Wednesday, 31 October 2012



Stowe House and Landscape, Buckinghamshire

Last year we instituted a special award for outstanding achievement in the conservation sphere. We were unanimous in conferring it this year on the restoration of Stowe House and Landscape in Buckinghamshire, a superlative joint effort by the National Trust and, since 1997, the Stowe House Preservation Trust. Important parts of the estate, including the Grand Avenue, came close to being covered in bungalows in the mid twentieth century. From this nadir there has been a stunning resurgence. The house, while functioning throughout as a school – what an education in itself to be a pupil there - has been magnificently restored, the glories of the South Portico, the East Colonnade, the Large Library and the Marble Saloon fully recovered. And around the school, in a landscape laden with coded political symbolism, the original vision, long obscured by inappropriate later additions and infelicitous planting, has been recovered, as the Corinthian Arch and numerous other garden buildings have one by one been restored. What a triumph this has been: to visit now is to see this masterpiece of eighteenth century iconography very much as its makers intended.


JOINT WINNER Boconnoc House, near Lostwithiel, Cornwall Stephen Tyrrell for Anthony and Elizabeth Fortescue.

Boconnoc, designed principally by the first Lord Camelford, was empty for thirty years from 1967, after which it was naturally leaking and riddled with rot, the house has gently revived and renewed by the Fortescues, owners since 1834. An eleven-year programme has seen the roof and joists replaced and the drawing room, library, dining room and King’s bedroom restored. The eighteenth century paint scheme has been reinstated. But the pièce de résistance is the rescue of the dramatic double staircase that Soane inserted in a tower of 1250. Here, water damage has been repaired and the discoloured varnish painstakingly removed with cotton wool swabs to reveal the grisaille in all its original crispness.

JOINT WINNER Eastnor Castle, near Ledbury, Herefordshire Caroe and Partners for James Hervey Bathurst. 

Eastnor was finished two hundred years ago exactly, on which anniversary a lengthy restoration started by his parents has been completed by the present owner, James Hervey-Bathurst. Externally, the roof has been replaced and the fabric made good where necessary. Internally, the principal rooms have been superbly re-presented and the value of the project consists principally in the meticulousness with which the dulled and partly denuded interiors have been brought back to life with appropriate furnishings. Tapestries, paintings and furniture have been repaired and restored, even reacquired where lost, and a Puginesque carpet woven for the Gothic drawing room. It has been an impressive holistic endeavour, born of an understanding that the spirit of country houses lies not in their fabric only but in their contents.

COMMENDED Chideock Manor, near Bridport, Dorset Mr and Mrs Howard Coates; library by Andrew Stone.

Regency Chideock was elatively recently acquired by Howard and Deidre Coates, who have breathed life into a tired house and landscape, unifying the two with ambitious works that allow the house – not scrubbed clean, still lichen-flecked - to be viewed from a new serpentine drive across a freshly-dredged lake. That view, and indeed the house, have been transformed by a fine new classical library extension by Andrew Stone on the site of a demolished Edwardian wing. As a result, a gaunt and scarred end elevation has been resolved and an unbalanced composition brought back into equilibrium, the extension answering a need to respond to the Romanesque church on the other flank, where the Catholic Chideock Martyrs hid and practised. Mrs Coates, an accomplished gardener, has revivified the grounds with a new box garden and allée.


WINNER 16 Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW1 For Mr Troels Holch Povlsen.

One of several large London townhouses recently converted back from office to single residential use, but few have been carried off with such subtlety and sensitivity as this one, exquisitely restored, redecorated and refurnished by the present owner. Of course the office paraphernalia of suspended ceilings, stud partitions and ubiquitous lino have been swept away, but instead of the plutocratic brashness, even kitschiness, that we sometimes see in their place we have here the antithesis: a deeply considered approach exhibiting faultless taste. A sober sculpture gallery is about to be reborn, so fitting for a house next door to Charles Townley’s, whose collection of marbles was bought by the British Museum in 1805; and in the back garden the owner plans an aviary on Birdcage Walk.

COMMENDED 12 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2 Julian Harrap for the Soane Museum.

