SPAB 3rd annual Summer Working Party for Birr

To celebrate National Heritage Week 2019, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings are hosting hands-on conservation workshops, talks and demonstrations from August 23rd – 25th at the farm buildings of Woodfield, Birr, Co. Offaly.

The Irish branch of the UK’s oldest conservation charity, SPAB (The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) will hold its third annual Summer Working Party at this significant collection of historic farm buildings in the centre of Ireland.

Building on a successful SPAB Ireland Working Parties in Derry-Donegal in 2017 and at An Cabhail Mhór, Co.Clare in 2018, SPAB Ireland’s Working Party 2019 will enable volunteers from all walks of life to gain hands-on experience of conservation while carrying out essential consolidation and repairs at the 18th century farm buildings of Woodfield in Birr, Co.Offaly.

The farm buildings are a collection of buildings of different ages, with many interventions carried out over the years. It is a fascinating site with evidence of many vernacular building styles. Most of the farm buildings are in disrepair, however the are slowly being repaired and being used as workshops in their current form. The farm buildings are part of the curtilage of the former Woodfield House, replaced by Tullynisk House an 19th century Protected Structure which is in private ownership and part of the Birr Castle Estate. The estate is keen to see the historic buildings protected for future generations and has been actively engaged with the heritage sector for a number of years to try to conserve the site and use its buildings for educational and artistic purposes.

Tríona Byrne, Chair of SPAB Ireland, “We are thrilled to be able to bring our annual Working Party event to Co. Offaly this summer. We look forward to carrying out essential repairs to the collection of beautiful farm buildings at Woodfield, as well as meeting people interested in learning more about building conservation and spreading the philosophy of the SPAB.”

SPAB Ireland are delighted that this wonderful collection of buildings, along with its beautiful walled garden, has been entrusted to them for the Heritage Week event, with generous funding from Built Heritage Investment Scheme and Creative Ireland grants.

The workshops will include hands-on skills such as lime kiln building and lime burning, hot mixed lime preparation and usage for re-pointing and structural repairs, all to be carried out under the watchful eye of experienced SPAB conservation professionals. There will be further workshops in timber formwork, joinery repairs, sketching, surveying and maintenance techniques repairs to historic ironwork and metalwork. This is a unique opportunity to meet fellow built heritage enthusiasts, professionals and building craftspeople in the navel of Ireland.

SPAB Ireland is delighted to welcome people from across the country, from all backgrounds to join the Working Party weekend. It will be particularly appealing and useful to those in construction trades (especially stone masons), heritage professionals, (especially architects and structural engineers), and anyone, including amateurs, who want to learn more about caring for built heritage.

Optional evening social activities will include a tour of interesting historic sites in the local area, such as Birr Castle, along with a BBQ, music and story-telling. Participants can choose to come for one day, or for the whole weekend. Free camping will be available on site in the walled garden from Thursday 22nd August and there will surely be many new friendships forged during late night chats around the campfire!

On Sunday 25th August there will be a free, family-friendly public open day with demonstrations from traditional craftspeople between 10am – 1pm. Places are limited and early registration is strongly advised. For more information please email: or directly reserve a place through Eventbrite

The event is payable through eventbrite and there are reduced rates for SPAB members, students and the unwaged.

Attendees of previous SPAB Ireland Working Parties have said, “I really enjoyed the hands-on approach of the event as a whole. I have never had an opportunity like it, despite having studied and been involved in specifying for approximately 20 years!” and “Being able to work under the guidance of a group of experts and ask them questions has given me the confidence to work with these materials.”