The White Tower

What is building conservation?

Adrian Phillips, Surveyor of the Fabric, explains what it means for the historic royal palaces.

What is building conservation?

Building conservation is the term we use to describe everything we do as surveyors to ensure the future survival of these six palaces.

Building conservation involves carefully identifying what is most important about the buildings and taking care not only in the preservation of their physical ‘fabric’, but in the wealth of historical information embodied in it. Though the palaces have stood for hundreds of years, the building fabric itself is inherently vulnerable and subject to decay.

Some of this is by natural processes, which cause a constant and inevitable deterioration of the materials over time. But sometimes well-intentioned past repairs have also caused damage. And then there is the continual challenge of hosting millions of visitors who pass through these buildings each year. 

Slowing down decay

As building conservators giving the palaces the care they deserve, we try to slow down this rate of deterioration using a two-pronged approach: constant maintenance and long-term, planned repair.

And, as some of the most important historic buildings in the country, the care required is specialist care, by people who are passionate about what they do. This means using the best traditional skills, materials and techniques and the best modern innovations.

And it means trying to ensure that our interventions respect the patina of age and worthy contributions from the past, use reversible techniques and cause the minimum amount of disturbance to the historic fabric.

Discovering and recording

This is very important. Not everything in these palaces is as it first appears; there are many layers of history waiting to be discovered. The building itself, every brick, every stone, give us clues to the materials, the decorative treatments, the craftsmanship and the alterations that have been made to the buildings over the centuries. So, all our work proceeds on the basis of thorough research and investigation and is meticulously recorded for the benefit of those that follow us.

We are the custodians of these wonderful palaces for only a short time in their history. By learning from the past and from everything we do, we hope to secure their future and to hand them on in better condition than that which we inherited them.

Find out more 

Ask the conservators

Ask the conservatorsLook for our conservators around the palaces wearing ‘Ask the Conservators’ badges. They’ll be happy to tell you about what they’re doing to conserve the palaces’ collections and to answer your questions.

Contact us

Want to know more about our buildings conservation work? Write to us with your questions and comments at:

Surveyor of the Fabric
Historic Royal Palaces
Apartment 21
Hampton Court Palace
Surrey KT8 9AU

Supporting us

Palace upkeep is expensive work and as an independent charity we receive no funding from the Government or the Crown. We depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors.

Become a member, donor or volunteer

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