A tendency to cowp things
: an exploration of building and conservation in Northern Ireland since 1945 through oral history

  • Marcus Patton

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The building industry has seen radical changes since the end of the Second World War in terms of training, tools and legislation. There has been increased recognition of the value of historic buildings, and recently a need to address climate change.

    Rather than studying the technological and procedural changes in themselves, this research examines how people worked with them. In order to focus the research from this wide time-span and diversity of professions and trades, it has been limited geographically to people born in or working in Northern Ireland. Doing so has introduced a specific complication, in that the period of “the Troubles” involved difficulties that did not occur in Great Britain.

    The most vivid way to collect human responses to comparatively recent events is through the medium of oral history, and this is a study of social history as much as of planning and architecture.

    Studies of Northern Ireland since the War have been dominated by politics, and there has been no comprehensive study of this kind into the building industry in Northern Ireland. A wide range of viewpoints was accessed by talking to builders as well as architects, and developers as well as conservationists, while the age range embraces people still in work along with those able to draw on a lifetime of experience.

    There are sections on training and apprenticeships, changing tools and techniques in the drawing office and on site; on housing, which was one of the industry’s most prolific areas of work during the period; on planning and the attempts to control development; on the impact of the Troubles; and finally on the growth of conservation.

    The optimism of the 1950s was followed by concern for what was lost, and a new realisation that conservation may be a major tool in fighting climate change.
    Date of AwardJun 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKaren Davison (Supervisor), Trevor Hyde (Supervisor) & Tanja Poppelreuter (Supervisor)


    • Northern Ireland
    • Building industry
    • Conservation
    • Oral history

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