Conservation and Repair of Brick and Flint Masonry with Emma Simpson and Catherine Woolfitt

Building conservation masterclass

Ref: B3D11567

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About this course

This course provides an understanding of, and basic skills in, the conservation and repair of traditional brick and flint masonry.
You will start by gaining an understanding of the nature and characteristics of the materials. A range of brick and flint buildings will be studied to illustrate methods of construction, common failures and decay processes. Common problems, including poor practices, will be identified and solutions investigated. Methods of repair, joint treatments and cleaning relevant to brick, including gauged brick and flint, will be discussed and form part of the practical sessions.
The course aims to establish a firm appreciation of the importance and quality of brick and flint as masonry materials and to teach you how to assess the condition of walls, prepare the repair schedule and specification, and carry out the correct remedial work to a high standard. A visit to look at the brick and flint buildings of Chichester is included.

Course Description

Day 1 
18.45- Welcome talk
20.00- 20.30- Introduction.  Scope and compass of course. Getting to know the tutors and students.
20.30- 21.15- Lecture.   Introduction to the structural and decorative use of brick and flint in the United Kingdom over 2,000 years.

Day 2 
09.00- Lecture.  Nature and characteristics of brick.  Traditional manufacture.  Regional brick types.
Lecture.  Free standing brick walls.  Survey; causes of deterioration, common defects.  Specification and repair techniques.  Criteria for repair vs replacement required and appropriate scope of conservation and repair work.  Remedial work to mortar joints.
Demonstration and practical work.  Introduction to Ruinette and Health and Safety issues.  Condition survey and brick recording exercise (at Garden Wall) – use of pro-forma brick recording forms.
Demonstration and practical work.  Complete survey and recording exercise – using pro-forma brick recording forms and elevation photos.
Begin brickwork repair: cutting out defective (decayed) joints; cutting out and piecing in damaged/decayed bricks; appropriate tools for various repair methods.
15.30- 17.30- Visit- Brick and flint buildings on site at West Dean.

Day 3  
09.00- Workshop lecture and demonstration.  Examination and discussion of examples of historic bricks and brickwork mortars of various periods; visual and physical characteristics; nature and characteristics of mortar used in brick and flint masonry.  Bedding, pointing and mortar repairs.  Lime and aggregate types and properties.  Mortar analysis, design, preparation, curing and aftercare.
Demonstration and practical work.  Brief introduction to Flint; ‘Hot lime’ mixes, preparation of mortars by slaking and mixing quicklime together with aggregates; characteristics of mortars prepared using this method.
Lecture.  Gauged Brickwork – including cutting and rubbing bricks; setting out chimneys, arches.
Demonstration and practical work.  Continue exercise – brickwork repair methods; repointing, mortar repairs and brick replacement; mortar finishing, curing.
Lecture.  Flint as a building stone – use and characteristics.  Typical defects; repair methods.
Demonstration and practical work.  Flint masonry methods and materials; laying flints; galletting (joints).
Demonstration and practical work.  Gauged brickwork.  Demonstration of setting out and construction of a brick arch; cutting and rubbing a brick voussoir.
16.30- 17.30- Walk – Estate Flint and Brickwork.  Inspection of Main House (External Façade) and other brick and flintwork.
Day 4
09.00- Flint knapping; materials, techniques and styles.
Practical.  Continue exercise – joint treatment, plastic repairs, brick replacement and flint facework.
Lecture.  Cleaning brickwork.  Pre-cleaning Survey and analysis; legacy of past cleaning; soiling types; cleaning methods; use of water, mechanical, abrasive and chemical systems; advantages and disadvantages; importance of trials.
Practical work.  Finish repairs; mortar joints and plastic repairs to brick, brick replacement, flint facework.
Demonstration and practical work.  Complete cutting and rubbing a brick voussoir, placing and constructing a brick arch.
Summary/questions .
15.00.15- 15.30- Issue of certificates and depart.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

Please remember to bring work clothes/overalls and shoes/boots for practical sessions.  A torch and umbrella may be useful on the short walk to the Auditorium and Ruinette.


Emma Simpson

Emma Simpson is a brick conservator and Principal of Simpson Brickwork Conservation Ltd.

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. 


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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