Four months in - our project intern reports back!

Site meeting at 509-515 Lord Street
Conversation between our intern, Alice, and Alf Plant, Conservation Architect, standing in a partly refurbished upper room.
Checking the samples for the replacement stained glass windows at 509-515 Lord Street.
Alice explains the project at 509-515 Lord Street to a fellow MA student.

As I reflect on my first 4 months as a Historic Environment Intern, I am amazed with how much I have learnt. My head is full of facts about local history, conservation policy, and restoration techniques as well as the Townscape Heritage Project. I have even run out of space for books at home!

During my urban planning degree, I knew I wanted to go into in conservation. Looking back at all those lectures, what truly stood out the most was a guest speaker from Historic England. He pointed out that the word ‘enjoyment’ only appears in the National Planning Policy Framework when referencing Conservation and Heritage. For me, it put into perspective how special our historic environment is.

Being able to specialise in Conservation Planning became my long-term goal. I took up any relevant project in my last graduate Planning post, and every free course that would expand my knowledge in the field. So, when I found this job, I almost didn’t apply as it seemed too good to be true! My enthusiasm must have come through in the interview and I started the role in September.

Because of Covid-19 I am the first of the interns at Sefton Council. Nevertheless, the team have been incredibly helpful and friendly. It did not take me long to settle in, helped by the fact that my colleague Dan Longman did the Historic Environment Internship at Prescot for his Townscape Heritage Initiative. So he understands what it is like to balance the job with a master’s degree!

Having moved from South Wales I had never been to Southport before starting this job. But it did not disappoint. From the Victorian splendour of Lord Street’s verandahs and Wayfarers Arcade, to the beautiful art deco Garrick Theatre, to the familiar nostalgia of a seaside town – I can definitely see the potential. As part of the Townscape Heritage Project I am learning the challenges and never-ending complexities that schemes like this face. It has given me a new level of appreciation of how much work goes on behind the scenes. I am excited to be part of it, as well as seeing how it unfolds after my time here.

Alongside the Townscape Heritage Project, I have been involved in Heritage at Risk surveys. Doing these has allowed me to advance my analytical skills and have a deeper admiration for the historic buildings around me. I have also started writing a Conservation Area Appraisal for the hamlet of Homer Green and I am enjoying the historical research involved. Discovering and piecing together new bits of information to paint a picture of what the place was like, understanding its significance and why it needs to be protected has been an exciting process. This internship is literally a textbook definition of ‘you learn something new every day’. Learning the value and characteristics of rural vernacular architecture and medieval archaeology is something I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do, let alone as part of my job.

A highlight of this internship has been shadowing my colleagues’ site visits. The opportunity to absorb their vast expanse of knowledge has truly broadened my understanding of conservation practice in the real world. Plus being able to explore some of Sefton’s most beautiful buildings and hopefully watch them be brought back to life.

This internship has given me the opportunity to go back to university and study a MSc in Building Conservation and Adaptation at the University of Central Lancashire. While this is undeniably hard work, being able to do my role at Sefton Council alongside academic studies has been beneficial for developing a well-rounded understanding of the profession. I am enjoying the course and it has been the perfect progression with my planning background. As part of our Urban Regeneration module, I led the class’s research trip to Southport’s Townscape Heritage Project. This was great for developing some rusty presentation skills as well as reflecting on how much I have learnt so far.

Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, I have been able to develop my passion for the historic environment and heritage. I could not recommend this internship enough to anyone who wants to pursue the same passion and would encourage applying for the next post later this year.

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