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Heritage: Stone takes centre stage at Angel Awards

21 January 2015
Andrew Lloyd Webber interviews winners at the  Angel Awards.

As a building material, natural stone is one of the most durable there is, so it is not surprising it has played such an important role in the creation of England’s built heritage… nor that England’s stones featured so prominently among the finalists in this year’s English Heritage Angel Awards presented in November.

The Awards recognise the vital role played by individuals and groups around the country in bringing buildings, landscapes, monuments or any other part of the nation’s man-made heritage back from the brink of collapse and loss.

The Awards also recognise the essential contribution of the construction skills involved in the work with a Craftsmanship category – and two of the four short-listed entries in the Craftsmanship category this time were stonemasons with another entered for his lime plastering and rendering (the fourth was a carpenter). The winner was Adam Wilcockson for his work on the South West Turret of Lincoln Cathedral.

Adam owes his position at the cathedral to the backing of the Association of Friends of Lincoln Cathedral, who have financially supported him, including his training costs, over the past five years to the tune of £90,000. Works Manager Carol Heidschuster says: “Without this sponsorship we would not have been able to offer Adam an apprenticeship here.”

It was clear from the Angel Awards finalists that it is often the driving force of just one or two individuals that makes all the difference. They mobilise the fight to gain necessary permissions and raise funds. Without such ‘Angels’, heritage that helps define not just a particular area but the country as a whole would be lost.

The Awards were established in 2011 by English Heritage in conjunction with impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber, who has been instrumental in making each of the annual presentation ceremonies since then such a glittering, star-studded event.

They have all been held at the Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue in the heart of London’s theatreland with a cast of celebrities to present the Award certificates.

This year there was: Dr Bettany Hughes, the award-winning historian, author and broadcaster; George Clarke, architect, writer, lecturer and Channel Four’s Restoration Man; Emma Bridgewater CBE, founder of Emma Bridgewater Ltd pottery company, which makes some of the most desired contemporary pottery sold by Liberty, Harrods and General Trading Company; the Rt Hon Sajid Javid, who became Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport in April; Philip Mold OBE, art dealer and historian, broadcaster, journalist and writer on art.

You can watch a brief video of the presentation ceremony at and you can read more about all the projects at

The Awards do not include a financial reward – most of the projects have already received that in the form of grants from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Nevertheless, many of the previous winners report that an Angel Award can make it a lot easier to raise money for subsequent phases of a project.

There are four categories: Places of Worship; Industrial; Any Other Heritage Site; Craftsmanship. Readers of the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the media partner of the Angel Awards, and other members of the public also vote for their choice from among the short-listed projects.

This year’s People’s Favourite was Oldland windmill on the Sussex South Downs, which the Oldland Mill Trust volunteers have been restoring for 35 years, with hundreds of volunteers involved over the years. It is mostly timber, although even here there are the millstones for grinding the flour.

Most of the projects had far more stonework. This is specialist work and specialist contractors were employed to carry it out, which has given some interesting work to stonemasons and other conservation contractors.

Almost inevitably, the Places of Worship category involved plenty of masonry, not least at the winning All Saints Church at Leamington Hastings, Rugby. Churchwarden Brian Cooke received the Award for having rallied the congregation to raise the funding for the work, aided by an HLF grant.

Initial conservation work on the tower was completed in 2009, carried out by David Sleight Conservation of Welford, Northamptonshire.

The church was built of a local Warwickshire sandstone that is no longer commercially available. After much discussion, Hollington Red and Mottled sandstone was used as the best match visually and geologically. The work involved a lot of new stone on four pinnacles and the parapet, replacement of ashlar and repointing with lime putty. There was also some work carried out to the ceiling inside. The work had resulted in a lot of dust, so the church was steam cleaned.

But months later a fire was started in the church by an intruder. Austin Newport Group from Birmingham was brought in to repair the damage this time. The soot was removed from the interior stonework of the church using latex cleaner.

Then lead was stolen from the roof of the south aisle. A torrential downpour flooded the newly installed organ that had replaced the one damaged in the fire, adding further to the repair work needed. The Vicar, The Rev Jane Close, praises her insurance company, Ecclesiastical Insurance, for its quick and sympathetic response to the emergency. The organ was played again for the Easter services this year.

The other three short-listed projects in the Places of Worship category all included stonework, some of the most intricate being at the Poulett Chapel in St George’s Church at Hinton St George, Somerset.

The work here involved the renovation of two carved limestone canopied tombs dating from the 16th century, sited within the outside wall of the Poulett family’s private chapel in the church. They were suffering the consequence of damp conditions and a failing lintel above.

