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Award-winning projects, spanning continents

Great Yarmouth’s vibrant history has long been shaped by the forces of internationalism which have acted on the town. As a premier trading port on the east coast, Yarmouth’s historic association with maritime trade connected it with partners across the globe, who, in turn, firmly influenced the town’s rich heritage, culture and traditions. This has helped to shape a truly distinctive character, evident in the architecture, the customs, the dialect and the people, and which continues to evolve today as communities shift and new influences arrive.

To honour this internationalism, Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust has championed an approach which embraces the town’s diverse demography, recognising that international collaboration, knowledge sharing, exchange visits, cross-border training and engagement through international partnerships can foster greater learning and transferable skills.

The concept is simple. Partnerships are established with charities, NGOs, universities and groups around the world. The partners share similar issues with Great Yarmouth, or are connected by communities or historic trade links. The driving motivation of all the partners is to share knowledge and provide meaningful opportunities for people to develop skills which can be used for the preservation of heritage.

The Young Person International Training Project

Winner of the Best Contribution to a Heritage Project by Young People at the Historic England Angel Awards 2018.

The Young Person International Training Project teaches conservation building skills through the vehicle of heritage projects. The scheme brings young people from all over the world to work side by side so they can share insights and knowledge as they broaden their horizons and create a global conservation community.

In 2014, GYPT’s successful programme of teaching young people new skills through the vehicle of heritage was developed by taking on an international dimension. The Trust bought a farm complex on the Devetaki plateau in Bulgaria, an area which faces similar challenges to Great Yarmouth – a rich architectural landscape of historic buildings, which are threatened by a dwindling local population and acute traditional skills shortages.

The Trust established annual workshops, where students from Estonia, Bulgaria, Taiwan – and beyond – gather to repair the buildings as part of a unique and memorable exchange programme. In turn, students from overseas also spend time training in Great Yarmouth. A shared passion for historic conservation overcomes any barriers of language and culture. In Bulgaria, the project has now created a locally trained workforce for conservation projects and preserved and maintained an important collection of buildings that were on the brink of oblivion. The programme directly tackles the problems of deprivation that blight the future for many youth by teaching transferable building skills and offering opportunities for cultural enrichment.

“The experience is really enriching for young people from the UK who may not have had many opportunities to travel abroad or meet people from other countries. There is something sublime about seeing a Taiwanese conservation student sharing carpentry skills with a Bulgarian student, or young people from Yarmouth and Estonia communicating through nods and gestures as they rebuild a dry stone wall.”

Darren Barker, Project Director

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Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust’s partnership with Bulgarian heritage organisations is central to its wider programme of international cooperation. Collaborative working between the Trust and the Bulgarian NGO the Devetaki Plateau Association officially began in 2013, and has sparked a vibrant and dynamic series of projects and partnerships in the years since. United by a mutual passion for historic conservation, the two organisations work together to tackle common problems facing their respective communities: the loss of traditional building skills; the erosion of cultural heritage; issues of high unemployment and social deprivation.

The Devetaki Plateau – in northern Bulgaria – comprises several historic villages, displaying rare architectural survival. The buildings are constructed in local materials such as clay, stone and timber using traditional techniques dating back hundreds of years. 

In 2015, thanks to funding from the Headley Trust, GYPT was able to purchase a historic farmhouse and barns on the Devetaki Plateau. Regular workshops have since been run on the site, covering surveying, recording and repair of the historic fabric. The process of repair and conservation is used as a training initiative, enabling local people and students from across Europe and Asia to learn traditional skills, as well as develop their understanding of other cultures, languages and lifestyles. 

Click here to read a paper published in the 2018 IHBC Yearbook, written by GYPT's Managing Director Darren Barker and detailing the Devetaki Project. 

Click here to read a paper published by the University of Architectural, Civil Engineering and Geodesy in Sofia, which follows a Key Note lecture by Darren Barker at the 2017 International Science Conference.

International conservation workshop in Bulgaria, 2019

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In 2012, Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust developed a partnership with Hiiumaa Vocational School, an educational facility on the Estonian island of Hiiumaa. Initially designed as an opportunity for Estonian students to gain practical work experience in the UK, it has since flourished and the programme has seen the students contributing to GYPT projects including St Margaret's Church, the Medieval Town Wall and the Cemeteries Project. This partnership creates an invaluable opportunity for knowledge and skills sharing of traditional building techniques between international communities. The students are taught skills such as masonry, timber-work and flintknapping. In exchange, the Estonian team have shared fantastic insights into their historic conservation, teaching us about their uses of vernacular materials – such as birch bark as a damp-proof membrane and wood tar to protect timbers.

The partnership with Estonia is particularly fitting, considering Great Yarmouth’s historic connection to the country. Hanseatic trading links generated great wealth through the export of cured herring and wool and the import of timber, tar and flax. This trade helped Great Yarmouth to establish itself as one of the most important ports on the east coast, but also influenced the design of the town’s built environment. It is easy to recognise similarities in the landscape, such as the proliferation of windmills across the island, which are mirrored by the Norfolk wind pumps so familiar in our part of the world. This collaboration offers the opportunity to explore the very beautiful and rich vernacular architecture of Hiiumaa, whilst drawing comparisons to the built environment of Great Yarmouth and East Norfolk.

The exchange was funded by the EU Leonardo Mobility Project, which seeks to extend participants’ vocational skills at a European level.


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As part of the Trust’s commitment to international cooperation and knowledge-sharing, a partnership was established with YunTech University in Taiwan. The initiative focuses on workshops, exchange visits and lectures which explore international approaches to conservation and develop innovative solutions for preserving our shared heritage. This co-operative approach towards traditional skills works to promote the use and conservation of vernacular building materials such as adobe. 

The Trust is extremely grateful for the support from the eminent Taiwanese conservator Lay Yoong-ell and Dr Gordon Turner-Walker, the Head of Conservation at YunTech University, who have both championed this approach to learning.

Group photo

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