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

Ref: B3D13289

Location: West Dean

About this course

Gain a practical understanding and experience of repair and conservation methods for historic brick and flint work. Through demonstrations, lectures, and practical exercises you will learn condition assessment, appropriate repair materials and techniques, and how to apply these to historic brick and flint structures.

This course provides an understanding of, and basic skills in, the conservation and repair of traditional brick and flint masonry. You will start by learning about the nature and characteristics of materials, through study of a range of brick and flint buildings, which 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 brickwork, including gauged brick and flint, will be discussed and you will be able to practise repair and treatments in practical sessions.

By the end of the course, you will have a firm appreciation of the importance and characteristics of brick and flint as masonry materials. You will know 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 tour of the brick and flint buildings on the college campus is included.

Course Description

Day 1  
6.45pm- Welcome talk 
8pm- 8.30pm- Introduction
Scope and compass of course. Getting to know the tutors and students
8.30pm- 9.15pm- Lecture
Introduction to the structural and decorative use of brick and flint in the United Kingdom over 2,000 years.

Day 2  
9am- Lecture
Nature and characteristics of brick
Traditional manufacture
Regional brick types

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 – 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

3.30pm- 5.30pm- Visit
Brick and flint buildings on site at West Dean

Day 3   
9am- 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
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

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. 

4.30pm- 5.30pm- Walk
Estate Flint and Brickwork
Inspection of Main House (External Façade) and other brick and flintwork
Day 4 
9am- Flint knapping; materials, techniques and styles
Practical continue exercise – joint treatment, plastic repairs, brick replacement and flint facework

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

3pm - 3.30pm- 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


Key textbook - Earth, Brick and Terracotta volume in Historic England's Practical Building Conservation series

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

Emma Simpson

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

Catherine Woolfitt Tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Catherine Woolfitt

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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