Limestone and Lime Building Techniques in Puglia, Italy

Former gateway at Mangiamuso (D. Ellsmore photo)

Report on APT Australasia Chapter members’ investigation of limestone and lime building techniques in Puglia, Italy

In late October 2018, a group of Australian and New Zealand members met in Ostuni, Puglia, to immerse in the traditional building culture of lime and limestone that are quintessential features of cultural places in southern Italy. The area is dominated by vast expanses of ancient olive groves punctuated with white limestone hill towns, masserie (fortified farm houses) and trulli (conical-roofed structures).

Lime and limestone were the theme of the week-long immersion program, which was facilitated by Peter Lewis (paint manufacturer and owner of the masseria ‘Mangiamuso’ near Ostuni), his architect Aldo Flore (Ostuni-based architectural conservation specialist), other specialists, property owners and lime manufacturers.

On day one, the group was introduced to the main site of the study program, Mangiamuso, which was nearing completion of works to adapt it for occupation by the Lewis family. The sensitive conservation program, designed by Aldo Flore, has converted the place into a very tasteful and comfortable home, without diminishing the historic character of the 300-year-old masseria or substantial parts of the property, including two below-ground frantoii (olive mills), which remain untouched by the makeover.

Grouting limestone paving at Mangiamuso (D. Ellsmore photo)

On day two, Paolo Albergoni, co-owner of the impressive masseria, ‘Garzia’, gave the group detailed historic information about the history of masserie in Puglia. We learnt about the historical circumstances leading to the common practice of locating all the olive oil processes and product below ground for security. Subsequent changes in agricultural practices led to developments of outlying barns, dairies and other structures, and the conversion of many of the below-ground former oil processing and oil storage areas for other uses. Now, hardly any of the masserie continue to function in the traditional manner. Many have been converted for tourism or as residences for wealthy owners.

Paolo Albergoni reveals the underground oil storage vats at Masseria Garzia (D. Ellsmore photo)

On day three, Aldo Flore led the group to a small lime production plant at Caravigno, where limestone is calcined in a traditional bottle kiln fuelled with wood products including plywood and chipboard, mostly recovered from demolition sites.

Inspection of lime calcining in bottle kiln at Caravigno (D. Ellsmore photo)

The freshly burnt quicklime is fed into a rotary drum slaking tank from which putty is dumped into large settling tanks, where it remains until it is milled and bagged for sale in a range of putties and mortars for masonry and plaster works.

Mortar mill blending lime and crushed limestone aggregate to produce fine mortar (D. Ellsmore photo)

From Caravigno, we travelled to a more extensive lime production plant at Fasano, where waste wood from wood-working processes at the site is the source of fuel for four bottle kilns. The processes are the same as at Caravigno, though on a larger scale and with further post-production of specialist products including lime paints and decorative finishing material such as cocciopesto (lime with fine-ground terra cotta).

Bottle kilns at Calce Viva, Fasano (K. Horrigan photo)

Rotary slaking at Calce Viva, Fasano (D. Ellsmore photo)

After visiting the lime works at Caravigno and Fasano, we inspected a trulli conservation project with Aldo Flore near Locorotondo. Here it was enlightening to obtain first-hand details of how the traditional cone-shaped structures – which were entirely basic and primitive at the time of their construction – are being adapted to address the architectural challenges of climatic control, damp management and seismic stabilisation. Aldo has managed many similar issues in Puglia and has emerged with specialised knowledge of the building type and adaptation and re-use.

Seismic stabilisation with reinforced concrete ring beams at trullo conservation site, near Fasano (D. Ellsmore photo)

Aldo Flore discusses traditional water collection, storage and management at trullo (D. Ellsmore photo)

The renowned food and wine of Puglia featured in the group’s next stop where a superb late lunch was served by chef Stefano and his infamously grumpy cameriere at Osteria del Cocopazza (pazza means crazy in Italian) in the centro storico of the hill town of Martina Franca. Time was limited for an extensive walking tour of the historic centre but good memories of the gorgeous historic city will re-surface again when memories of the lunch eventually settle!

