Alport Barn Restoration, Peak District

Building Conservation - Gillott Barn, Dark Peak Area, Peak District © National Trust

Building Conservation - Gillott Barn, Dark Peak Area, Peak District

In 2011 the East Midlands Buildings Team took on the conservation of a field barn, the biggest building project that team members Richard Wilkes and Alastair McNish Gandy had taken on during their time on the team. They decided to make use of the skills, man-power and enthusiasm of five new volunteers.

Now known as the Building Conservation Team, the volunteers had the opportunity to help restore this 300-year-old field barn to its former glory in the beautiful surroundings of the Alport Valley in the northern Peak District. Complete with its original boskins (wooden cow pens), this field barn is a prime example of traditional farming methods rarely seen today.

Funded mainly by Natural England, the conservation of the barn involved the use of traditional methods, such as the mounting of a freshly quarried, stone slate roof using traditional hand-cut oak pegs, and the preservation of the barn’s original features. The volunteers were given the opportunity to learn a variety of traditional conservation methods such as lime-mortar pointing, the chopping out of old defective mortar and lime grouting.

Historically, Buildings Teams don’t usually use large groups of volunteers but we decided to this time because there are just two people on the team and this was a large job to take on. The job also focused very much on ‘conservation’ rather than ‘restoration’ which is often more time consuming to undertake. It is important to both Natural England and the National Trust that the barn is kept as original as possible – essentially the same barn, but in full working order. It was therefore vital that we had help from volunteers to get the barn ready for the farmer to store his winter feed in.

Richard, Alastair and their dedicated volunteers worked on the barn throughout the summer months, through wind, rain and sunshine.