The Building Conservation Directory 2023

7 C AT H E D R A L C O M M U N I C AT I O N S T H E B U I L D I N G C O N S E R VAT I O N D I R E C T O R Y 2 0 2 3 | C E L E B R AT I N G 3 0 Y E A R S The BuildingConservation Directory at 30 The world has certainly changed dramatically since 1993 when Cathedral Communications first launched The Building Conservation Directory. At the risk of seeming a little self-indulgent, we thought 30 years later would be an interesting point on our journey to take stock. In the early 1990s there was very little information available for people seeking to repair and conserve their historic buildings. The internet had only just been born and the best sources of information were often very expensive and inaccessible publications. Building Conservation Directory editor Jonathan Taylor explains, ‘Back then only the very oldest and most precious buildings were likely to receive the attention of conservation specialists, and work on more ordinary listed buildings was generally entrusted to people with little knowledge and no specialist skills, often using the wrong materials. The disastrous results were visible everywhere.’ Cathedral Communications was established by four friends with the aim of addressing this problem. Gordon Sorensen, Liz Coyle-Camp and Lisa Oestreicher had met at university in Canada and now lived in London. Gordon was a chartered accountant who had transferred in from Price Waterhouse in Toronto to its London office. Liz was working in public relations, and Lisa was a conservation officer for Westminster City Council who had recently married the fourth member of the group, Jonathan Taylor, a conservation officer at Kensington & Chelsea. It was over dinner in Brixton that the idea for The Building Conservation Directory emerged. The aim was to produce a free annual publication packed with essential information for conservation work which would be sent to everyone responsible for specifying or commissioning work to old buildings in the UK. Liz, who was instrumental in the early days in getting the message out says, ‘We had quite a magical mix of skills to make it work. From his business experience Gordon understood how the free-press worked and he was confident that a free-distribution of 10,000 copies would be sufficient to attract enough advertisers to ensure viability in this specialised market. From their experience in conservation, Jonathan and Lisa were sure that the publication was necessary – at least two thirds of the recipients would have had little or no training in conservation, and many would have been unaware that they needed any.’ ‘At the time, during the recession of 1990–93, Jonathan and Lisa had bought a terraced house in Clapham which had been nearly ruined by the previous owners, with stone cladding and dry rot. When they refurbished the house sympathetically its value increased by almost 25 per cent. We realised that most people weren’t aware of the potential value uplift gained by sympathetically restoring a property and that to do it properly you need to know about using the right products and services, and where to find them. With that incentive alone, we could advance the protection of owner-occupied historic buildings, and all other historic buildings would benefit at the same time.’ The need for the publication was clear and it was hoped the economic model was viable – worth the risk at least. While Gordon resigned from Price Waterhouse to set up the day-to-day running of the publishing