Thursday, 17 December 2015

2015 Georgian Group Architectural Awards sponsored by Savills: the winners

Click on any image below for a slide show of all the winning and commended projects.

For a photostream of the awards ceremony at the RIBA on 16 December, when His Grace The Duke of Wellington presented the prizes, see

Old Royal Dockyard at Sheerness in Kent (Spitalfields Trust)

We have given this special award only twice before, to Stowe and to Dumfries House, but have no hesitation in giving it this year to the Spitalfields Trust for their extraordinary rescue of the surviving historic quarter of the Old Royal Dockyard at Sheerness. Much of it was lost when the dockyard shut in the late 1960s. What survived the wrecking ball were two fine terraces of 1820s officers’ houses and a church, but these fell into increasing dereliction. One terrace was abandoned except for a single doughty tenant, the church was wrecked by arsonists, the fine gardens were converted to a lorry park and the whole site was bought in 2003 by a property developer who proposed to cover much of it with housing. That would have been the death knell, but the Spitalfields Trust, though extraordinary perseverance, canny negotiation and sheer bloody-mindedness, wrested the site off the developer and are bringing it back to its former glory. It is a work in progress but the future is assured. Astonishingly, the huge Admiral’s house is being restored as a single private residence and the church, once restored, will house Rennie’s gigantic scale model of the dockyard. It is the conservation triumph of the millennium so far and as a very public expression of confidence in a deprived part of north Kent it deserves high praise.

Kilboy, Co Tipperary

This year we institute what we are choosing to call the Diaphoros Prize, from the Greek meaning ‘different‘ and ‘excellent’. It allows us the indulgence of recognising a project outside our normal geographical sphere that has caught our eye in some way, perhaps for its exceptional architecture, its value as an exemplar or its spark of imagination. Our inaugural prize goes to Kilboy, a new country house by Quinlan and Francis Terry Architects for Mr and Mrs Shane Ryan. 

The original house was built during the second half of the 18th Century in a Palladian style to the designs of William Leeson but was demolished in 1952 and replaced with a bungalow. This is a creative restoration, loosely based on the original rather than a direct copy. It also references Palladio’s Villa Rotunda but with an elliptical rather than circular central dome. The front elevation has a double height Doric portico with Gibbsian rusticated window surrounds on the piano nobile. In the spirit of Irish Classicism, the principal rooms have sumptuous Rococo style ceilings which echo the work of the Francini brothers who worked extensively in Ireland during the 18th Century. For sheer breadth of vision, attention to detail, quality of execution, architectural power and dramatic set-pieces, such as the inner stair hall with its coved plasterwork ceiling, Kilboy is a phenomenal achievement. It is indeed excellent and different, and we are delighted to make it the very first winner of the Diaphoros Prize.



Shanks House, Somerset demonstrates that the best restoration is not always visually dramatic. Sometimes the finest work is the most discreet. Here we have a 17th century core with an early eighteenth century five-bay house attached. By the time it came onto the market in 2010, for the first time since the 1950s, the grander parts were abandoned and shuttered up. The risk is always that a new broom will sweep too clean, purging a place of its atmosphere, but the brilliance here is the economy and lightness of touch, improving the landscape setting, sensitively converting outbuildings and revivifying the house without disturbing its genius loci. Thatch has been restored to the stables, the kitchen restored to its eighteenth century location and the house repaired and replanned with intelligence and verve. (Ptolemy Dean Architects for Mrs and Mrs Roland Rudd)


Cholderton House, Wiltshire In a year in which Clandon has been reduced to a shell by fire, it is worth remembering that convincing and intellectually respectable resurrection is possible. Cholderton, a late seventeeth century house with a substantial Georgian remodelling, is a phoenix that has risen from the ashes. An intense fire in 2012 left only the four walls and a central spine wall standing. Unlike Clandon, the house was not well-documented, but armed with such photographs as existed and clear direction from the client, Donald Insall Associates have restored the ground and first floors as faithfully as possible. Some material was salvaged and some improvements were made, for example replacing 1980s standard bricks with red rubbed bricks.  Joinery and cornices were recreated from photographic evidence. The result is an intelligent, sensitive restoration. (Donald Insall Associates for the Executors of the Late Mrs Mary Cornelius-Reid)


