoned the timber roof in favour of a vaulted ceiling. It therefore demanded large piers to support the vaults, and an alignment between the piers to form square bays. This could not be easily combined with the use of the existing  foundations (which were too weak and lacked the necessary geometry). The load-bearing structure that was eventually built was a compromise, and failed to counteract the thrusts of the wide vaults. Soon after these were erected the church collapsed. The mission of altering the church was condemned from the outset, and proved to be catastrophic for this major monument.

Zoi Kokkoni, 2014

46 N screen and Pier 1 from E

David Watkin Presents his Work on the Roman Forum, by Zoi Kokkoni

On Monday, we attended a lecture on the Roman Forum by Professor David Watkin, one of the most important historians of our times. The “Foro Romano”, visited by millions every year, has had a fascinating and vivid building history from Antiquity to the Present. During this period, the forum was repeatedly modified, and as a result, distinguishing the dates of its buildings is not always easy. Temples that seem to be ancient were in fact erected just eighty years ago. For instance, the Temple of Vesta, in its present form, dates back to the 1930s (Watkin David, The Roman Forum, p.16).

Examining views of the forum, including the famous ones engraved by Piranesi, Watkin revealed the Roman monuments in all their grace and splendour, and traced their development from the Early Cristian Times to the Baroque period. The way in which churches were integrated into old roman edifices was absolutely astonishing. On the other hand, the Nineteenth Century idealized the “magnificent Roman ruins” at the expense of more recent buildings.

After a visit to the Forum it is easy to feel disorientated as you are trying to resolve a puzzle of multiple building phases that make the monuments comparable to palimpsests. Despite the archaeologists’ recent interventions to the site (considered to be “clumsy” by Watkin), the Roman Forum remains an ideal site to study Rome’s history and architecture as well as the development of conservation philosophy.


Zoi Kokkoni 11/2014

The MSc in Architectural Conservation Begins!

The new MSc in Architectural Conservation has started with a site visit to the historic centre of Canterbury, followed by lectures and seminars on Conservation Philosophy and Policy. The lecturers in the first term include Dr. Manolo Guerci, Dr Nikolaos Karydis, and Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin. We have also enjoyed three guest lectures by Martin McKay, Conservation Officer, Medway City Council, who illustrated his lectures with many interesting examples from Medway. We very much look forward to the lectures of Prof. David Watkin and Nick Dermott (Conservation Officer, Margate Council) next week.