On day four, the group got seriously into trulli and more food at Casa Cilona, near Ceglie Messapica with Puglia-based American architect Amanda Roelle, who provides educational programs on trulli, and host/chef Tonino. Amanda led the group on a walking tour of a collection of abandoned, though largely intact, trulli in a gorgeous bucolic landscape at Pascarosa.

Amanda Roelle at abandoned trullo monastery near Pascarosa (D. Ellsmore photo)

After pranzo (lunch) it was down to work with Mario the trullaro (trulli builder), shaping and laying chianche (stone shingles) to construct a cono (conical roof).

Participants in the trullo workshop at Casa Cilona shaping and laying chianche (D. Ellsmore photo)

Specialist trullaro Mario at the trullo workshop at Casa Cilona (D. Ellsmore photo)

At the end of the day Amanda made a more formal illustrated presentation on the typology and construction details, followed by a memorable meal.

Amanda and host (tonino (centre) with group after dinner at Casa Cilona (K. Horrigan photo)

On day five, the group travelled to Matera the remarkable historic city of ‘Sassi’ (ancient quarters) built into a rugged gorge, in the adjoining province of Basilicata. Sadly the place was densely packed with visitors on the day, a public holiday, and it became difficult and uncomfortable to navigate around the site. Our guide, Dora, provided a very informative tour of the ancient city, explaining the history, decline, shame, recovery, gentrification and tourism appeal. However, the crowding and lack of easy access to important features compromised the experience. A year ago the experience was different: the place was tranquil. Since then, efforts to promote the World Heritage listed place, including selecting it as European Cultural City of 2019, have tipped the balance towards tourism exploitation. Even so, Matera was and is a special place to visit.

On day six, we travelled to Alberobello, also World Heritage listed, containing a high concentration of trulli. The experience was slightly more relaxed than Matera and highly rewarding, but Alberobello also is labouring under the weight of visitors and there were lots of them on that holiday weekend. The nearby gorgeous small hill town of Locorotondo, featuring a concentration of commerse (barrel vaulted limestone terraces with chianche roof coverings) was also bulging at the seams due to the holiday visitors. Our visit there was truncated by the complications of holiday traffic.

Group at dinner on last night in Ostuni (K. Horrigan photo)

Group at dinner on last night in Ostuni, October 2018. (K. Horrigan photo)

At the end of the week, the group dispersed to other parts of Italy (Lecce, Naples, Rome and Sicily) to continue their Italian experiences, or on to other destinations (USA, Germany and Thailand) and home (Australia and New Zealand).

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Longford Masterclasses – Spring 2018

Masterclasses at Longford
Masonry and Mortars, Wood Carpentry, and Roofing Repair Methods

27 Aug – 1 Sept 2018 

The Longford Academy Masterclasses are collaborative learning activities led by experienced APT specialist practitioner educators. Participants work on conservation tasks under direction and engage in practical and theoretical activities, which may include information sessions, discussions, inspections, investigations, recording and group activities.

Masonry and Mortars

The 2018 Spring Masterclass in Masonry and Lime Mortar Repair Methods is presented at Woolmers and Brickendon Estates, Longford, Tasmania (World Heritage inscribed) by heritage conservation specialists, David Young and the Longford Academy team. David Young is a conservation practitioner, educator and author of technical publications on the conservation of masonry. His recent work includes investigations of lime in mortars and plasters and their application in the repair and conservation of traditional buildings.

Wood carpentry and joinery

The 2018 Spring Masterclass in Carpentry and Joinery conservation techniques is presented at Woolmers Estate, Longford, Tasmania by Gary Waller and specialists from Allways Wood Joinery, NSW. Gary Waller is a conservation specialist contractor and joiner; Managing Director of G&C Waller Builders and operator of a heritage joinery shop at Sutherland (AllWays Wood Joinery) employing a specialist team of joiners using traditional belt-driven machinery and modern equipment to reproduce high quality new work conservation of significant heritage building fabric.

