Friday, 2 May 2014

Bishop of Bath and Wells to remain in his palace, after all

From The Daily Telegraph

Controversial plans to stop a bishop living in the mediaeval palace occupied by his predecessors for centuries have been withdrawn.

The Rt Rev Peter Hancock, who will be formally enthroned as the 79th Bishop of Bath and Wells next month, had been told he would not live in the 13th Century palace because it was not “conducive to ministry” and a more normal family home would be found.

The mediaeval complex doubles as diocesan headquarters and a tourist attraction and the Church Commissioners, the Church of England’s property and financial arm, argued that it lacked privacy for the bishop and his family.

But the Commissioners were openly ridiculed when it emerged they had bought a grand Georgian former rectory outside Wells at a cost of £900,000 for the bishop to live in until something more “permanent” could be found.

The property, complete with walled gardens, is much larger than the modest flat in Wells Palace set aside as the bishop’s quarters.

Now, following an unprecedented protest by the diocese itself [and the Georgian Group, Country Life and others], a specially convened tribunal acting on behalf of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York has thrown out the decision and ruled that the new bishop should live within the city of Wells itself. The panel of the Archbishops’ Council said officials had failed to make the case for the move out of the palace.

In a nine-page judgment it also noted that the commissioners had been warned that exiling the bishop from his palace was likely to lead to uproar in the diocese. “The Commissioners failed to anticipate the impact of their decision in Wells and in the wider diocese,” the panel ruled.

No decision has been taken on what now to do with the empty rectory, although it was described in the judgment as an “attractive investment asset”.

Bishop Hancock, who will move to Wells in early June, said: “The Palace will be at the heart of my ministry as the place where I live, study, pray and work, alongside the Bishop of Taunton.”

Tessa Munt, the local MP, who campaigned against the episcopal relocation, said: “I was honoured to have the opportunity to give evidence as a witness on behalf of the diocese ... and I’m absolutely delighted that the Archbishops’ Council has been just and fair and made a common sense decision which will be welcomed and supported by the whole of diocese.

“The city of Wells will give a collective jump for joy and can’t wait to welcome the new Bishop, and his family to his house in the palace.”

In a joint statement, the diocese and Church Commissioners said: “We appreciate the thoroughness of the Council’s consideration and the swiftness with which the decision has been reached. This outcome enables all concerned to look to the future, to celebrate the arrival of the new Bishop and to welcome Bishop Peter and his wife Jane when they arrive in June.”

Monday, 3 March 2014



Liverpool City Council have approved plans for the refurbishment of a row of derelict shops in Dale Street despite concerns over “security risks” to the magistrates court, reports The Liverpool Echo.
The council gave the go-ahead to the project to rescue the Georgian terrace, the earliest example in Liverpool of so called 'shop houses', ie purpose-built shop incorporating accommodation blocks in the city. The new scheme, by developers Jam Works Limited, will respect this historic use by creating flats above shops. The Lord Chancellor's Department objected to the proposals on the grounds that some apartments would overlook the courtyard where suspects are brought into the courts, but a planning condition will ensure that walls are built to shield the courtyard from view. The Georgian Group has welcomed the salvation of a derelict and threatened terrace which has long faced an uncertain future.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

GEORGIAN GROUP ARCHITECTURAL AWARDS 2013: WINNING AND COMMENDED SCHEMES

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN COUNTRY HOUSE

WINNER
Townhead, Slaidburn, Lancs
By and for Robert Staples

Early C18 stone house. Previously on buildings at risk register, acquired by present owners 2010, conservatively restored using traditional methods.

COMMENDED
Hadlow Tower, Tonbridge, Kent
Thomas Ford and Partners for The Vivat Trust

1832 by Walter Barton May as part of a now largely demolished country house. 185ft Gothic folly in brick with covering of Roman cement. On World Monuments Fund Watch List by 2003. Now restored and refaced, with lantern (removed after storm damage in 1987) rebuilt.

