Maintaining heritage: Transforming a ruin into one 2015’s most celebrated conservation projects (Design & Build Review magazine)

St Giles House, the ancestral home of Lord Shaftesbury in Dorset, UK, was transformed from a state of ruin to one of the most celebrated building conservation projects of 2015. Frances Marcellin spoke to the restoration team to find out how they took on such a sensitive project.

When Lord Shaftesbury inherited the grade I listed St Giles House back in 2005, aged just 25, it was unrecognisable from the grand family home that exists today. Set on a 5,000-acre estate, the first brick of the present property was, according to ancestral records, laid in 1650.

However, having been left derelict and uninhabited for the latter part of the 20th century, decades of dry rot and water penetration, as well as botched demolition work in the seventies (an attempt by the 10th earl to make it habitable again) meant St Giles House was on the brink of collapse.

great dining room before
Dining room before

Client and surveyor synergy key to success

Determined to transform St Giles back into a family home and local community venue for events, weddings and festivals, in 2010 Lord Shaftesbury – Nicholas Ashley-Cooper, the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury – appointed Philip Hughes Associates (PHA), a building conservation consultancy made up from surveyors and architects, to prepare sketch proposals and start the planning process for the building’s restoration.

This started a near five-year project of major restoration work to return St Giles to its former glory. The overall philosophy was clear.

“We planned to retain as much historic fabric as possible, reinstating as many fragments of material previously removed from the building in the process,” says surveyor Philip Hughes. “Every scrap of historic fabric (stone, brick, timber and plaster, and so on) that could be saved and re-used has been.”

The final results surpassed all expectation with St Giles House winning a host of awards in 2015 for its fine restoration work. These included Sotheby’s Restoration Award, the Historic England Heritage Angels Award and the RICS Building Conservation Award.

Unwavering client commitment to the project was vital for PHA if the project was to be successful. For RICS judge John Webster, it was the passion and vision of the client and the “special working relationship” between Lord Shaftesbury and Hughes that made achieving such high standards possible.

“This allowed for robust conservation methods of the highest standards to work alongside realistic and achievable budgets, and good prioritisation of resources,” explains Webster. “This has resulted in rooms like the library, which has had a light-handed approach applied, being relatively untouched, whereas the grand Portrait Hall is a ‘tour de-force’ where interior design meets deep conservation.”

great dining room after
Dining room after

The conservation master plan

Unwavering client commitment to the project was vital for PHA if the project was to be successful. For RICS judge John Webster, it was the passion and vision of the client and the “special working relationship” between Lord Shaftesbury and Hughes that made achieving such high standards possible.

“This allowed for robust conservation methods of the highest standards to work alongside realistic and achievable budgets, and good prioritisation of resources,” explains Webster. “This has resulted in rooms like the library, which has had a light-handed approach applied, being relatively untouched, whereas the grand Portrait Hall is a ‘tour de-force’ where interior design meets deep conservation.”

Read the rest of the article on Design Build Network.

 

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