We persuaded Florence Salberter away from her restoration planning documents and brick samples to tell us about her job as one of the Trust’s heritage advisors. “The sight of a historic boat expertly manoeuvred into a lock is still special for me.” Interview: Abigail Whyte
What the job involves
I go out on site visits, discuss projects, check brick samples and comment on planning applications. Sometimes we discover historic nuggets. We found a boundary marker on the back of the towpath on the Hertford Lock on the Lee Navigation last week. It was up by the top gates and we’re now looking for a second one. One of our local historians has found a drawing in the London Metropolitan Archives which suggests there could be a second one buried by the bottom gates.
The view from the window
Our building is right by a lock entrance on the mouth of the Thames and from my window I can see the water levels fluctuate throughout the day and sometimes a cormorant swooping down to catch a fish. We also get some impressive boats sailing past – on my first day the Belgian navy came in to dock.
My one-year apprenticeship in stone masonry was a useful experience
I also did two master's degrees – one in the history of art and archaeology and the other in building conservation. This combination of technical and practical knowledge and application of legislation is extremely useful.
It’s important to preserve our heritage
The legacy we've inherited from our ancestors is part of our cultural heritage and preserving it is important in defining who we are. Britain attracts millions of visitors every year and heritage is undoubtedly one of the main draws for these visitors. That doesn't mean I think nothing should change and we should all live in the past, but it's important to understand the value of what we've inherited and preserve this for future generations.
The waterways are peppered with surprises. It might be a cluster of buildings or a curve of waterway with a beautiful backdrop. The sight of a historic boat expertly manoeuvred into a lock is still special for me. I also enjoy urban environments like Camden Lock; places where our industrial past supports today's communities.
What would I call a narrowboat if I had one? No idea! And that's not the name I'd give the boat, by the way. I think I could only decide that once I'd seen it, and it might already have a historic name associated with it.
Finish the sentence: "I have never…"
My granddad always told me to never say never.
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