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN INTERIOR

WINNER
Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London
RHWL for The Really Useful Group Theatres

Restoration of Grand Saloon, The King’s and Prince’s Staircases and the Rotunda. Redecoration with advice from John Earl, Lisa Oestreicher and Edward Bulmer to match as closely as possible Benjamin Dean Wyatt’s original design. Installation of copy of Canova’s Three Graces in the Rotunda.

COMMENDED
Great Fulford, near Exeter, Devon
Ceiling by Geoffrey Preston for Francis Fulford

New decorated plaster ceiling for the C17 double cube Great Dining Room. The original ceiling collapsed C19 and the room was then abandoned until C20; in 1960 a temporary ceiling composed of acoustic tiles was installed to make the room habitable. The 1700 picture hang has also been largely reinstated.

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN BUILDING IN AN URBAN SETTING

WINNER
Mostyn House, 42 Vale Street, Denbigh
Milrick Ltd for John and Janis Franklin

1722 townhouse, restored in project initiated by Denbighshire County Council and part-funded by Townscape Heritage Initiative with HLF support. Main elevation fully returned to its original appearance, with removal of pebbledash and excrescences (later oriel window to first floor and bay windows to ground floor). Façade limewashed. Internally, lost oak panelling and missing section of oak staircase re-created.

COMMENDED
116 High St, Boston, Lincolnshire
Anderson and Glenn for Heritage Lincolnshire

1728 merchant’s townhouse, later bank; by end of C20, gardens concreted over and house officially at risk and near to collapse. Compulsorily purchased by local authority and restored by building preservation trust supported by Architectural Heritage Fund and HLF. Envelope conserved and some lost features reinstated. Interior fitted out for office use and premises for small businesses built in grounds, giving a boost to a part of Boston cut off by a 1960s ring road.

COMMENDED
107 Great Mersey Street, Liverpool L5
Brock Carmichael for Rotunda Ltd

1820s house, the only Georgian building left in Kirkdale area of Liverpool, near docks. In atrocious condition and on buildings at risk register by 2003, Urgent Works Notice served in 2007. HLF-funded project to restore envelope and restore or replace internal fabric.


REUSE OF A GEORGIAN BUILDING

WINNER
St. Helen’s House, Derby
Brownhill Hayward Brown for Richard Blunt

1766 by Joseph Pickford, Grade I, one of the finest C18 townhouses to survive in a provincial city. Sold by the Strutt family to Derby School in the 1860s, in educational use till 2004, since when vacant and formally at risk. Bought by Richard Blunt in 2006, now restored and converted to office use, the recession having put paid to a planned hotel conversion.

COMMENDED
Norwood House, Beverley, East Riding
Elevation Design for The Brantingham Group (specialist advice from Patrick Baty)

1765, Grade I townhouse, acquired by local authority 1907 and used as a girls’ school until 1990s, then disused; deteriorated to the point where it was formally at risk. Arson in 2004 damaged the Rococo drawing room and the 1825 Grecian library. Subject to unsympathetic proposals but now sensitively restored and let in its entirety to a culinary school who use it in part as a restaurant.

COMMENDED
Stable block, Sulby Hall, Northants
JWA Architects for Mr and Mrs Sandercock

1790s, attributed to Soane. Sulby Hall was demolished in 1952 and the surviving stable block was subsequently in various uses including as a store for farm equipment and grain. By 2005 it was ruinous and roofless. Natural England initiated restoration as part of a management plan for the owners’ mixed farm and the stable block, fully restored, is now used as a stable yard for stallions in a national breeding programme.


RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN GARDEN OR LANDSCAPE

WINNER
Repton pleasure grounds, Woburn, Beds
Woburn Abbey gardeners for The Duke of Bedford

Restoration, and re-creation where lost, of the Georgian pleasure gardens and garden buildings, including Holland’s Chinese dairy, Repton’s pagoda, temple, aviary and cone house and Wyatville’s Camellia House.

