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meet our people
NHTG’s Chief Executive, Karen Houghton, has a long-standing personal and professional interest in the built environment, heritage conservation, and regeneration and sustainability. After securing a degree in Land Management and Associateship of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Karen has had a particularly broad range of experience spanning the public, private and charitable sectors. Previous key roles have included Founding Executive Director of arc, an award-winning architecture and built environment centre, along with Head of Integreat Yorkshire, Yorkshire Forward’s Centre of Excellence in Renaissance and Regeneration.
Gained during the course of various permanent, contracted and consultancy roles, Karen’s expertise covers a number of financial and organisational areas key to NHTG’s future. These include fundraising and fund management; business planning, leadership, management and governance; regeneration and property development; learning, education and training. Karen’s recent career highlights include securing £3.9m funding for the development of an exciting creative industries and community space at Hebden Bridge Town Hall.
A passionate advocate of heritage crafts and the conservation of our historic buildings, Karen sees her key priorities at NHTG as two-fold. Firstly, she’s determined to continue raising the organisation’s financial capital and industry profile in order to safeguard its future. At the same time, she believes that collaborating closely with the construction sector is vital in order to bring about the shift in attitudes required for truly long-term and nationwide conservation.
Ray’s been connected to the British lead sector in a variety of different roles almost continuously since 1973, with a short break spent working for his family business. Early involvement in the heritage crafts arena came while Ray worked in the Special Products department of British Lead Mills’ parent company.
Later positions included five years with the Lead Sheet Association along with Secretary of the Lead Contractors Association – a position Ray still holds today. Ray was also involved in the creation and development of the Federation of Traditional Metal Roofing Contractors, an organisation concerned with the design and installation of copper, steel and zinc for traditional roofing and cladding.
Ray’s been involved with the NHTG right from its inception in 2002. Today, he remains passionate about protecting our architectural legacy from the threat posed by a lack of experience, knowledge and awareness among many of those working on our most precious buildings.
NHTG’s Vice Chairman, Richard Davies, has been involved with the care and development of the built environment throughout his 30-year career in architecture. That career that began with positions at English Heritage, including Director of Technical Services, and ultimately led to the creation of MRDA Architects where Richard is currently a Partner.
Richard’s particular interest and expertise is in the refurbishment and redevelopment of culturally sensitive sites and buildings, helping make sure they meet not only today’s working, living and environmental standards, but also any requirements of the future. His previous and current projects are many and varied, and include Ipswich Town Hall, St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall and Freemasons Hall in Covent Garden. He’s also been the appointed architectural and planning advisor on important overseas projects as far afield as Lebanon, China and Burkina Faso.
Along with his private practice and some lecturing work, Richard contributes to a number of journals with pieces on conservation practice and training. Other positions he holds include Chair of Trustees of COTAC (Conference on Training in Architectural Conservation) as well as various association memberships. He also serves as the Principal Architect accreditation on the Register of Architects Accredited in Building Conservation (AABC) and is a member of its assessment panel.
A qualified architect since the 1970s, Paul’s lifelong interest in traditional buildings stemmed from a passion for vernacular architecture encouraged by Paul Oliver. In 1975 he became one of SPAB’s Lethaby/Bannister-Fletcher Scholars: a life-changing event which has influenced his career ever since.
Paul has worked in traditional heavy carpentry with Peter McCurdy, where he remains a part-time working Director. Prestigious projects he’s contributed to include the Bath Spa Millennium Project (now called Thermae Bath Spa), Brunel’s Bristol Old Station (Temple Meads) and McCurdy’s construction of the replica Globe Theatre in London. Today, his major consultancy specialism is European spa town heritage, although his expertise covers a wide range of heritage and tourism issues.
Paul sees the NHTG’s role as critical to the future of our heritage buildings, partly because of its unique ability to coordinate the trade and craft federations of the four home nations. The NHTG’s special understanding of issues like procurement, funding and skills loss is another reason Paul champions our organisation and its work.
