skip to primary navigationskip to content
 

Testimonials

Amy Boyington Cohort 1 (2011 -2013)

"Having read Law as an undergraduate and with professional experience in the publishing world I was unsure how to change my career path to suit my passion for heritage and historic buildings.  The MSt was excellent in enabling me to do this.  Not only did it furnish me with the skills to interpret historic fabric, it also paved the way for me to work within the heritage sector, particularly with country houses.  Both during and after the course I was able to gain valuable curatorial experience at Holkham Hall, Goodwood House and Woburn Abbey.  Following this, I decided to undertake a PhD at Cambridge researching female architectural patronage in eighteenth-century Britain, for which the MSt had prepared me perfectly.  This research was fully funded by the School of Arts and Humanities. The academic rigour of the MSt, together with the fascinating site visits and the impressive range of speakers has ensured that I am now well equipped to pursue a career within either the academic or the heritage world."

Bev Kerr Cohort 1 (2011 -2013)

"The MSt appealed to me for a number of reasons: I was attracted by the wide range of topics and the chance of a six-month placement, and I was also really keen to develop my practical skills in building surveying and observation. The course did not disappoint! I see it as one of the best investments I have ever made in my career. It was hard work, but always thought-provoking and stimulating. The placement with Historic England was a fantastic experience in which I was lucky enough to work with some of the country’s topmost building experts.

I believe the MSt in Building History gave me the tools and the confidence essential in my present position as a Heritage Consultant within a leading architectural conservation practice. As an added bonus, the course also introduced me to my future husband!"

Wendy Andrews – Cohort 1 (2011 – 2013)

"In 2011 I was working as a communications consultant for cultural organisations including Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund and was on the National Trust’s East of England advisory board, all of which kept me pretty busy. But then an article in Country Life about a new Masters course in building history at Cambridge caught my eye – and eventually led to a new career as an academic researcher, wallpaper historian and consultant. I have not looked back!

The MSt was invaluable in providing an introduction to historical context, practical skills and technical language across the spectrum of building history, much of which was completely new to me. I loved every minute of the course, from being immersed in the industrial history of the world's first water-powered cotton spinning mill, built by Arkwright at Cromford, Derbyshire, to exploring the vertiginous space above Wren’s dome of St Paul’s. To my surprise, early in the course I realised that I had rekindled a passion for academic study and decided I would aim to carry on to a PhD. For my MSt placement I worked with the National Trust researching wallpapers hung during the mid-19th century re-Gothicisation of Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk, and this led to my doctoral research, funded through the AHRC Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership, which analysed the significance of wallpaper and decorating records for the London firm Cowtan & Sons, held at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Since completing the PhD in 2017, I have undertaken research, lecturing and consultancy projects, including analysis for Historic Royal Palaces of wallpaper records for Kensington Palace, Hampton Court and Hillsborough Castle and a report for Historic England on decorating records for the use of 19th and early 20th century fibrous plasterwork. I am a part-time Research Associate at Queens’ College, assisting Dr James Campbell with preparation for his new book on ‘Water & Civilisation’ and part-time Editorial Assistant for the journal Construction History. I also volunteer with the David Parr House project in Cambridge, ‘Mapping Mr Leach’, as part of a team transcribing the master decorator Frederick Leach’s day books. I have lectured on historic wallpapers at the V&A, the Wallpaper History Society, the Institute of Conservation, English Heritage, the Construction History Society and the International Congress on Construction History in Chicago. None of this would have been possible without the foundation of the academically rigorous MSt and the many opportunities it opened up."