    One of the trio of buildings occupied by the Soane Museum and Soane’s first family house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, now  meticulously restored using Soane’s 1793 plans and decorative specification, evident in the striking Pompeian Red walls, Harewood grained joinery and sky-effect ceiling in the Withdrawing Room. The full-height cantilvered stair has been returned to its original form, with unsightly propping removed. The attention to detail, quality of the work and authenticity of the restoration are immediately evident, but it is also a practical project, finding room for a conservation studio and a shop, and an inventive one, with imaginative flourishes such as the lift behind a trompe l’oeil bookcase and an unobtrusive disabled lift in the front lightwell that is a model of its kind.

COMMENDED 210-212 Sharrow Vale Road, Sheffield, Yorkshire By and for Andrew Whitham.

A run of three 1810 snuff workers’ cottages, two of them built as back-to-backs, that adjoin the oldest snuff mill in the world, dating from 1740. Snuff is still made locally. This decrepit trio, unlisted, was on the market as a development opportunity but was saved from demolition by Andrew Whitham and, as part of the process, was spotlisted Grade II. Now, conservatively restored, it serves as single dwelling that retains its original plan form and hierarchical joinery. The gardens too have been restored to their nineteenth century layout. A building at risk, redolent of local industrial history, has thus been rescued from the brink of ruin.


WINNER Roehampton House, London SW15
Giles Quarme for the St James Group.

Roehampton House in south-west London has all the intrinsic grandeur you would expect of a marriage of Archer and Lutyens, but this had been badly injured by the casual barbarities inflicted during its long spell as a hospital in the twentieth century. The iron law of institutional use is that rubbish accumulates in and around historic buildings: sheds, portakabins, car parks, all manner of accretive overlay that obscures what is finest in the architecture and setting. Added to that, massive RSJs had been inserted in the 1970s to increase floor loading capacity. All this has now been expertly unpicked: proper proportions rediscovered, panelling restored and reinstated, car parks turned into gardens. The eighteenth century house, once an apologetic side-show, is now triumphantly centre-stage and serves once more as a grand place to live.

COMMENDED Wem Mill, Wem, Shropshire AP Architecture for Guild Homes.

An early nineteenth century mill, formerly disused and at risk and now also converted to apartments. Its recent history is the usual post-industrial tale of disuse, decay and dereliction, not confined to the north but also evident in southerly counties where housing shortages are most acute. It makes perfect sense, as here, to solve both problems together by converting mills, with their large, open-plan internal volumes, to reasonably high-density housing. On brownfield sites such as this, where demolition is often the preferred option, surviving historic buildings can provide an anchor, a fixed point that roots a new housing development in its historic context.


WINNER St Peter and St Paul, Cherry Willingham, Lincolnshire Christopher Mackinstosh-Smith for Cherry Willingham Parochial Church Council

St Peter and St Paul, in a village just east of Lincoln, is a charming small church of 1753 that caught the eye of Pevsner. Conservative restoration, to which we at the Georgian Group made a small financial contribution through our Cleary Fund, has involved removal of wet and dry rot, repair and releading of the roof and replacement of the cupola. The previous cupola, riddled with rot and patched up with plywood in the 1960s, has made way for one in oak topped with a lead ogee cap and regilded weathervane. Small is indeed beautiful, and this scheme stops just where it needs to stop. We are confronted weekly by schemes for country churches that entail over-sized extensions and the removal of fittings, including Georgian box pews. It is a depressing litany, and one year perhaps we will give this award to parishioners who have sensibly decided to resist the temptation and leave well alone. But in the meantime genuine needs arise as fabric deteriorates; this scheme addresses them proportionately and well.


WINNER Kensington Palace, London (gardens) Todd Longstaffe-Gowan for Historic Royal Palaces.

The view from the Palace towards the Round Pound before (left) and after
Todd Longstaffe-Gowan has transformed the relationship between the Palace and the park to which it historically belongs but from which it has long been divorced by virtue of clutter and bad planting. For too many years it has been lurking half-apologetically behind surburban shrubberies, the great Bridgeman axes of the eighteenth century petering out in a confused mess of benches, dustbins, security railings and scrappy hedges. The bathos was palpable. Now the defensiveness has gone, the proper historic relationship has been restored and the mousehole entrance to the Palace has been given due status by a delicate freestanding loggia by John Simpson.

COMMENDED Old Alresford House, Old Alresford, Hampshire Colvin and Moggridge for Michael Hall.