The Elizabethan alabaster effigy of Sir Amyas Poulett on a limestone plinth had been poorly re-built on the west wall after being removed from St Martin’s in the Field in London in the 18th century and was falling apart due to corroding ironwork.

In 2006, David Clements, who had just moved to Hinton St George from West Sussex, was astonished when he saw the chapel in his local church – not just because of the monuments but also by their sorry state of repair. He began the campaign to save them.

The last of the Lords Poulett had donated the chapel to the church with an endowment to look after the memorials, but it was nothing like enough to carry out the restoration work required and David Clements set about raising money. He elicited more than £50,000 in grants and another £20,000 from private donations, which was enough to keep Lynne Humphries and Emma Norris of sculptural and architectural conservation company Humphries & Jones of Crewkerne, Somerset, busy (off and on) from 2007 until the job was finished this year. “They didn’t have much money,” says Lynne, “so I did much of it at the weekends – it was such a fantastic job... I felt rather attached to it.”

Lynne says there were five memorials altogether, although two of them have yet to be analysed so were simply given a light clean. The stones were Portland, Ham and Beer limestones. There was also an alabaster memorial to Bernard Hutchins, described as a servant, although he must have been a close servant to warrant a place in the family’s private chapel. His coffin shows he was a good foot (300mm) taller than his contemporary Pouletts.

The chapel had been locked up for many years, its door hidden behind a heavy drape.

Lynne and Emma have replaced the corroding iron in the monuments with stainless steel to prevent further damage where they could access it .

Lynne told NSS: “When we saw the quality and scale of these monuments... it was amazing.” The project has won the Society for the Protection of Ancient Building (SPAB) John Betjeman Award for Conservation this year.

At another of the short-listed Places of Worship, cathodic protection was installed in the tower to tackle corroding iron that was compromising the stonework of the tower.

Cathodic protection was specified by the architect, Caroe & Partners, although Matt Davies, the foreman from project contractor Croft Building & Conservation, says it was not something he had ever been involved in before, so corrosion engineer David Farrell from Rowan Technologies was subcontracted for the work.

This was at the church of St Mary the Virgin at Jackfield, Shropshire, where the nominees were Maureen Smith and the parochial church council. They secured a grant of £59,000 from English Heritage.

Cathodic protection uses a small electric current (about the equivalent of a 10W light bulb) to polarise metal and stop it rusting. It was first used in concrete buildings but was then also found to be useful in combatting rusting wrought iron in historical buildings. It started to be used in the heritage sector about 20 years ago and has now been installed in 50 or so church towers around the country, often, as at St Mary the Virgin, to stabilise corroding ring beams and ties.

Replacing a ring beam would mean dismantling the tower down to the beam, so although cathodic protection looks expensive, it is often cheaper than the alternative. At the Jackfield church it meant that rather than a lot of stone replacement, it was possible to stabilise the existing structure and repoint using NHL3.5 hydraulic lime at the lower levels and NHL5 further up the tower.

Concluding the Places of Worship finalists was St Martin of Tours’ Church in Bilborough, Nottingham, which dates back to the 14th century and where the project manager was Hilary Wheat. A contribution of £744,000 was made by the Heritage Lottery Fund over three years, which also helped pay for four local unemployed people to gain heritage skills by working on the project, mostly with Philip Turton (a Member of the Chartered Institute of Building) of P Turton Building & Conservation Ltd.

Philip offered all of them jobs at the end of the project and two of them are currently working with him on the Bishop’s Palace in Lincoln. P Turton Building & Conservation employs 12 people and for the St Martin project the trainees had one-to-one supervision most of the time.

The work finished just ahead of Armistice Day on 11 November, which is also St Martin’s Day. A service of remembrance marked the re-opening.

The church was built originally from local Nottingham sandstone, including material reclaimed from a nearby stately home that had been abandoned.

For the restoration work, Hollington Red and Hollington White sandstone from Staffordshire was used for the walls with Stanton Moor sandstone from Derbyshire for the detail (string courses, tracery repairs on the windows, cills). There is also an impressive new floor in Witton Fell sandstone from Yorkshire, which replaces a concrete floor laid in the 1970s that in turn replaced tiles laid by the Victorians. It is believed the original floor would have been stone.

The ’70s also saw the addition of a huge, flat-roofed extension, bigger than the church itself. It is hoped this will be replaced by a more sympathetic extension in the next stage of renovation.

Philip Turton says there were about 400 individual new pieces of stone in the project plus the new floor. And he admits he was a little disappointed the project did not win the Angel Award. “It was such a community effort in a deprived area. What Hilary has done, to me that’s what it’s all about. She spent two-and-a-half years raising the money but didn’t then sit back, she carried on and is still working towards the next stage now.”

