Ever since he went to university to study building surveying, Bryan Dickson MRICS had wanted work on historic buildings. Here he describes his role with the National Trust for Scotland and why there's no better place to work if you're interested in conservation.


We look after 129 sites and 1,600 structures – everything from castles to fountains. The scale of the task is enormous, but we take responsibility as a team. I have five conservation-accredited lead surveyors who manage 10 surveyors or assistant surveyors and a very small pool of direct labour. We also work closely with archaeologists, conservators, curators, rural surveyors and property managers.

Expect the unexpected...

We have several properties that present specific challenges, such as the Hill House at Helensburgh, where we have been developing a repair strategy to deal with a water penetration issue. Then there is the completely unexpected, like when a car crashed into a stone balustrade at Greenbank House near Glasgow. Luckily our small masonry team managed to salvage most of the stonework to repair it.

One of the big issues we face is diminishing craft skills and the availability of craftsmen who understand historic buildings. We’re doing our bit to tackle this – for example we’ve run an apprentice programme in stonemasonry at Culzean Castle since the 1990s. We’ve run workshops and got involved in outreach activity with schools by bringing stonemasons to our sites and inviting schools along. The best feedback you can get is when children say: “I want to be a stonemason when I grow up.”

All buildings great and small

I’m not sure I’m allowed to have a favourite property, but Culzean Castle has the scale and dramatic cliff-top location. I also enjoy looking after smaller properties, such as the cruck-framed Moirlanich Longhouse at Killin, which was in a terrible state when we took it over. It was quite demanding to conserve, but I’m very proud that it’s now saved.

One of my main challenges is to provide a cost-effective service. You have to be very responsible with donors’ money and the grants we get. We’ve felt the pinch as public funds have shrunk and we’ve had to look for other partners. But it can be quite exciting to see what opportunities are out there. 

This piece originally appears in the Public issue of RICS Modus magazine. 

Great British Buildings: Restoration of the Year

Channel 4 has announced the commission of an exciting new series, 'Great British Buildings: Restoration of the Year', from Chocolate Media.

The series features projects entered into the RICS Awards and the series will be made in collaboration with RICS, who will judge the projects.

Find out more

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