Henry has spent 40 years of his 50-year involvement with construction working in the pre-1919 heritage sector, embracing roles including apprentice stonemason through to Contracts Manager. Today, he’s part of the consultancy team at The Traditional Building Company based in Hay-on-Wye, as well as sitting on the judging panel of the Prince’s Foundation. Henry also enjoys a number of lecturing and training roles at home and abroad, sharing his hands-on expertise and in-depth knowledge of the heritage sector.
Career highlights for Henry include receiving an M.B.E for his contribution to conservation and restoration, coupled with sharing a Marsh Award for Heritage Teaching with Gerard Lynch. He’s also enjoyed working alongside John Ashhurst, not to mention a number of highly skilled and respected professionals and craftspeople.
Henry sees the care and preservation of our pre-1919 properties as the NHTG’s single biggest challenge. This depends, he says, on the availability of the right materials, skills and motivation, as well as a great deal of hard work and our ability to influence the wider construction industry. In Henry’s eyes, the NHTG’s unique strength is its accountability to the construction industry, and its involvement right across the entire heritage sector of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Seán’s been working within the heritage building sector for 25 years, in roles spanning organisational development, policy and education in conservation, and with organisations including IHBC and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland. Today, his special areas of interest cover history, policy and standards.
Career highpoints for Seán include the creation of IHBC’s ‘News Blogs’ news service and leading the joint professional response in the development of England’s proposed Heritage Bill. In this last project, Seán secured sign-up and support from professional bodies representing 250,000 members. He was also the first editor of the Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies Journal of the Irish Georgian Society, which he also helped to develop.
Seán cites education and its potential to influence policy making as a key issue for the traditional building sector, and he sees the management of our collection of historic buildings as part of a wider 21st century dilemma concerning the management of resources in general. Our strength as an organisation, he says, is “The capacity to coalesce and represent trade interests in traditional buildings."
Beginning his career as an indentured student gave Michael a solid foundation in all aspects of the contracting industry. Michael now has a total of 40 years’ experience under his belt, and even began his close involvement with the heritage sector as far back as 1981, when he worked as a contracts management surveyor for English Heritage South East Region. He went on to establish his own heritage conservation and restoration business with clients including English Heritage, the National Trust and a number of churches.
Now Michael collaborates with range of small contracting organisations, working with important country estates in Sussex. He also manages traditional Victorian properties, where he uses his expertise in lime-built walling to reconcile 21st century lifestyles with the structural need of these buildings to ‘breathe’. A prestigious career achievement was winning a Europa Nostra Award for his work with the Landmark Trust on the major restoration of Wilmington Priory.
Michael is particularly concerned about short-term financially-based decision making, and about the poor understanding of appropriate care among those modernising and maintaining our traditional buildings. He hopes the diversity of the NHTG’s membership will help inform and influence the industry, and takes encouragement from the passion of its supporters and the absence of a commercial agenda.
A Cambridge civil engineering graduate, John served for 30 years in the Royal Engineers and also on the Defence Policy Staff, ultimately earning an MBE for his operational planning in Germany.
John’s keen interest in urban planning, architectural conservation and traditional building crafts led to a second career, taking a position as the Chief Executive of the British Urban Regeneration Association for five years, and also chairmanship of the Panel of Assessors for the Secretary of State’s Regeneration Award Scheme. Next came a role with the Carpenters Company as their Director of Building Crafts College from 1997–2007. Here, John was instrumental in the organisation’s expansion as well as its growing reputation for excellence as the Centre of Vocational Excellence in Traditional Building Crafts.
John holds a Masters Degree in Historic Building Conservation, and was appointed a Fellow of the City and Guilds of London Institute in 2003. He’s also a Liveryman of the Carpenters’ and the Masons’ Companies. In retirement, he continues to serve as Chairman of the Livery Companies’ Skills Council, Hon Secretary of COTAC, and Hon Treasurer of the NHTG, and he’s a trustee of charitable bodies including the City & Guilds of London Arts School and the Construction Youth Trust.