Darsham House in Suffolk A 17th/18th century blend, Darsham epitomises the ‘coaxing back to life’ approach. It had suffered neglect and poor quality alterations, some of them unauthorised. Nine enforcement notices were inherited by the present owners when they bought the house. With Nicholas Jacob Architects they have unpicked intrusive modern repairs, modified some of the more intrusive alterations and restored appropriate detailing. The result has been to enhance and reveal the building’s character – and associated research and recording mean that its historical development is now far better understood. (Nicholas Jacob Architects for Edgar Laguinia and Glenn Brown)        


PRIVATE APARTMENTS, SIR JOHN SOANE’S MUSEUM Even those familiar with its treasures will be astonished by this new addition to the Soane Museum. His private apartments, lost but now remade, give an acute psychological insight into Soane's bizarre mind. They are at once a shrine, a statement of architectural history and a kind of Pharaonic tomb that compress Soane's ideas and passions with extraordinary density. After her death, he filled his wife’s bedroom with models of Pompeii, Paestum and other ancient sites; even his son George's bath, now recreated, was given a lid and turned into a kind of Canoptic jar of personal effects. All this has been authentically recreated with jaw-dropping meticulousness and attention to detail. (Julian Harrap Architects for The Trustees of Sir John Soane's Museum)

Remarkably, we have a second authentic restoration of a lost Soane interior this year. The SOANE TRIBUNE at WOTTON HOUSE in Buckinghamshire has been recreated by Ptolemy Dean under the guiding intelligence of the owner, David Gladstone. Vestigial remains were discovered within A. S. G. Butler’s closing-in of the 1920s. These have been forensically investigated, allowing the progressive recreation of the complex and delicate geometry of the tribune. The counter-intuitive act of restoring the space from the ‘top down’, allowing each level to be restored before breaking out the inserted Butler floor, was inspired, cutting the need for expensive scaffolding and allowing the work to remain compartmentalised while the house remained in occupation throughout. All in all, a triumph.

CUMBERLAND SUITE at HAMPTON COURT PALACE (Purcell for Historic Royal Palaces)

This suite of rooms was created by William Kent in the 1730s as private apartments for George II’s son the Duke of Cumberland. For two centuries it served as grace and favour accommodation before becoming a gallery in 1952. Redecoration in the 1960s further degraded Kent’s original scheme and the joinery was also deteriorating. That has been sensitively repaired. In the Withdrawing Room old panel mouldings have been reinstated (or recovered from beneath veneer) and the Presence Chamber and Large Light Closet have been restored to their original appearance. A set of rooms that had become a dark cul-de-sac in the depths of the Palace has been dramatically transformed.

The four MONTAGU MONUMENTS, at St Edmund’s Church in Northamptonshire, are works of international importance by Roubiliac and Peter Van Gelder. There is really no comparable set of Georgian monuments in any other English parish church. The 1751 chancel was built to accommodate them; it is really a sculpture gallery, a complete interior, but by the end of the twentieth century its key features were at serious risk from corroding iron support rods. The Roubiliac of John Duke of Montagu, for example, was being actively destroyed by expansion and had to be deconstructed and put back together in a delicate surgical operation. At the same time, all the monuments were sensitively cleaned in a way that preserved their patina. (Skillington Workshop for Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust and Parochial Church Council of St Edmund's Church, Warkton)   


BELMONT HOUSE in LYME REGIS is a 1785 maritime villa looking out over the Cobb. John Fowles wrote The French Lieutenant’s Woman here. By the time he died it was in a bad state, the gardens overgrown and the structural condition of the building poor. The Landmark Trust acquired it and took the decision, at once brave and controversial, to restore it to the form known by Mrs Coade, creator of the artificial stone that bears her name. That involved demolishing what was left of the substantial Victorian and later extensions in order to make it a villa in the round. The project has been informed by meticulous building analysis and documentary research and the building is now again a thing of real beauty, a delightful monument to one of the great female entrepreneurs of the Georgian period.  