Roofing and Roof Plumbing

The 2018 Spring Masterclass in Roofing and Roof Plumbing conservation techniques is presented at Brickendon Estate, Longford, by Greg Owen, a maintenance engineer, licensed plumber, conservation specialist contractor and managing director of Period Building Conservation, Stanley, Victoria. He is an expert in traditional roofing and conservation of traditional structures including iron and galvanized steel roofing.

Masterclasses and Workshop

The three Masterclasses run in parallel over 6 consecutive days. The program includes a one-day workshop on Saturday 1 September on Conservation Repair Methods, which is open to additional participants.

Participation Fees

A participation fee of $800 ($700 APT members) covers materials, site costs, refreshments and lunches. The participation fee includes the one-day conservation workshop on 1 September.


B&B accommodation is available on-site at Woolmers Estate (tel: 03 6391 2230),  Brickendon Estate (tel: 03 6391 1383) and nearby Racecourse Inn (tel: 03 6391 2352). Telephone direct for APT rates.

To register

  1. Please download the Longford Academy Spring 2018 information flyer
  2. Please email application to APT Australia Chapter convenor
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LA9 – May 2018

4 Woolmers_repointing kerb of fountain_A Mitchell_15 May 2018_IMG_2137

Repointing sandstone kerb of Woolmers fountain, May 2018, A Mitchell photo.

Longford Academy, May 2018

The ninth annual APT Australasia Chapter Longford Academy was held at the World Heritage inscribed Woolmers and Brickendon Estates on 7-12 May 2018. The group of 25 participants included builders, tradespersons, materials conservators, architects, engineers, archaeologists, curators and others actively involved in conservation works and heritage management. The focus of this year’s activities was the c.1840s walled garden area of Woolmers Homestead, including two garden pavilions and the central fountain. At Brickendon the open cart shed was the subject of a structural and conservation analysis.

Activities included investigations (smoking pavilion, fountain and Brickendon cart shed) and works (fountain and stone kerb, garden pavilion and Coalbrookdale bench seat).

8 Rainwater head fabrication at Brickendon, may 2018, A. Mitchell photo

Fabrication of rainwater head at Brickendon, May 2018, A Mitchell photo.

Formal one-day workshops on lime mortars and roofing were also built into the six-day program. These were attended by builders from the Tasmanian Independent Builders Association and Port Arthur Historic site. David Young presented a workshop on lime in conservation works and Greg Owens presented a workshop on the conservation of roofing, leading an inspection and discussion of the material construction and significance of the significant early roofs at Brickendon Estate. He also conducted hands-on demonstrations of crafting traditional galvanised steel rainwater goods.

1 Woolmers_resitance drilling base plate of smokers pavilion_A Mitchell_7 May 2018_IMG_5073

Investigation and impact drilling of timber base of Woolmers smokers pavilion, May 2018, A Mitchell photo.

Smokers Pavilion

This building was found to be in poorer condition than it appears externally, with questions raised about latent structural conditions, including the sub-floor. The building was subjected to a detailed analysis and discussion of appropriate approaches and methodologies to address its repair and conservation. This analysis is informing further investigative work and conservation repair to be undertaken in June.

2 Woolmers_reconstrun=ction roof cladding on garden pavilion_A Mitchell_10 May 2018_IMG_5281

Reconstruction of roof cladding on Woolmers garden pavilion, May 2018, A Mitchell photo.

Garden Pavilion

The failed roof cladding was removed from the garden pavilion to expose and treat the roof timbers in preparation for the introduction of new matching roof cladding.

The lower part of the structure was found to be very fragile, needing a gentle touch to stabilise the weathered cladding and flooring. Again, detailed analysis and debate by participants over approaches to the repair of this fabric is informing further necessary conservation works.

