Apprentice Sam joins the dots in his career

Archaeology graduate, Sam Pointer, is an apprentice with Canal & River Trust. He's finding his knowledge of history is improving while he is ‘joining the dots’ in his career.

Sam, on left, teaches bricklaying at Seend Open Day Sam, on left, teaches bricklaying at Seend Open Day

Having dug up and explored ruined buildings through my archaeology work, I leapt at the chance to take an apprenticeship with the Trust. It seemed logical to move to a charity that is looking after historical structures. I wanted to learn the skills that prevent canal heritage from similarly falling into ruin.

I joined the Trust as a Heritage Lottery Funded heritage trainee and attained a Level 2 Qualification in Heritage Conservation. I worked with the direct services team working on the Grand Union Canal and North Oxford Canals, and the Northampton Arm (Grand Union) out of Braunston.

Georgian techniques

For my stonemasonry apprenticeship, I moved onto the Kennet & Avon and Bridgwater & Taunton Canals to work with more experienced craftsmen and learn how to repair brick and stonework.

Applying the same techniques that would have been used by the Georgian stonemasons, I cut and shaped the quoin stones for lock gates, replaced old coping stones, and renewed the brickwork.

I used traditional materials to rebuild the parapet walls of Bridge 99 near Crofton Pumping Station, working with the Heritage Heroes Project. We used specially commissioned bricks and lime mortar.

Firm eye on history

Joining up the next ‘dot’ in my history-based career is my move to the Milton Keynes office where I am working with the heritage team for six months.

Keeping a firm eye on history, I will be assessing requests for repair work put forward by our engineers. I will make sure there won’t be any adverse effects on heritage structures and that the correct materials and techniques are used. I will also be negotiating listed building consent and answering questions from the public.

Sam enjoys a brew aboard his boat

When I took up the apprenticeship I bought a boat. I thought I might get tired of living and working on the canals, but not a bit of it - I enjoy life on board. I like the changing scenery outside our front door and I like the way that the towpath becomes part of our dwelling in the summer, but in winter we can be really cosy indoors.

Moving my boat from peaceful Devizes Wharf to the bustling Grand Union Canal in Milton Keynes was quite an adventure.

Last date edited: 9 April 2019