31 GREAT JAMES STREET in Holborn shows the dramatic visual effect of well-judged improvements to a London townhouse. Like many other houses in the street, this one from 1722 had plate glass one-over-one sashes. We have never been much good at the Georgian Group at accepting that such things ought to be kept as part of the history of a building – it gives a sadly blank-eyed appearance that cries out for remediation. So we were delighted to see traditional sashes boldly reinstated, along with crown glass and excellent tuck-pointing with lime mortar. The public face of the building is transformed – suddenly it becomes once more a comfortable and welcoming piece of architecture, appropriate for its new use as a family home. (Cowper Griffith Architects for a private client


76 DEAN STREET, in Soho, dating from 1732, is another building that suffered a catastrophic fire that gutted the building and destroyed a notable staircase mural. Six years later it has recovered its former glory as a private members’ club. As much material as possible was salvaged and some infelicitous interventions were reversed - twentieth century parquet floors, for example, were replaced with stone in the hall. Jon Brinklow restored the mural. Few enough buildings of this age and quality survive in Soho for the fire to have been a real disaster, but the recovery and restoration programme was exemplary and shows that out of adversity can come something truly uplifting. (SODA Architects for Soho Estates and Soho House) 



13 ELY PLACE in HOLBORN has spectacularly recovered its true personality courtesy of the reinstatement of glazing bars. In the twentieth century it was a school and then a convent, during which time it suffered the usual indignities of ugly partitioning, crudely inserted services and thick coats of while emulsion. It has now been restored for use as charity offices, on a limited budget, and we hold it up as an example of how commercial use of a Georgian townhouse need not rule out sensitive restoration and conversion. It is testament to the enduring adaptability of such buildings that they are still wanted and needed as offices. If that is so, we may as well learn how to do it well. Such projects are vulnerable to the kind of over-excited contemporary makeover which can leave buildings a schizophrenic mess. 13 Ely Place offers a more sensitive, and indeed longer-lasting, solution. (Russell Taylor Architects for St Ethedreda Trust)


PORTAFERRY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, COUNTY DOWN dates from the very end of our period, the late 1830s, and is one of the finest classical buildings in Ulster. The problems of a small, cash-strapped congregation showed themselves in marked deterioration of the fabric and a repair backlog that stretched back fifty years. How to rescue such a building? Often redundancy would be a serious threat, and with it the risk that the building would lose its special atmosphere and meaning. The imaginative solution here was sensitively to introduce new uses alongside continued use as a church – in effect, a sharing of the building. A Friends’ group took ownership in 2014 and has undertaken extensive restoration - replacing cement with lime render and reinstating clear glass 12/9 windows - while refitting the building for multiple use as an arts, exhibition and heritage centre. The sensitive marriage of secular and religious uses has given the building an assured future. (Maxwell Pierce Architects for The Friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church)   



CROOME PARK, WORCESTERSHIRE is a majestic designed landscape by Capability Brown, the tercentenary of whose birth is next year. Croome is a superb flagship project with which to celebrate that anniversary. It has taken twenty years of backbreaking work and tortuous land assembly by The National Trust to recover the glories of Brown’s design. As always with him, it was a very precisely considered piece of work, each element linking to the next in a constant flow of intellectual energy. Nothing is accidental. But all sense of meaning had been horribly lost beneath acres of arable, with lakes full of silt, planting patterns obscured or destroyed and the fine garden buildings left to rot. Some of them, like the Chinese bridge, disappeared; in 2015 it was triumphantly reborn, leading the feet and eye across to distant prospects. The Rotunda and ice house have also been rescued from a state of near terminal dereliction, and now the huge walled garden is being restored and reintegrated into the estate. A fractured landscape has been mended and in the process has recovered its point and purpose. 


THE BOTANIC COTTAGE, EDINBURGH is an heroic rescue of a garden building of real historic importance. Dating from 1763, it was used by the Regius Professor of Botany as a classroom, at the height of the Scottish Enlightenment. But it was abandoned when the Royal Botanic Garden moved to its present site. Marooned in an increasingly urbanised environment, it gradually fell into dereliction, becoming almost unrecognisable; it was used as a drugs den and then acquired by a developer for demolition. A magnificent restoration effort has seen it moved piece by piece to the new Botanic Garden. It is a triumph of craftsmanship and scholarly research and the beautifully-restored upper floor will now function, once again, as a botany classroom. (Simpson & Brown Architects for the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh)


FELTON PARK GREENHOUSE, NORTHUMBERLAND dates from about 1830 and is set within a 1774 walled garden. It is one of the earliest surviving buildings to use slender, curved wrought iron glazing bars and fish scale glass, an innovative design technique pioneered by John Claudius Loudon, the great garden designer and hothouse expert. So it is an important building, but also a fragile one that could easily have fallen into an irreversible spiral of decline. Happily, Tim Maxwell has led an exemplary restoration, with meticulous cleaning and repair of the multitude of panes, wrought-iron glazing bars and internal iron furniture such as window hooks, vine wires and ventilator flaps. Such painstaking work requires commitment, patience and attention to detail, all of which are evident here in the deeply impressive results. (Spence and Dower Architects for Timothy and Annelie Maxwell)

