Historic Building Conservation

Professional Development Diploma in Historic Building Conservation and Repair

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Recognised by Historic England (formerly English Heritage)
Duration: Part time completed in a maximum of five years
Applications open

Study the technical and practical skills relevant to the repair and maintenance of historic buildings and structures. Improve your skills and up-to-date knowledge of developments in materials, techniques and current practice.

The Professional Development Diploma is recognised by Historic England and adheres to its guidelines and standards aimed at improving building conservation practice. The Historic England Practical Building Conservation volumes are the core texts which underpin the courses. The diploma is designed and delivered by leading practitioners and follows the latest knowledge and developments in technology, craft and science applicable to historic buildings, archaeological sites and monuments.

The unique Ruinette at West Dean, on which students practise conservation and repair techniques, is a purpose-built structure exhibiting the materials and defects typically found in historic buildings. The diploma is aimed at those who need to develop practical skills and those who need to understand, specify and supervise them.

This historic building course is ideal for conservators, conservation officers, architects, surveyors, craftspeople and specialist contractors.


On successful completion of the course you will be awarded the Professional Development Diploma certificate by West Dean College of Arts and Conservation.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has agreed that the Professional Development Diploma course qualifies as a Conservation Training Course for entry on to the RIBA Conservation register at CR level.

The Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) has approved West Dean as one of its recognised CPD providers.

The Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) recognises a number of the BCM courses as appropriate CPD for its members. The Professional Development Diploma will assist candidates in their progression to specialise in conservation and ultimately towards applying for CIAT's Conservation Register.

"The BCM programme offers a wealth of experience from professional practitioners who are all passionate about the built environment and who are keen to pass on their knowledge. The college itself is a remarkable historic site and provides an ideal environment for learning about the conservation of historic structures." Catherine Woolfitt

You can expect:

  • Tutors who are leading practitioners
  • Hands-on training in the repair and conservation of various building materials
  • To gain a thorough understanding of structural repairs
  • To complete 10 Building Conservation Masterclasses (BCMs) - seven compulsory and three of your choice
  • To submit a final illustrated portfolio of approximately 3000 words demonstrating the link between experience gained on the BCMs and your past, current and intended professional practice

Coronavirus Update

College-wide health and safety measures to ensure the safety of all students and staff on site have been introduced in response to coronavirus and a maximum capacity of eight students per course has been implemented. 

In addition, a pilot online e-blended learning project was recently completed with the support of Historic England’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund. Read more. The pilot targeted the seven core courses and provided training for tutors in the delivery of a blend of online and workshop-based training. The aims included wider access to training and flexibility for independent and remote learners.

Content was reviewed to ensure that it leads to well-defined learning outcomes for the core courses. All courses will retain their practical sessions which are fundamental to the BCM programme. The intention of the re-designed pilot courses is for initial online modules to provide students with a framework of knowledge and understanding that is then fleshed out and consolidated during practical sessions.

See all BCM/PDD courses

Learning environment

  • High tutor: student ratio
  • Specialist teaching resources including the purpose-built Ruinette to practise techniques
  • Workshop-based or conference style learning, dependent on masterclass subject
  • Residential accommodation is available while you complete each masterclass

The seven compulsory BCMs

Conservation and Repair of Architectural and Structural Metalwork
Conservation and Repair of Plasters and Renders
The Structural Repair of Historic Buildings
Conservation and Repair of Brick and Flint Masonry
Conservation and Repair of Timber
Conservation and Repair of Stone Masonry
Mortars for Repair and Conservation

A further three BCMs to be selected from:

Specifying Conservation Works
Coatings and Consolidants for Masonry
Conservation and Repair of Slate and Stone Roofing
Managing Wildlife in the Historic Environment (alternate years)
Conservation of Historic Concrete
Conservation and Repair of Masonry Ruins
Conservation and Repair of Tile Roofing
Masonry cleaning

See BCM courses taught at the College, and online and onsite blended courses.