Luke Jacob Cohort 2 (2012 – 2014)

"I joined the University of Cambridge MSt Building History course in 2012, following a BA degree in History of Art.  I had studied modules on architectural history as an undergraduate, but had little experience of interpreting historic fabric, conducting archival research or recording buildings when I started the MSt. The course covered a vast array of subjects all engagingly taught by specialist lecturers as part of an excellent first-year programme that combined lectures with site visits and practical sessions on survey techniques and research skills. Through independent study modules and the professional placement in the second year, I was able to specialise in public and commercial buildings of the twentieth century, particularly inter-war pubs, which were the subject of my dissertation and the main focus of my placement as a research assistant on a national project on the building type conducted by Historic England. The MSt gave me a strong grounding in British architectural history and equipped me to assess historic fabric and use specialist research methods to unlock and interpret the histories of buildings of various types and dates. The experience and knowledge gained on the course is central to my current work as a Listing Adviser at Historic England, as well as previous research-focused roles at Historic England and the V&A Museum."

Anna Shelley Cohort 3 (2013 – 2015)

"Prior to starting the Building History course in 2013, I had worked in several roles within the Heritage sector – in grants administration with the HLF, as a project assistant for a £5 million museum development project with the Bath Preservation Trust, and then within the Planning and Conservation department of English Heritage (as it was) – all of which were absolutely instrumental in understanding the role and operation of these organisations, amongst many other transferrable skills. However, I struggled consistently to move beyond purely administrative positions, despite increasing experience in the sector and a developing interest in building conservation.

The Building History course changed this almost immediately, largely because the skills that are the unique focus of the course are so desirable for a wide range of roles within the sector. I remained in my position at EH while I finished the first year of residential courses, but I was offered a paid heritage consultancy placement with Purcell’s Cambridge office in the second year after which I was offered a full time position in their London office. Since 2014 I have worked in heritage consultancy, during which period I have had the opportunity to work on some amazing buildings – including (but certainly not limited to) national museums and institutions, historic stately homes, and grand London townhouses. In October I joined the Victorian Society as a Conservation Advisor, where the skills I learnt at Cambridge continue to stand me in good stead. In short, I cannot recommend the course highly enough for the unique skills set and understanding of historic buildings that it offers students, as well as for the highly personal quality of the teaching from Adam and many of the other course contributors. Without doubt, it has transformed my professional career."

Matt Cooper – Cohort 3 (2013 – 2015)

"Studying for the MSt felt like a natural choice for me - I already had a degree in History and the History of Art, and I had been working with listed church buildings for a few years. I enjoyed learning new skills such as making measured drawings of buildings (I can’t draw!) and learning about architectural photography from some talented professionals was a real privilege. The residential sessions were always interesting and provided brilliant lectures and site visits. The highlight of the coursework for me was writing a dissertation on medieval inns. It was extremely challenging but very rewarding.

The breadth and depth of the course content has been a great help to me professionally, and enabled me to start a job with Historic England after the first year of study. I still work for HE and I think some element of the learning I gained through the MSt comes in useful every single day. My abiding memory of the course, however, is one of pure enjoyment, and the opportunity to spend time with some excellent people: the other students, the lecturers, the course leader and administrator. The whole experience was fantastic."

Tansy Collins – Cohort 3 (2013 – 2015)

"Following an undergraduate BSc degree in Archaeological Sciences from Sheffield University (2002), my professional skills developed with a number of years working in the field of commercial archaeology, both on site and within a graphics department.  Moving into the drawn survey of historic buildings and then into building assessment and interpretation, I needed to augment my archaeological knowledge and so began the Building History MSt in 2013.

The course was perfectly suited to my situation. It allowed me to continue working while undertaking my studies and to utilise skills gained during the course every day.  The residential weeks are well-designed.  Lectures were given by experts in every field of building history, and I personally found that lectures on architectural history were a brilliant accompaniment to my archaeological knowledge, all consolidated by visits to put the learning in context. New research skills and opportunities led to the production of a thesis which did justice to an under-researched area of building history that can be utilised directly by building historians working in the field. Since graduating in 2015, I have progressed substantially both within my employment and without. I now lead historic building projects in a commercial archaeological unit, but am also more heavily involved with external groups; I co-organised and led a well-respected national conference on vernacular architecture in Hertfordshire.  Finally, I cannot emphasise enough the amazing network of fellow building historians and experts I have found who are happy to share knowledge and ideas."