The owner Michael Hall has restored and completed Richard Woods’ 1764 design for the pleasure grounds. It is a compelling tale, to some extent a detective story: the rediscovery of the original Woods drawing, painstaking research, the re-routing of the ha-ha back along its original path, the sourcing of contemporary plants, the shifting of shrubberies to the alignment intended by Woods, the reintroduction of livestock; and the finishing of a project abandoned by Admiral Rodney, Woods’ client, in 1768 when he fled to France to escape his creditors. The result is a fine tableau vivant, authentic to a degree; and as misjudgements and errors from the twentieth century are corrected, the whole composition, and the relationship between house and estate, begins once more to make sense.

COMMENDED Stanford Hall, near Lutterworth, Leicestershire Donald Insall Associates for Nicholas Fothergill.

The restored Charles I Bridge at Stanford
Nicholas Fothergill, whose family have owned Stanford since 1540, has overseen substantial works, in association with Natural England, that have the triple objectives of nature, landscape and building conservation. Ponds have been dredged, hedgerows laid, a new wood planted, existing woods coppiced and several miles of traditional fencing installed. Listed park structures have been repaired using traditional materials and methods. The Charles I bridge, partly collapsed, has been rebuilt using Lias stone, the galvanised roof of the deer hut replaced with thatch and the gates and iron railings repaired to such exacting ecological standards that colonies of lichen on the metal were left undisturbed.


WINNER The Obelisk, Tusmore Park, Oxfordshire
Andrew Lockwood of Whitfield Lockwood for Mr and Mrs Wafic Said.

This is celebratory architecture, commemorating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Ninety feet high, in limestone on an ashlar plinth, the obelisk stands one mile from house, to which we awarded this prize in 2004, and stands in the grand tradition of monumental eyecatchers. This is a compelling expression of confidence by a client in the mould of eighteenth century patrons: a creator of wonders in a pedestrian climate where too few wonders exist. The obelisk is carefully designed and scaled to be seen from a distance but also bears the closest scrutiny. The detailing is exquisite, not least in the gilded cap, the Corinthian pedestal and the delicately-carved life-size eagles, holding garlands in their talons, that call to mind those on Trajan’s column in Rome.
COMMENDED Newham, Lostwithiel, Cornwall Russell Taylor Architects for Mr and Mrs H Staunton.

An impressive essay in restrained classicism. Though relatively small, the house is coolly monumental. There is no redundant frippery or ostentation here: the columns, where they appear, are monolithic, almost primitive, in a way wholly appropriate to the material and context. Throughout there is a sense of thoughtfulness and serious attention to detail, evident in the rough, hand-punched granite gate piers and lintels, the depth of the reveals and the subtle entasis of the columns in the hall. Deeply tactile and textured, Newham rises from the landscape almost literally, being built very largely from Cornish materials: the granite is from the De Lank quarry, fifteen miles away, roofing slate is from the Trevillick quarry, rubblestone walling from the North Cornish coast and slate paving from Delabole, twenty miles away. Unsurprisingly, the house sits entirely comfortably on its site.


WINNER New bath house and extension, Williamstrip, Coln St Aldwyns, Gloucestershire
Craig Hamilton for Mr and Mrs John Kennedy

The new extension
Entrance to the new bath house
The extension remedies the muddle that existed on the south side of the house, rationalising the entrance courtyard and providing an impressive double-height hall with a Corinthian screen partly composed of columns in Kilkenny marble. The effect on the east elevation of the house is transformative, with the dinginess swept away and a subsidiary elevation added in the form of a beautifully composed, rigorous pavilion with a clear logic of its own. Across from this, in a garden setting, is a monumental new bath house, devoted to the pursuit of relaxation but deeply serious and robust as a piece of architecture. This is a powerful statement, impressive in the conviction with which it expresses its apparent message: mens sana in corpore sano. 

COMMENDED The Orangery, Sledmere House, Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire Francis Johnson and Partners for Sir Tatton Sykes.

Sir John Soane's Orangery stood at Fairford Park in Gloucestershire until Fairford was demolished in 1957, at which point the National Trust dismantled the façade and sanctioned its removal to Sledmere. Its numbered blocks have since been carefully stored at Sledmere, awaiting reconstruction. In a project instigated by Sir Tatton Sykes, this has now happened, the original façade now married to a fine new garden building by Digby Harris of Francis Johnson Architects, its coved ceiling enlivened by intricate plasterwork by Stevenson’s of Norwich. The Bath stone of the orangery tones remarkably well with the Mansfield stone of Sledmere; it is a happy and harmonious conjunction.

No comments:

Post a Comment