"The Building Conservation Masterclasses have brought me from a point four years ago when I knew literally nothing about the conservation and restoration of historic/listed buildings and structures to a point where I feel confident to discuss, specify and oversee heritage works."

Michael Balletta, PDD in Historic Building Conservation & Repair

Entry requirements

Students will ideally have training/experience in the field and/or a minimum of two years' practical experience. The diploma is ideal for (though not limited to) conservators, conservation officers, archaeologists, architects, surveyors, engineers, craftspeople and specialist contractors.

Fees and funding

Fees are listed on each course page - the minimum cost would approximately £7,000 for 10 courses (2020 prices), plus the administration fee £260 payable on submission of final portfolio.

10% discount on course fees to employees of Historic England, English Heritage, Icon, Cadw, Historic Scotland, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Institute of Historic Building Conservation, Historic Houses and members of Building Limes Forum UK and Ireland.


More information on funding can be found on the student funding page

The Drake Trust

The Drake Trust generously provides a number of bursaries for students attending a Building Conservation Masterclass at their own expense. To apply for The Drake Trust Bursary please contact cpd@westdean.ac.uk.

Sussex Heritage Trust Bursary

Financial support may be available to students through a bursary arranged by the Sussex Heritage Trust. To be eligible students should be based in Sussex and work or hope to work in the construction industry. Find out more about the bursary and how to apply on the Sussex Heritage Trust website.

Other organisations that offer funding support include:

Student perspective

"I've been project managing a Heritage Lottery Funded Skills for the Future project, to support traditional building skills training and address the shortage of skilled craftspeople in and around Leeds. The city has a huge number of buildings built before 1919 but diminishing numbers of specialist heritage construction workers.

I'm looking to continue working in this area. I have an understanding of building conservation but wanted some practical training, this seemed to be the most practical course available and was recommended by a colleague. The ability to study towards accreditation in short bursts also suited me and I'm very grateful to have been awarded a bursary by the Drake Trust to enable me to study here.

The standard of tutors and speakers has been superb … it's been a privilege to study with them. I've also met a range of contacts who I know will be useful for future networking. Because of the highly respected nature of the courses here, I've been asked by colleagues to report on some of the expertise on my return, up-to-date developments in the use of lime mortar for example.

Overall, I've found the courses to be an excellent mix of practical and theoretical learning supported by great facilities."

Sarah Neville
Professional Development Diploma in Historic Building Conservation and Repair


What level of qualification is the diploma?

The West Dean Professional Development Diploma certificate is equivalent to Level 4-5.

Does blended learning mean I can study theory at home in my own time?

Yes – there are currently four courses being piloted in e-blended format with the likelihood that more will be offered.

How many hours of self-study are required per Building Conservation Masterclass (BCM)?

We estimate between 10-12 hours are required ahead of each practical session. The online elements are started 3-4 weeks ahead of the practical with some ‘live’ Zoom group discussions to allow tutors and students to meet each other ‘virtually’ to prepare for the practical.

How much hands on practical training is there per BCM?

This varies per course. Typically, two days focused practical work per BCM. 

What is the average time taken to complete the diploma?

There isn’t an average as it depends on working commitments. Some students choose to do the BCM courses back-to-back, others spread them out. Applicants have up to five years to complete the course.

Is there funding available for this course?

The Drake Trust provides bursaries to support this Professional Development Diploma. Please contact us at cpd@westdean.ac.uk to apply for this.

Do I pay my fees upfront?

You pay for each course as you book. So you pay in increments with a £260 administration fee.


Catherine Woolfitt

Catherine Woolfitt ACR MCIfA MA Classics MA Art Conservation - Subject Leader Historic Building Conservation and Repair

Catherine Woolfitt is an archaeologist and architectural conservator and has worked in the conservation of the built heritage since 1993. With wide-ranging work experience in Italy, Israel and the UK, her experience bridges the museum, object, and building conservation sectors. 

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for this course or would like further information please contact admissions either by enquiring online or calling the number below. To make your application you will need to download and fill out our application form.