COMMENDED
Cow Pond, Windsor Great Park, Berkshire
Russ Canning for The Crown Estate

Part of the ten-year Royal Landscape Project to reinstate the lost historic landscapes of Windsor Great Park. Cow Pond, part of Wise’s 1712 plan for the Park and taking the form of a canal, was overgrown by 2008 and had regressed to swamp. Restoration included dredging and draining, construction of a Baroque footbridge and arbour and new planting.

COMMENDED
Sir James Tillie Mausoleum, Pentillie Castle, Saltash, Cornwall
Cliveden Conservation for Ted Coryton

1713, in ruinous condition and covered in vegetation when Pentillie bought by present owners in 2007. Fully restored following archaeological survey, damaged Tillie statue repaired, vault excavated.


NEW BUILDING IN THE CLASSICAL TRADITION

WINNER
Onslow Park, near Shrewsbury, Salop
Craig Hamilton for Mr and Mrs John Wingfield

Schinkelesque country house on established estate. Five-bay, the centre three bays slightly recessed with arched openings to ground floor, forming an arcade on the garden front. Rendered with stone dressing. Top-lit stair hall with gallery and spiral cantilevered staircase.

COMMENDED
Oval cricket ground, London SE11 (new forecourt pavilion)
Hugh Petter of Adam Architecture for Surrey County Cricket Club

Forecourt pavilion in brick with Bath stone dressing, replacing functional C20 banqueting suite. Central portico articulated with stone columns with bespoke Prince of Wales feather capitals and surmounted by stone urns.


GILES WORSLEY AWARD FOR A NEW BUILDING IN A GEORGIAN CONTEXT

WINNER
8B Aubrey Road, London W8
Craig Hamilton Architects for Mr and Mrs Andrew Deacon

New classical mews house replacing former mews in grounds of 25 Holland Park Avenue (1820s). Soanean echoes, especially in recessed arches and rectangular sculpture gallery. Public façade composed of pediment and Diocletian window above full-width front door imitating typical mews garage door.

COMMENDED
A lodge for a country house in Gloucestershire
Craig Hamilton for a private client

Classical lodge in stone on cruciform plan, each axis terminating at either end in a broken pediment; deep block-modillion cornice.

COMMENDED
Trinity Church Terrace, Trinity Street, Borough, London SE1
By and for London Realty

Terrace of ten five-storey houses, forming infill development adjoining Trinity Church Square and designed to harmonise with existing context.


(See below for the full citations for each project)

Monday, 28 October 2013

Georgian Group Architectural Awards / Shortlist / Restoration of a Georgian Interior

This year we bring interior decoration out of the shadows, recognising it as a specific discipline and its practitioners as highly skilled and creative contributors to restoration projects. Too often perhaps we are seduced by outward transformation, but even where historic buildings remain unchanged externally magic can be wrought internally, sometimes to Georgian interiors within older buildings and sometimes within tight physical limits: a single room, perhaps, or a single ceiling. 

Our first scheme is exactly that, the reinstatement of a lost Georgian ceiling for the seventeenth century double cube Great Dining Room at Great Fulford, near Exeter. The creation of this perfectly proportioned room within the Tudor walls entailed cutting through tie beams and retaining walls, with the result that the ceiling collapsed in the nineteenth century. The room was then abandoned until the mid twentieth century, when a temporary ceiling of workaday acoustic tiles was installed to make the room habitable. That in turn has now been replaced by a plaster ceiling to an approximation of the original design: without documentary evidence, imaginative interpretation was needed. This has been amply shown by Geoffrey Preston, who has rejected timid inoffensiveness in favour of creating something vigorous and of lasting interest. In his skilled hands, it works beautifully, at a stroke allowing a fine room to recover its sense of hierarchy, proportion and meaning – all reinforced by the parallel reinstatement of the 1700 picture hang and the ex-situ restoration of the Ashburnham marble fireplace. It is a powerful statement of confidence in the future of the house, which is now firmly on an upward trajectory.   

