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 Hilary Wyatt

Hilary Wyatt

Research student, Welsh School of Architecture

Following a successful career in film and TV, Hilary re-trained in 2006 for a new career in the historic built environment. She holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Surveying from Reading (with Distinction 2009) and a Master of Science in Sustainable Building Conservation form the Welsh School of Architecture (with Distinction 2016). Her professional practice includes six years in building surveying, and three and a half years as a conservation and design officer at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; where she advised on a wide variety of design proposals including the refurbishment and repair of listed buildings and structures, the extension and adaptation of historic buildings, and the introduction of new build within a well preserved nineteenth century townscape.

Hilary’s academic work has focused on the development of sustainable and inter-disciplinary approaches to conservation. In 2015 she was awarded the Frank and Patricia Herrman Award by the Trustees of the Plume Library for an analysis of the fabric and structure of the Grade I listed building which houses the seventeenth century library.

Her MSc dissertation examined the impact of the 2014 winter storms on several small scale historic tidal harbours in the South West. These can be thought of as harbours that have failed to make the transition to the scale of modern port facilities; they are thus more likely to have retained early fabric, historic plan form, and evidence of historic patterns of use. Whilst conservation is often defined as ‘the process of managing change’ the scale and speed with which change may occur in a dynamic and exposed marine environment challenges many conventional conservation responses, a situation compounded by the predicted effects of climate change at the coast.

Her MSc thesis (2015) investigated the subsequent repair responses implemented at a number of locations, including St Michaels Mount, Mullion Cove, Porthleven, and Portreath. This research revealed that historic inter-tidal structures are not well understood, and that repair strategies tend to be ad-hoc, most commonly occurring in the aftermath of severe weather events.  Furthermore, commonly understood and tested assumptions regarding the behaviour and specification of materials and structures, construction methods, and repair approaches cannot necessarily be transferred directly from terrestrial structures to structures in the inter-tidal zone.  This research raised wider questions about the extent to which the significance of these sites is understood and articulated, how conservation outcomes are mediated by other agendas within the coastal zone where social, economic and environmental demands may conflict and overlap, and what opportunities may exist for their sustainable conservation particularly as the effects of climate change intensify.  These issues will now be explored at PhD level.

Selected publications

Wyatt, H. & Amyes, T. 2005 Audio Post Production for Television and Film: An Introduction to technology and techniques, 3rd Ed.  Oxford, Focal Press.

Wyatt, H. 2015 Preserving the Plume: Towards an analytical evaluation of the building fabric with particular focus on site context, available documentary evidence, morphology and repair strategies Maldon, Thomas Plume’s Library.

Wyatt, H. 2014 An Introduction to Historic Marine Infrastructure in Exposed Tidal Harbours: Construction, Plan Form, Materials and Repair in the Inter-Tidal Zone. (With reference to the storms of winter 2013/2014.) MSc. Thesis, University of Cardiff.

Thesis

Towards the Development of a Sustainable Framework for the Coherent Conservation of Historic Small-Scale Tidal Harbours in the UK

This research will query the extent to which the existing administrative frameworks in the UK are successful in supporting the articulation of significance and coherent conservation of small scale historic harbour settings. Specifically, it will examine how well-equipped the conservation sector is to participate in sustainable decision making about the future of these vulnerable sites which may consist of vernacular and engineered structures both on and offshore.

It will review contextual factors which are specific to the coastal zone that have a direct impact on conservation outcomes including ownership, public awareness, finance and grant funding, ICZM, marine and environmental law.  A particular focus will be the drive towards sustainable coastal management which are already shaping decision making in the coastal zone – the National Trust’s adoption of managed retreat at Mullion Cove and elsewhere is a well-publicised example.

The research aims to identify a characterisation strategy for small scale harbour setting in terms of date and construction, plan form and other spatial characteristics, regional variations and coastal geography/topography. This data will form the basis for the development of a framework which can be utilised to achieve a better understanding of historic harbour settings, and establish criteria for the evaluation of significance in terms of fabric, functional and spatial relationships between significant elements, and the identification of associated heritage values.

The research will conclude by identifying best practice approaches to the sustainable conservation of marine infrastructure which can be applied to the conservation of historic harbour settings. On an administrative level, it will consider whether an alternative designation system would be desirable, and whether mechanisms such as heritage partnerships agreements and inter-disciplinary working may improve conservation outcomes, together with options for future resourcing. On a practical level, it will attempt to establish a hierarchy of best practice intervention, including adaptation and change of use, and mitigating strategies where partial or entire loss is likely.

It is hoped that this research will substantially contribute to a wider non-sectoral discussion regarding the future of our historic harbours. It is also hoped that it will be of practical value in formulating specific best practice guidance for the conservation sector, and inform their specialist input into the ongoing conservation of these significant, yet highly vulnerable historic settings.