Christopher Curtis Cohort 4 (2014 – 2016)

"Prior to taking the MSt in Building History I had studied for a history degree and worked as a Tour Guide. The two years I spent on the course are particularly memorable as an enjoyable, if intense, part of my life. The course is well rounded, and while covering architectural history, it also taught practical skills such as the analysis and interpretation of standing buildings. The programme of teaching is excellent and includes a wide range of lecturers who are experts in their field, and each subject is backed up by a field trip.

The course has been an invaluable help to my career. The second year work placement gave me important experience in the work-place, and the skills I gained on the course enabled me to work as a historic buildings archaeologist and now as an architectural investigator for Historic England."

Helen Warren – Cohort 4 (2014 – 2016)

"Having always been fascinated by historic buildings, I was keen to expand my knowledge of them partly out of sheer love of learning and partly out of a desire to focus my existing architecture and design career on projects involving the historic environment.  The first year was a great balance of practical training in analysing built fabric and documentary evidence in order to understand a building’s evolution, alongside a series of lectures charting the history of British architecture. The calibre of the course contributors particularly stood out for me; all were not only experts in their field but passionate, approachable and eager to share their knowledge.

Through the course I was able to gain a placement with Purcell Architects and Historic Building Consultants, which in turn opened the door to a wide range of historic buildings projects and opportunities.  I am now a Built Heritage Consultant and a full member of the IHBC, providing heritage advice and advocacy on historic building projects across the country. I would thoroughly recommend the course – it is one of the most interesting, enjoyable and rewarding things I have ever done."

Jana Schuster – Cohort 4 (2014 – 2016)

"I absolutely loved the MSt in Building History; it was the perfect combination of academia and practical learning, and gave me the opportunity to follow my passions. From rigorous academic building research, to learning how to find and use relevant documentary sources, how to analyse building fabric, measure, draw and date a building, understanding the legal side of heritage protection, to writing a narrative of a building’s history for different audiences, the course touches on every aspect of working with old buildings. The wide range of enthusiastic lecturers – often from the professional world – and the many site visits made for truly engaging and interactive learning.

Coming to the MSt immediately after completing my MA in Art History and Ancient History at the University of St Andrews, it was important to me to retain the academic rigour of academia, whilst also developing more vocational skills. For my work placement, I ended up working for 10 months at a country house in Northamptonshire. Writing my dissertation on the architectural history of that country house, I discovered a research topic that I absolutely love, and established a collaboration with the owners of the house, under which I now write my PhD. Between completing the MSt and starting my PhD, I was awarded the Giles Worsley Research Fellowship at the British School at Rome, where I spent three months developing a research project, presented a paper at an ICOMOS heritage conference in Canada, and was sponsored to attend the Royal Collection Studies Course with the Attingham Trust. My supervisor and the course director were invaluable in supporting me throughout all of this, as have been my fellow students and the people lecturing on the course. Attending this course has been one of the best and most formative decisions of my life, both professionally and personally."

Katherine Hardwick – Cohort 5 (2015 – 2017)

"I came to the MSt from an academic background in history, and was one of the younger members of my cohort, progressing to the Masters straight from an undergraduate degree. The variety of ages and backgrounds made for an interesting mix, and reflected the course’s own diverse nature. Unlike traditional art (or architectural) history courses, the MSt blends academic and practical study; personally, I found the art history elements familiar and reassuring ground, though I greatly enjoyed getting hands-on with the buildings, particularly learning how to complete a measured survey as part of the Recording Project. 

This mixture of academic history and practical experience of ‘reading’ historic buildings greatly helped me in my professional role, as I worked for a year with the conservation architects Purcell as a heritage consultant. Familiarity with more vernacular buildings, as well as those of high status, allowed me to work on a variety of projects, from redevelopment of farmhouses and timber-framed buildings, to large-scale conservation programmes at institutions such as the British Library and Newark Castle. 

I continue to keep in touch with many of the people I met through the course, both academically and socially, and have greatly enjoyed the continuing support offered to alumni."