This week we welcomed Thom Simmons to the team as our new Traditional Buildings Inspector. We asked Thom to tell us a bit about himself:
Where did you work before joining the Trust?
I’m joining Stirling City Heritage Trust from the Glasgow School of Art where I worked on the Mackintosh Building recovery project following the 2018 fire. During this time, I worked closely with the contractor to oversee the salvage of materials from the debris and to record the surviving structure as we worked to stabilise the building.
What about the rest of your career?
Prior to that, I developed and ran training courses and community engagement activities on the repair and maintenance of historic buildings for The Glasgow School of Art and Glasgow City Heritage Trust. I have a degree in architecture and have previously worked as a cabinet maker and joiner/general builder involved in a number of historic building projects.
What interests you about our historic built environment?
I have a passion for historic buildings and I am always fascinated by the stories that they tell us about the generations who have inhabited them, and the places that they form. The Traditional Buildings Health Check is an excellent way for property owners to ensure that their buildings are well maintained, and contribute to the unique living and working environment Stirling’s historic environment provides. I am looking forward to meeting with owners on the health check scheme to work with them to safeguard Stirling’s heritage for their own, and future generations use.
What’s your favourite traditional building in Stirling?
I’m really fond of the Bridge of Allan Parish Church, I spent a day drawing the chancel furnishings in there and it was comfortingly like having the board room of the Mack back.
What’s the most interesting traditional building project you’ve ever worked on?
It would have to be The GSA’s Mackintosh Building Restoration Project both before and after the 2018 fire. The initial restoration project was an incredible display of craft skill that revealed the building in a way that hadn’t been experienced for nearly 100 years. Whilst the fire was terrible the opportunity to work with a really incredible team of people to stabilise and conserve what remains has been a fascinating experience, hopefully one I will never repeat.
If you could time travel what historic period would you want to visit?
I’d love to see Flanders moss before it was cut away and floated down the river Forth. The dwellings most people lived in, in and around the carse of Stirling from before that period have all largely melted back into the landscape. The vast variety and ingenuity of vernacular architecture always amazes me, Scottish cruck frames being a case in point.
If you could pass on only one piece of advice to traditional business owners what would it be?
Maintain, maintain, maintain your property. Much better to invest a small amount regularly than to get stung with an unforeseen repair bill and a well maintained premise speaks of pride in your business and the local community that it serves.
What historic building most inspired you to start a career in heritage?
It would have to be the collection of buildings at the Weald and Downland Museum down in West Sussex. I grew up down there and visited regularly, one of my earliest memories is of watching the water mill in action with all these gigantic cogs rotating. I recently had chance to study down there the mill is still just as fantastic.