3 Woolmers_surface cleaning fountain_A Mitchell_7 May 2018_IMG_5064

Cleaning of Woolmers cast iron fountain, May 2018, A Mitchell photo.


The mid nineteenth-century cast iron fountain was hand cleaned and coated with penetrating oil in preparation for re-coating. Perforations in the bowl and some extreme corrosion were considered to be suitable to be safely re-painted without further intervention.

The new paint coating system will replicate the traditional faux bronze paint finish. Paint sampling revealed the bronze green base layers of the originally specified faux bronze finish.

The sandstone kerb was re-pointed with a lime and fine sand pointing mix following hand-removal of the old decayed pointing.

5 Woolmers Coalbrookdale Seat_A Mitchell_6 May 2018_IMG_4893

Coalbrookdale garden bench seat at Woolmers, prior to work, May 2018, A Mitchell photo.

Coalbrookdale seat

The c.1860s bench seat was disassembled and the cast iron partly stripped by means of an alkaline paint removal poultice. Paint sampling revealed evidence of the same faux bronze finish. It will be reconstructed with new pine slats and re-painted in the coming months.

Brickendon Cart Shed

The open-sided cart shed at Brickendon was examined by a multi-disciplinary group and a report with recommended actions provided for consideration. There is evidence to suggest that the structure is probably an early estate building but heavily modified to accommodate changing needs uses. It requires substantial works to stabilise the structure.

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Hot lime slaking at Woolmers, May 2018, A Mitchell photo.

General Roofing and Masonry Works

In parallel with the works described above groups worked at Woolmers on the preparation of lime repair mortars and at Brickendon examining roofing in preparation for works to be undertaken during the masterclasses at Longford in Spring 2018.

7 Woolmers_repointing woodshed_A Mitchell_9 May 2018_IMG_5142

Re-pointing end wall of Woolmers wood shed, May 2018, A Mitchell photo.

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Longford Academy 9 held May 2018

Just a quick note to say that first reports from Longford Academy 9 held last week have now been sighted on social media …

… Richard Senior via LinkedIn

… Stephen Booker via Facebook

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Longford Academy 9 open for registration

Investigation and repair of significant building fabric
Monday 7 May to Saturday 12 May 2018

The ‘Longford Academy’ is a 6-day program in conservation of traditional structures and building fabric, held at World Heritage inscribed Woolmers and Brickendon Estates, Longford, Tasmania.


Learning opportunities

  • Understand environmental impacts, deterioration and how to deal with complex challenges
  • Investigate significant building fabric, structures and sites
  • Learn how to obtain sustainable conservation outcomes
  • Share knowledge and experience with conservation practitioners
  • Participate in hands-on activities with experienced practitioners
  • Relax and learn in an outstanding cultural landscape


APT presenters have extensive experience in conservation and education. Heritage conservation specialists demonstrate techniques and lead hands-on activities at selected sites in the field.


Activities include inspections, workshops, demonstrations and direct involvement in conservation works across both sites.  Please note that practical works will continue on Monday 14 & Tuesday 15 May. Participants are invited to continue learning by participating in works on these days at no additional cost.


One day workshops will be held on Wed 9 May and Sat 12 May.

Lime and Mortars

In the lime and mortars workshop on 9 May, the following topics will be covered in presentations, demonstrations and practical activities.

  • Examining and evaluating condition of mortars and plasters
  • Understanding limes – types, properties, preparation, which one do I choose?
  • Sands – what makes a good sand? Blending sands
  • Mortar mixes – mix ratios, additives, preparation and storage
  • Approach to repair – extent, selection of mixes, surface preparation, curing lime mortars and dealing with salts
  • Doing it – desalinating, repointing mortar joints, repairing lath and plaster, and roughcast plastering (harling)
  • Selection and application of lime finishes

Roofing and Metalwork

In the metalwork and roofing workshop on 12 May, the following topics will be covered in presentations, demonstrations and practical activities.

