Professional Development Diploma in Historic Building Conservation and Repair 2012 - 2017

Damien Condon

Historic Building Conservator

What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?

It’s hard to say what is my biggest achievement to date as we have had so many interesting projects. However, if I were to pick one it would be our most recent, The Cashel Palace Hotel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. This was a very large project where we employed seven stone masons and ten plasterers over a two year period.

The Palace was built in the early 18th Century and designed by the most celebrated architect of the time Sir Edward Lovett who also designed the Parliament House in Dublin. My conservation company Calx Renders Ltd. conserved and restored the internal and external of the main house including decorative plaster work, all out buildings such as the Gate Lodge, Managers House, School House, Coach House and the famous Bolton Library.

Talk us through your career path since graduating.

Before studying at West Dean I was a 6th generation plasterer who dabbled in stone masonry from time to time. I was a “Two men and a Van” type operation, so to speak with no idea what was about to unfold! I had been plastering for thirty three years mainly on modern buildings with the odd historic house here and there, always trying to impress my father and grandfather who taught me the trade. We were always fascinated by old structures, historic mansions and other such wonderful places. Being awarded a PDD at West Dean College meant I could now work on some of these places we had admired as a family over the years. I am very proud to say that because of my studies at West Dean, my company has completely  restored some of the most prestigious houses and monuments across Ireland including; Westport House, Co. Mayo, Bishop’s Palace, Waterford, and Medieval Wall Cashel, Co. Tipperary. We currently have six vans and thirty five employees working on various projects.

What projects are you currently working on?
Riverstown House, Co. Kildare
Wicklow Head Lighthouse
Thatch Cottage, Co. Laois
Mount Richard Estate, Co. Tipperary
Abbeyleix Estate, Co. Laois
Lea Church, Co. Laois
St.John’s Church, Sallygap, Wicklow
McKee Army Barracks, Co. Dublin
Georgian House, Wilton Place, Dublin
Old Army Barracks, Clonmel
AI Station, Dovea, Tipperary
Shackleton Museum, Town Hall, Athy, Co. Kildare

Do you have any tips for recent graduates?

I would say to recent graduates of West Dean to be brave and put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid of any project no matter how big. Don’t borrow, start your business slowly and let it grow organically. Be committed to each project and teach your workers everything you know. Be proud of your acheivements at West Dean and put it on all correspondence, invoices, websites etc. Enjoy your time at West Dean. I have met and made long lasting friendships all very interesting people of varying nationalities.

How do you think studying at West Dean College prepared you for what you do now?

Studying at West Dean provided me with the foundation and knowledge to start my own business. The ten modules of my PDD, the way they were taught and linked gave me invaluable understanding and new insight into my work. I gained confidence in my abilities and renewed motivation to start my now successful business Calx Renders Ltd.

What's your favourite memory from your time at the College?

My favourite memory was during one of the course modules ‘Conservation & Repair of Architectural & Structural Metalwork’ I turned forty and nobody knew. Well I thought nobody knew, but I must have mentioned it to someone in previous days.

I was sitting at the back of the class, engrossed in my studies when to my shock and horror one of my classmates came in with a single cupcake with a candle lighting in it! The whole class including our tutor Rupert Harris sang Happy Birthday to me and cheered. It was so funny and surprising, but very fondly remembered.