Secondly we have the triumphant reinstatement of the Benjamin Dean Wyatt interiors at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, opened in 1662 but substantially Regency as we see it today. The civilised, tasteful opulence of Wyatt’s decorative scheme had been more or less wholly lost beneath successive redecorations and alterations, so that the interiors had lost their coherence and become a riot of the usual monotonous red plush. Under Lord Lloyd Webber’s direction that has all been spectacularly reversed: the front of house spaces now form a superbly uplifting and legible sequence, redolent of Regency refinement. The Grand Saloon has been transformed from a cloying and clogged space, truncated at one end and dimmed by a blocked-in window, to an ethereal wonder where the architectural elements read properly. The King’s and Prince’s Staircases have recovered their splendour and the Rotunda, newly enriched with a copy of Canova’s Three Graces, is breathtaking under its coved dome. After years of nicotine-stained and gin-soaked dowdiness, the Theatre Royal has recovered its status as one of the finest public interiors in London. 

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.

Georgian Group Architectural Awards / Shortlist / Re-use of a Georgian Building

Redundancy can often herald a miserable period in a building’s history but it also offers opportunities for those who can see the almost endless potential of historic buildings for adaptation and flexible reuse. 

We have shortlisted three projects. The first is Norwood House in Beverley in the East Riding, a 1765 Grade I townhouse acquired by the local authority in 1907 and used as a girls’ school until the 1990s. Then disused, it deteriorated to the point where it was formally at risk, a state of affairs exacerbated by an arson attack in 2004 that badly damaged the Rococo drawing room and the 1825 Grecian library: all proof that damage begets damage and neglect soon spirals out of control. We at the Georgian Group, through our Trustees Professor John Wilton Ely and Patrick Baty, offered a guiding hand as restoration proposals were developed. The building has now been sensitively restored both externally and internally, where the decorative scheme, deinstitutionalised at last, complements the architecture. Norwood House is now let in its entirety to a culinary school which uses it in part as a restaurant, thus allowing the burghers of Beverley to appreciate the transformation.  

St. Helen’s House in Derby is also a Grade I townhouse, a monumental Palladian work of 1766 by Joseph Pickford and one of the finest Georgian gentleman’s townhouses to survive outside London. It too spent much of the twentieth century as a school and again the ending of educational use (in 2003) was followed by a dark period of disuse, prolonged uncertainty over its future and descent into at-risk status as neglect, vandalism and arson began to undermine the structure of the building. The white knight here, not for the first time, was Richard Blunt, who on taking possession in 2008 was faced with two inches of standing water directly above the splendid elaborate plasterwork of the ground floor ceiling. The main roof valley and parapet had failed and quantities of water were cascading through the middle of the house. In spite of these manifold physical challenges, allied to financial ones posed by the recession, he has now restored St Helen’s and converted it to office use, securing the future of a building of national importance.

A different type of project is the reuse of this stable block in Northamptonshire. Dating from the 1790s and attributed to Soane, it formed part of the estate of Sulby Hall and survived as an isolated relic after the hall was demolished in 1952 and the estate split up to pay death duties. In the succeeding half-century it went through various uses, including as a store for farm equipment and grain, but by 2005 it was ruinous and largely roofless. Natural England initiated restoration as part of a management plan for the owners’ mixed farm and the stable block, fully restored using traditional materials and methods, is now used as a stable yard for stallions in a national breeding programme. The ochre limewash is an appropriately vibrant coating for a building brought back to vital and viable use. 

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.

Georgian Group Architectural Awards / Shortlist / Restoration of a Georgian Country House


There are two aspects to restoring country houses. One is about repairing fabric, perhaps dramatically so after a fire but also to address the depredations of time and longstanding neglect. The other, more subtle but no less important, is about revivifying a place, allowing it to recover its spirit. Our two shortlisted schemes, summarised below in alphabetical order, cover both aspects in varying degrees.


