Pre­serv­ing old ways to cre­ate the new earns top award

Giv­ing new life to old build­ings is all in a day’s work for Wil­liam Anelay. Sharon Dale talks to the win­ners of the pres­ti­gious Stir­ling Prize.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

BUILDERS have suf­fered a dread­ful re­ces­sion but there are a few ex­cep­tions and Tony Townend is one of them.

“There isn’t a day when I don’t bounce out of bed and look for­ward to go­ing to work,” says Tony, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of York­based con­ser­va­tion spe­cial­ists Wil­liam Anelay Ltd.

He jumped for joy re­cently when the com­pany’s lat­est project, Astley Cas­tle, won the pres­ti­gious RIBA Stir­ling Prize for Ar­chi­tec­ture.

Deemed one of the most com­plex restora­tions ever un­der­taken in the UK, the 800-year-old War­wick­shire cas­tle has been trans­formed from a derelict shell into a stun­ning hol­i­day home for the Land­mark Trust.

The £1.3m build, which took 20 months, saw Wil­liam Anelay work­ing with ar­chi­tects Wither­ford Wat­son Mann, to cre­ate a new prop­erty within the ru­ins.

The moated cas­tle’s re­mains date back to the 12th Cen­tury and have links to three Queens of Eng­land. In the mid 15th Cen­tury, it was home to El­iz­a­beth Woodville, who went on to marry Ed­ward IV and bore him the ill­fated Princes in the Tower.

Her daugh­ter, El­iz­a­beth of York, went on to be­come wife of Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII. Astley was also home to Lady Jane Grey, the nine-day queen.

From the 1930s un­til the late sev­en­ties the cas­tle served as a ho­tel but a fire in 1978 gutted the build­ing.

“The struc­ture was in se­ri­ous risk of col­lapse and one of the main prob­lems was mak­ing it a safe place to work. Then there was the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing a mod­ern build­ing in an his­toric struc­ture,” says Tony.

Over 270 Cin­tec an­chors were in­serted to sta­bilise the ex­ist­ing re­mains. Plans for the new build were so de­tailed that ev­ery sin­gle brick was shown on the draw­ings. The brick­work pat­tern, de­signed specif­i­cally for the project, had never been used be­fore so around 50,000 bricks had to be made and im­ported from Den­mark.

“Ev­ery­thing was so ex­act with this job and be­ing just a mil­lime­tre out could have af­fected ev­ery­thing. We spent six weeks do­ing them sam­ple pan­els so they could choose the right brick,” says Tony.

“But it was well worth the ef­fort. It is a fan­tas­tic, ground-break­ing project.”

Stir­ling prize judges thought so too and the ac­co­lade is the 13th this year for Anelay’s, which was launched in 1747 and still has a mem­ber of the fam­ily at the helm.

Com­pany chair­man is Charles Anelay, who staged a man­age­ment buy-out with three col­leagues in 2006, just be­fore a credit crunch that dev­as­tated the con­struc­tion sec­tor.

“It’s been a tough time but we have been lucky com­pared to some of our com­peti­tors and things are get­ting bet­ter,” say Tony.

Most of their work is restora­tion and con­ser­va­tion of old, of­ten listed, prop­er­ties, and ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal build­ings, in­clud­ing York Min­ster, though one of their lat­est projects is a pres­ti­gious new-build for a wealthy client in West York­shire. They are also work­ing on Cas­tle Drogo in Devon for the Na­tional Trust.

They spe­cialise in tra­di­tional tech­niques and have their own team of over 100 crafts­men ma­sons, join­ers, lead work­ers, roofers and brick­lay­ers along with ap­pren­tices, so that age old skills can be passed on to a new gen­er­a­tion.

Many of the his­toric build­ings they work on have suf­fered from un­sym­pa­thetic ex­ten­sions and the use of mod­ern ma­te­ri­als, like gyp­sum plas­ter. Anelay’s use lime and horse hair plas­ter which al­lows a build­ing to breathe.

Another is­sue is ce­ment strap point­ing that stands proud of the stone face and doesn’t breathe, ex­pand and con­tract. When wa­ter gets into the stone and freezes, it blows the face off and causes ero­sion. That kind of point­ing needs to be re­placed with lime mor­tar.

The com­pany is also ex­pert at in­tro­duc­ing in­su­la­tion and more ef­fi­cient heat­ing in draughty, fuel guz­zling cathe­drals. This in­volves tak­ing up the floor and putting in un­der­floor heat­ing.

Anelay’s sen­si­tiv­ity and knowl­edge of his­toric build­ing tech­niques and ma­te­ri­als is im­pres­sive but if they need help, they can consult their 266-yearold li­brary.

“We’re never left scratch­ing our heads. We just go and look at one of the books. We have an amaz­ing ar­chive de­tail­ing ev­ery­thing from joint­ing to ma­sonry tech­niques,” says Tony, who also works closely with ar­chae­ol­o­gists.

At ev­ery point where new ground was bro­ken at Astley Cas­tle they had to call in a “time team” to check for buried trea­sures.

Pot­tery, Ro­man coins and bones are reg­u­larly un­earthed on many of their sites. Their most strik­ing find was a Ro­man road and a burial site con­tain­ing 138 skele­tons at 12th cen­tury Syn­ingth­waite Pri­ory, near Wetherby, where they were ren­o­vat­ing old farm build­ings.

“That was the most mem­o­rable days by far,” says Tony. “But in one way or another ev­ery day is dif­fer­ent for us and that’s why I love the job so much.”

www.willia­manelay.co.uk; www.Land­mark­trust.org.uk

Twit­ter: @Prop­er­ty­Words

ARTFUL IDEAS: The White House is full of in­di­vid­u­al­ity and boasts Art Deco and Arts and Crafts fea­tures, in­clud­ing the canopied and stained glass en­trance and the oak pan­elling in the sit­ting room.

STER­LING WORK: Astley Cas­tle’s ru­ins are now home to a new hol­i­day prop­erty that won ar­chi­tec­ture’s top award.

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