BIGHTON GRANGE, HAMPSHIRE Few contemporary country houses are this self-assured or achieve such a degree of quiet dignity and inherent harmony. It is in essence a villa, in white brick with Portland stone dressings, and takes its inspiration from the Regency, when red brick was conventionally seen as too harsh for the landscape and there was a desire for very light interiors. There are also flashes of the picturesque, as you might see in an Italianate villa by Nash. Whatever the sources, the result is a subtle and refined composition that suggests a sensitive client and an architect reaching confident maturity. (George Saumarez Smith of ADAM Architecture for Paul Steggall and Shameem Sangha)    


ST CATHERINE’S on JERSEY follows a vernacular idiom, using a buff-coloured granite common in the Channel Islands and Brittany, but as you would expect from the architects it is a scholarly and deeply considered composition. The five-bay pedimented central block is flanked by wings, each terminated by strikingly tall Venetian windows; one of them contains a library influenced by Kent’s at Holkham. Equally striking are their unusual pedimented centrepieces sheltering urn-filled niches. The deep sensitivity to place and rootedness in context are compelling; being able to combine that in a convincing way with complex architectural allusions and scholarly classical references is a rare skill. It can easily be done badly but it is difficult to do it this well. (Quinlan & Francis Terry Architects for Justin Huggler) 


We were delighted to be able to name this award, introduced in 2006, in honour of the distinguished architectural historian Dr Giles Worsley, who served as a Trustee of the Georgian Group for many years and so sadly died ten years ago next month. He is still missed and still remembered. The award is an especially apt tribute to Giles, as he himself inspired it. He was, as we know, equally comfortable with historic and contemporary buildings and he sensibly saw past, present and future as part of the same continuum.


47 CANONBURY SQUARE, ISLINGTON is an uplifting project that repairs the truncated end of a typical London terrace dating from 1831. The missing house was partly demolished in 1937, supposedly because of structural problems, although apocryphally because the landlord wanted rid of undesirable tenants. The ground floor elevation survived and together with neighbouring houses provided the evidence need for meticulous restoration. There is something deeply satisfying about giving back to mutilated terraces their proper form and dimensions – in this instance the beneficial effect is magnified as the terrace sits in a square, so a regained sense of enclosure is added to the mix. Plenty of damaged Georgian terraces have been pieced back together with anaemic, half-hearted infill, but this project does far more than pay lip service. It is an extraordinary accomplishment in an ordinary environment. (Butler Hegarty Architects for Jacqueline Anne and Anthony Pointing)    


4A-6 GROVE LANE, SOUTHWARK also involves the knitting back of lost and degraded fabric, in this instance adding in a little joie de vivre while remaining convincing in its detailing. Many fractured sites like this in London have been blighted by third-rate residential architecture, but here the result is absolutely harmonious and convincing. Much of that comes from a genuine understanding and appreciation of context. Some of it comes from attention to detail, for example in the use of deep reveals, crown glass, reclaimed bricks and lime mortar. The result is a highly-enjoyable and uplifting intervention. (MATT Architecture for Julian Kenny)

Wednesday, 15 July 2015


15 JULY 2015


The national charity for the preservation of Georgian heritage has appointed Christopher Boyle QC as its new chairman in succession to Sir Mark Lennox-Boyd. The Georgian Group, founded in 1937 to fight threats to historic buildings, made the choice at a meeting of its trustees last night.

Mr Boyle specialises in Town and Country Planning, Compulsory Purchase, Environmental and Infrastructure Law and was appointed Queen's Counsel in 2013. Having served as a Trustee of HRH The Prince of Wales’ Prince’s Foundation for Building Community from 2009-2014, he was appointed in 2014 as Chairman of its Advisory Board. He is a trustee of the Cumbria Buildings Preservation Trust, which has been working to save Rose Castle, the former home of the Bishops of Carlisle, and served both as an elected member on the Council of the National Trust 2007-2012 and on its Rural Enterprise Panel 2009-2015. Although practising from London, he lives and farms in rural Cumbria and is currently restoring Kirklinton Hall, a 1680s country house in Cumbria.