The Industrial category of the Angel Awards also saw some impressive stonework, notably on the winning project of Howsham Mill, nine miles north-east of York. It is a water mill built in Gothic Revival style in 1755 by the owner of nearby Howsham Hall to grind corn but to look like a folly. It was originally topped with a lead cast of Diana, goddess of hunting, so was probably intended to look like a hunting lodge. There was not enough of the lead cast left to re-use, so a Nikki Taylor stainless steel wire sculpture now adorns the centre of the restored roof.

These days the building on an island in the river Derwent is an environmental education centre that helps to pay for itself by generating hydroelectricity fed into the national grid. It generates the electricity using what is believed to be the first Archimedes screw turbine installed in the UK, making use of the water at the weir.

The mill was designed to accommodate occasional flooding – and it flooded four times during its restoration. It now has under floor heating to make it easier to dry out after floods.

A first floor has been added that is above flood level where teaching takes place. A kitchen has been included and the windows, which previously just had bars on them made to look like wooden glazed windows, now actually have wooden glazed windows.

After the mill had stopped grinding flour in 1947 it was no longer cleaned up following the floods and quickly fell into disrepair. Trees and bushes started to grow in the deposited silt. Its remote location made it vulnerable to vandalism and theft and a fire left it without a roof.

The mill has now been restored. And in spite of it being in the heart of Yorkstone country the replacement stone used in the rebuild is from Lamb’s Quarry in Sussex, at the suggestion of stonemason Stephen Pickering, who headed the stone restoration team. After 20 years in the trade he was familiar with a lot of stones and said the Sussex calcareous sandstone was the best match to the local stone used for the original build (which is no longer available), both visually and geologically, because that particular part of Yorkshire has a diverse and interesting geology.

The project helped some of the nine people from Stephen’s firm who worked with him towards their level 3 Heritage NVQs.

Stephen says the most difficult part of the job was just getting the scaffolding, equipment and stone on to the island. A horse-drawn logging trailer was often found to be the best solution. Heavy lifting equipment was out of the question and onsite everything had to be positioned with block and tackle.

The work was carried out 2012-13. “First it rained, then it snowed,” says Stephen. During the rain the path to the mill flooded nine times, as well as the four times the mill itself flooded. And the hydrogenerator that supplied the electricity for the site stopped working when the river flooded.

There was a close escape laying the lime floor (NHL5 hydraulic lime with LECA balls). It looked like rain, so Stephen decided to leave the floor until after the rain. That was one of the times it flooded.

When the floor was laid, the rain turned to snow and the temperature dropped to

-10ºC. To protect the lime floor it was covered in straw and small heaters were put into the building. “The rats liked it,” he says.

Everything from the gutter line up had to be newly built and there was a lot of repair work below that. Hot lime mortar was used for pointing.

The new roof is covered in Burlington grey slate. The roofing contractor was Geoff Neal Roofing.

Even planning permission had initially been a problem because the local planning officers did not believe the project would ever be completed. However, the councillors overruled the objections of their officers and allowed the project to go ahead.

One of the Industrial category buildings that made the short list was the Smithy at Hetton-le-Hole, Tyne and Wear. Blacksmiths workshops were once common all over the UK but few now remain. This one is owned by Jack and Linda Guy, who were still running it as a blacksmiths even though it was quite literally in danger of falling down when the Limestone Landscape Partnership stepped in to help the Guys save it.

The Limestone Landscape Partnership is a body maintaining the character of the Magnesian Limestone Plateau stretching almost from Tyne to Tees and from the coast to central Durham. It works with many different people to conserve the landscapes, wildlife and built heritage of the area.

The work to save the Smithy was carried out by Classic Masonry, one of the North East’s well respected stone and conservation specialists. It involved stone, brick, timber and clay roof tiles, mostly reclaimed. It was a small project at about £100,000 but a worthy contender for the Angel Awards.

There is a catch-all category in the Angel Awards for projects other than ecclesiastical and industrial sites, which, again, had a preponderance of stone. The category was won by the largely brick All Souls church in Bolton that was converted to a community centre. Receiving the Award was Anayat Omarji, who instigated the project. The building was re-roofed, re-pointed and

re-glazed, with new spaces created inside to facilitate the community use of the building.

The other short-listed projects had much more stonework in them. The Walronds, a Grade I listed Tudor building in Cullompton, Devon, involved local Beer and Thorverton stone, with Trevillet slate from Cornwall for the roof.