  • Evaluating condition of roofs, cladding, rainwater goods and metal building components
  • Documenting and recording roof structures and fabric
  • Understanding corrosion and deterioration processes
  • Understanding traditional and new conservation options
  • Approach to repair – extent, selection of materials and techniques
  • Australian nails and iron fastenings
  • Paint removal, corrosion management and paint coatings
  • Doing it – making, repairing, installing and finishing significant heritage fabric

Participation Fees

The full Longford Academy 9 is available for a participation fee of $750 ($600 APT members), which covers materials, site costs, refreshments and lunches. This participation fee includes both of the structured face-to-face workshops on day 3 (Wed 9 May) and day 6 (Sat 12 May).

Attendance at only the Lime and Mortars Workshop (9 May) or the Roofing and Metalwork Workshop (12 May) is available for a fee of $250 (APT members $200) for each workshop, which includes morning tea and lunch.


B&B accommodation is available on-site at Woolmers Estate and Brickendon Estate. Bookings direct to Woolmers and Brickendon.

Enquiries and Registration

Download LA9 Registration form.

Download lime and mortars workshop 9 May

Download roofing and metalwork workshop 12 May 2018

For enquiries and registration please email the convenor.

Closing date for registrations: 16 April 2018

THE ‘LONGFORD ACADEMY’ IS A CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE IN CONSERVATION SPONSORED BY THE PARTICIPANTS.  It is an initiative of the APT Australasia Chapter, and supported by Woolmers Estate, Brickendon, the National Trust of Australia (Tasmania) and Heritage Tasmania.

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LA Spring Workshop – 2 Sept 2017

LA render removal

Removal of hard cementitious render from old brickwork

In conjunction with the 2017 Longford Academy Spring Masterclass, the APT Australasia Chapter is pleased to announce a one-day workshop at Woolmers Estate on Saturday 2 September 2017.  This workshop will provide an opportunity for property owners and managers, and all those involved with the maintenance of traditional buildings, to learn about sustainable conservation procedures for windows, woodwork, masonry walls and applied finishes.

For further details, including how to register, download this information flyer.

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Longford Academy 2017 Spring Program

Woolmers garden gates

The APT Australasia Chapter is pleased to announce the APT Longford Academy Spring Program will again run in 2017.  Masterclasses will be held at Woolmers and Brickendon Estates, Tasmania, from 28 August to 2 September 2017.

Gary Waller will lead a masterclass on carpentry and joinery repair focussing on repairing the ornate pine gates to the walled garden of Woolmers mansion, and sundry related wood repairs.

Michael Bremer-Trainor will lead a masterclass on decorative painting techniques involving wood graining and traditional painting techniques.

David Young will deliver a masterclass on lime mortar repair methods, assisted by Ray Wiltshire and Brian Maxwell.

The APT Longford Spring Masterclasses will be held over six days, and include a focussed workshop on Saturday 2 September.  This workshop will deal with the broader framework of heritage conservation practice and the role of trades specialists in achieving high quality conservation outcomes.

Participants actively involved in the trades of carpentry, joinery, house painting, decorative painting, bricklaying, stonemasonry, plastering and heritage conservation work are encouraged to attend.  Non-trade practitioners who have attended a previous Longford Academy or completed a relevant program elsewhere are also eligible to attend.

For more details, download the 2017 APT Longford Academy Spring Masterclasses information sheet.  Registration information for each masterclass available below:

Carpentry and joinery with Gary Waller
Traditional and decorative painting with Michael Bremer-Trainor
Lime mortar repair methods with David Young

Registrations now open, and will close on 11 August 2017.

We look forward to welcoming you to the APT Longford Academy Spring Program in August/September 2017.  Enquiries regarding the Longford Academy Spring Masterclasses should be directed to the Convenor by email.


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