New National Trust conservation skills centre near Highworth

By Barrie Hudson - 25 August 2021

AttractionsHeritage

The National Trust is to open a new Conservation Skills Centre to the public on 12 September.

The date has been designated Heritage Open Day, and the centre at Coleshill will be open from 11am to 4pm.
Visitors will be able to see demonstrations of rural crafts such as blacksmithing by the first heritage skills specialists and educators to occupy workshops there.

They will also be able to explore the site, which is also associated with the training of a secret army who would have taken part in sabotage missions had the Nazis invaded during World War Two.

Christian Walker, General Manager of the National Trust’s Buscot and Coleshill estates, said: “In 2017 we embarked on a conservation project at Buscot Park. We had to import specialists from Europe in order to complete the hipped slate roof. 

"This process demonstrated for us the scarcity of conservation skills in this country and that it’s putting our heritage at risk. 

“As custodians, we have a responsibility to revive, conserve and grow Buscot and Coleshill Estates’ heritage and to pass on a thriving legacy.

"It is exciting to bring new life to the largely redundant historic buildings of the Model Farm, but it is especially inspiring to see it become a thriving hub of activity once again.”

Coleshill estate has a rich history of innovation and education. The model farm was at the cutting edge of UK agriculture in the mid 1800s, with visitors coming to learn about best practice in farm building design, agricultural technology and livestock management. 

Constructed in 1854 and designed to make best use of its gently sloping site, the site is a superb example of a ‘model farm’ of the period. Visitors from neighbouring estates came to learn about building design and best farm practice.

Gravity was harnessed to move feed and dung via a tramline through the hillside farm whilst an advanced ventilation system and innovative flooring ensured livestock did not stand in the wet. 

Later, Coleshill continued to facilitate innovation and design excellence with Michael Wickham and Terence Conran working in the Stable Courtyard in the early 1960s when they developed a template for Habitat. 

The Model Farm is now at another turning point in its history of innovation and education, one that reinstates its place as a education and skills hub at the heart of the local community.

Further information about the estates can be found at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-buscot-and-coleshill-estates

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