As Beer limestone and Thorverton lava stone are no longer in commercial production, they could have proved a problem, but contractors Splitlath Building Conservation from Hay-on-Wye turned to local stone company Orchard Stonemasons of Silverton to source the materials.

Mike Orchard and his wife, Jo, run Orchard Stonemasons and were able to secure the stone required. “There’s no new Beer stone being produced but there’s a secret stash we know of,” says Mike. And as for the reddish Thorverton stone, Mike new a neighbouring farmer was digging it up to put on the tracks around his farm.

The rubble stone of the walls of the Walronds are local Old Devonian red sandstone. They had been damaged by hard cement pointing that has now been replaced by lime mortar but were in a good enough state to be rescued without new stone because the walls were to be covered in 90tonnes of lime render.

Beer stone was used for the architectural details – quoins, cills, heads, mullions, jambs – while the Thorverton stone was used for the semi-dressed areas – the plinth, on the chimney stacks, string courses.

When the roof was stripped to repair it, the nail pattern on the rafters made it clear the existing roof was not as it had originally been, so it was decided to revert to the pattern of the Tudor original, which meant Kilbridge Roofing putting on Tudor triple lapping with collar and tie valleys.

The architect on the project was Marcus Chantry of Benjamin & Beauchamp of Wedmore, Somerset, and overseeing it all for the Cullompton Walronds Preservation Trust was Michael Woodcock, who told NSS: “We had a Grade I listed building on the brink of collapse. Every beam, every purlin, every rafter had to have reinforcement. It’s been a huge job.”

Contractors moved in during October 2012, with up to 15 people on site at a time. The work was completed at a total cost of £3.8million in June this year, although Michael says the preparatory work started as long ago as 1996 and they had spent £600,000 before the contractors arrived.

The Georgian Hagley Park was another of the Angel Awards finalists. Once considered part of a triumvirate of the most artistic landscape gardens in England with Stowe and Blenheim Palace, for the past century or so it has dropped off the radar. Now, though, Joe Hawkins has been appointed as Head of Landscape and is aiming to elevate it to its former status.

The centrepiece is the Hagley Cascades, a series of lakes linked by stone cascades that had become covered in earth and debris and which have now been exposed again. Unexpectedly, they owe more to nature than to man. The feature already largely existed and just a couple of little dams needed to be built to create small lakes. Gravity does all the work, which means the flow of the water changes with the seasons and the weather.

There had been talk of adding pumps to feed the cascade so it would be constant, but Joe Hawkins opposed the idea. This is where James Thomson wrote his poem The Seasons and Joe felt it would be a betrayal of that idea to remove some of the changes brought about by the seasons.

At the top of the cascade stands the rotunda and at the bottom a small Palladian bridge, the two acting as focal points. These have both been rebuilt, largely of newly worked stone, to the designs of architect Nick Reading. Dunhouse Buff sandstone has been used for the rotunda and Mottled Hollington for the main part of the bridge, with Woodkirk Yorkstone for the paving and steps. The specialist contractor was Midland Conservation.

The original stonework of the rotunda had been buried nearby when it was dismantled in the 1960s for safety as it had started to fall down. The buried stone provided plenty of references for the rebuilding, including a central red sandstone section to the dome. Joe Hawkins is convinced this was a joke by the masons, making the top of the rotunda, which nobody would ever see, look like a woman’s breast. The rebuild has included the same feature.

The Palladian bridge, which was also stone, was restored with the help of Monique Mosser, a distinguished French garden historian who discovered a drawing and a dimension plan of it in the archive of the Marquis de Marigny.

It had probably collapsed because of inadequate foundations and the new bridge is supported on 12 piles. Stones were found in the pond with remarkably well preserved mouldings that have been referenced for the redesign. There was nothing left of the columns and roof, but they are presumed to have been wood and have been reconstructed in timber.

There have been as many as 25 people engaged in the restoration of the park, including stonemasons, wallers, carpenters, plasterers, arboriculturists, hydrologists, conservation-accredited architects, landscape architects and garden historians. The work began in earnest in 2013, funded in large part by the Trustees of the Hagley Estate, who earmarked more than £1million for it. Substantial grant aid was received from English Heritage and Natural England, without which it would not have progressed. It is hoped now to obtain planning permission to build a visitor centre and open the Park to the public in 2016.

The final Angel Award short-listed stone project involved cataloguing the prehistoric carved stones on Rombalds Moor in West Yorkshire. The project team photographed the carvings using composite photography and photogrammetry, and trialled polynomial texture mapping techniques. They created 3D digital models of more vulnerable examples. The records have been archived with the West Yorkshire Historic Environment Record and uploaded to England’s Rock Art database at

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