The first, Hadlow Tower in the Weald of Kent, might seem on the face of it an eccentric choice for this category. ‘Is this a country house?’ you might ask. The answer is ‘yes’, albeit the remnant of one. In its artificial state of splendid isolation it resembles a slightly madcap folly, but as at William Beckford’s Fonthill, on which it was modelled and where the Gothic tower reached 300 feet, it was actually built (in 1832) as part of a much larger country house. Hadlow is 100 feet shorter but far superior in sturdiness. Its condition had, however, deteriorated badly and ten years ago it was placed on the World Monuments Fund Watch List. Its saviour has been the Vivat Trust, which has rebuilt the 40ft lantern removed after storm damage in 1987 and has given the whole tower a sustaining coat of Roman cement, a render patented in the 1780s and later produced by Samuel Wyatt, brother of James who designed Fonthill. The craftsmanship and attention to detail have been deeply impressive and the result is spectacular both internally and externally.    

Our second scheme is Townhead, in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire. This fine early eighteenth century stone house was on the Buildings at Risk register and was languishing in deteriorating condition with significant structural movement and collapsing spine walls; its fragility was such that the panelling was almost holding it up.  Acquired in 2010 by the present owners, it has since been meticulously restored using traditional methods. The rendered north elevation has been freshly limewashed and the coursed rubble of the east front repointed in lime. Panelled rooms have been brought back from dereliction, as have overgrown outbuildings well on the path to terminal decay. This is a genuine rescue, because the house could easily have entered that crepuscular netherworld where it slid into terminal decrepitude. Instead, refreshed and revivified, it has recovered its long-absent joie de vivre as a family home. 

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.

Georgian Group Architectural Award / Shortlist / Giles Worsley Award for a New Building in a Georgian Context

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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. This year we also remember his late father, Sir Marcus Worsley, a fine custodian of Hovingham Park in Yorkshire and a member for many years of The Georgian Group’s Council.

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.

The first of our three shortlisted schemes is in Aubrey Road, Holland Park, where a mews house in the classical idiom has replaced a utilitarian garage in grounds of an 1820s house. Its public face is pedimented with a Diocletian window above a full-width front door imitating a typical mews garage door: but this is a mere curtain-raiser to the exquisiteness of the robust and muscular garden front. The seriousness of purpose it suggests is gratifyingly realised in the main internal space: a small but perfectly-formed sculpture gallery with clear Soanean echoes in the recessed arches, all handled in a way that gives a deceptive sense of spaciousness. It stands in a noble tradition of enlightened private patronage, of the kind that makes historic streetscapes in the inner south-western suburbs of London places of such civilised architectural variety.  

Trinity Church Terrace is an impressive infill development in a fine late Georgian enclave in south London, an area whose visual integrity is under increasing attack from the glass towers of the City and its borders. Initially the local authority sought a new insertion in a contemporary idiom but the developers, to their credit, pushed the case for an historicist scheme that responded to its immediate context. The resulting terraces sit comfortably and easily between two delightful Georgian squares, linking them again rather than driving a wedge between them, as a less contextual approach might have done. What we have here is considered, well-detailed, unmeretricious architecture that has value in itself but acquires added value when judged against  what might have happened had the local authority’s initial impulse been indulged: the narrow escape from the kind of ham-fisted, cacophonous, fussy residential architecture evident in the streets round about is not the least of the reasons to celebrate this scheme.

Our final project is an elegant classical lodge for a Regency country house in Gloucestershire: a deceptively simple building, spatially arranged to perfection with its cruciform plan, each axis terminating at either end in a broken pediment. The deep block-modillion cornice gives depth and solidity and the whole conveys a no-nonsense robustness, appropriate for a perimeter building that serves in part as a point of surveillance, interception and interrogation. Such a building might have been a utilitarian afterthought where quality was skimped, but instead it is celebrated as a public face of a largely hidden estate. It scores highly as a miniaturised embodiment of the Vitruvian principles of commodity, firmness and delight. 

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.