Mr Boyle said: “I am delighted to be asked to lead a charity that is at the forefront of protecting one of the country’s greatest assets – its historic buildings and landscapes. Our heritage is one of the engines of the British economy, contributing an estimated £25bn to the UK exchequer annually, and is also central to our social and environmental wellbeing and sense of national identity. At the heart of our heritage are Georgian cities, public spaces, houses, ecclesiastical and public buildings, gardens, designed landscapes and urban planning that rank among some of our finest design achievements and respond to our need for beauty, harmony and proportion. Without always realising it, many of us across the country are lifted up each day by our experience of Georgian design.

“We at the Georgian Group are here to protect that legacy against persistent threats, from outright demolition to erosion of character and degradation of settings. Making sure we continue to have great places in which to live and work comes with a price tag - eternal vigilance. The Georgian Group will provide that with renewed vigour, working with our partners in government and the heritage sector and with the public, who time and again show an appetite for beautiful places that are built well to a human scale”.

Note to editors 

The Georgian Group is a key line of defence against threats to the nation’s 200,000 Georgian buildings and landscapes. As a statutory consultee in the planning system in England and Wales, it is asked every year to review around 6000 planning applications, ranging from minor alterations to demolitions, and its constructive input has helped save many buildings. It also provides practical advice to those seeking to restore and maintain Georgian buildings.

Christopher Boyle is available for interview on 020 7430 1221 or 

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Entries invited for our 2015 Architectural Awards

Our Architectural Awards, sponsored by international estate agents Savills and now in their thirteenth year, recognise exemplary conservation and restoration projects in the United Kingdom and reward those who have shown the vision and commitment to restore Georgian buildings and landscapes. Awards are also given for high-quality new buildings in Georgian contexts and in the Classical tradition.

Entries for the 2015 Awards are now invited.


Projects must: fall within one of the award categories listed below; be located within the United Kingdom, Channel Islands or Isle of Man; and have been completed or be due for completion between 1 January 2014 and 1 September 2015.

How to enter

Please send digital images and a brief description of your project (including details of the project team) using either Dropbox or the free file sharing service We Transfer. In either case use as the recipient address. Please do not send entries direct by email to that address as large files are likely to exceed server capacity and may not be received.

You may enter a project in more than one category, or leave it to us to allocate if you are not sure which category best fits your project. For restoration projects, please include both before and after photographs.

The deadline for entries is Friday 30 October 2015. Shortlisted entrants will be notified by 13 November. If you are shortlisted, you will be asked to produce an illustrated exhibition board for the awards ceremony. This will be held in central London in December 2015.  

The award categories are:
Restoration of a Georgian Country House
Restoration of a Georgian Interior
Restoration of a Georgian Building in an Urban Setting
Reuse of a Georgian Building
Restoration of a Georgian Garden or Landscape
New Building in the Classical Tradition
New Building in a Georgian Context

Questions and further information

Please ask Robert Bargery,, 020 7529 8920

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Taking liberties at Norton Folgate, Spitalfields



In 1977 the newly formed Spitalfields Trust including Dan Cruickshank and with the support of Sir John Betjeman and Tower Hamlets Council stopped British Land from redeveloping Elder St.
Now British Land has come back to bury Norton Folgate under a hideous corporate plaza.

With faint regard for the distinctive character and history of the ancient Liberty of Norton Folgate, British Land proposes the destruction of over 70 percent of the buildings on their site within the Elder St Conservation Area - and their replacement with a generic over–blown corporate development of large office blocks up to 13 storeys high, and far exceeding the historic neighbourhoodʼs prevailing 3-4 storeys. 

Scorched earth: artist's visualisation showing the extent of demolition proposed by British Land in and around Elder Street

The British Land proposal does not make an adequate enough contribution to the pool of jobs and housing for local people. It is aimed at large corporations whilst offering little to the tech industries and smaller businesses so successful in this part of the East End.

Frustrated by a consultation process that appears to have had little meaning and has produced no significant change, the Spitalfields Trust is now OPPOSING British Land, in a fight to save the buildings and life of this historic neighbourhood and Conservation Area.

The Trust is staging an exhibition which articulates its criticism of British Landʼs scheme, tells the story of the history of Norton Folgate and presents an alternative vision for the neighbourhood – a vision which respects rather than destroys history and architectural precedent.

Further information will be posted on the Dennis Seversʼ House website newspage from 5 February.

Facebook: facebook/savenortonfolgate
Twitter: @SpitalfieldsT