Emma Honey
Posted on 1 May 2014

Heritage Project of the Year

The Michelmores and Western Morning News Property Awards are the region's premier property competition, showcasing the very best in West Country property projects, buildings and firms

The Heritage Project of the Year category is sponsored by NatWest.  Torre Abbey, Torquay was announced at a Gala Dinner at St Mellion International Resort on May 8th 2014.

More about what the judges had to say...

Shortlist 2014

Torre Abbey, Torquay

Nominated by:  Kier Western & Wales

Project Cost: £4.6m

The project’s objective was the sustainable conservation of Torbay’s most important historical building by revealing and presenting the history of the abbey's ruins and buildings. Built in 1196, Torre Abbey is not only Torquay’s oldest building, but also the best surviving medieval monastery in Devon and Cornwall.

This remarkable heritage asset comprises, two grade I and four grade II listed buildings of national importance; ruined remains of a medieval abbey, buried remains and landscape features which comprise a scheduled Ancient Monument of national importance; a museum collection comprising archaeological and memorabilia finds from the medieval abbey; a fine art collection including some nationally important works, and gardens and parklands of local importance.

The design has achieved the interpretation of the past in modern ways, capturing and preserving the historical spirit and presenting it in a visually outstanding display. In particular the design needed to incorporate a new glass lift and ramps to enable the project to be properly accessible.

The Abbey is now open to the public 5 days a week and offers tours for schools and groups as well as a venue for weddings and other events which include carol concerts, charity performances, historical lectures, plant sales, ghost hunts, and touring exhibitions.

The surrounding grounds are open to the local community for walking and provide a tranquil space with benches to relax on looking out across the bay.

The outcome is an innovative and exciting look at history with excellent presentation of great value as a learning and educational resource which also has become a major asset to the tourism economy.

Lynmouth Pavilion

Nominated by: Exmoor National Park Authority

Project Cost: £1.2m

Funded jointly by Devon County Council’s Invest in Devon Fund and by Exmoor National Park Authority, the aim of this project was to redevelop the derelict Lynmouth Pavilion in to a ‘must see’ destination and interpretation centre themed on the National Park’s special qualities and to act as a year-round ‘learning and discovery hub’ attracting visitors to the area particularly during the ‘shoulder’ season.

Although not listed, the original building was of local significance and valued by the community for its variety of uses over the years which has included a waiting area for steamers, an arcade, theatre, badminton court and even a zoo.  Following community consultation, the decision was made to retain the design of the 1930s façade and roof trusses.

Although all new build, the original 1930’s blueprints were used as a guide for fabrication of the steel works with the new structure retaining a similar streetscape on the Esplanade as in the 1930s.

The landmark building designed by Barnstaple-based RGP Architects, is adjacent to Lynmouth’s iconic cliff railway and comprises exhibition, community and education space with a mix of hi-tech and more traditional exhibits ranging from a large touch screen table and i-pads to the traditional seaside photo board.  To the first floor is a privately run café.

The project has completely transformed a much loved but derelict building bringing into the 21st century and adding significantly to the area’s tourism offer.  The judges considered the new building with its ‘veneer of heritage’ to be excellent value for money.

Royal Barham House, Truro, Cornwall

Nominated by:  Linden Homes

Project Value: £3.2m

A team of over 50 craftsmen, architects, conservation officers, planning officers and site managers has breathed new life into the landmark, but sadly derelict, Royal Cornwall Infirmary.

Their painstaking work has converted the former Georgian hospital, now renamed Royal Barham House, into a stunning development of 19 unique and characterful two, three and four bedroom apartments located at the top of Lemon Street in Truro.

Set over five storeys, the homes are elegant in design and have been built to a high specification. Some elevated apartments boast magnificent views out towards Truro Cathedral, the viaduct and the fields beyond. Some are conversions from the hospital’s old x-ray room, matron’s quarters and operating theatre.

Original features were restored wherever possible. A specialist company steam cleaned the exterior and stonemasons carefully restored the Lancashire stone. 185 stunning sash windows were all refurbished or replaced with an identical replica with a joiner taking 12 months to complete the task. The large front door was built to match the original and the grand main staircase was restored complete with sturdy cast iron balustrades and smart Terrazzo finish floor.

Royal Barham House lies within the Conservation Area of Truro and overlooks the city centre at a height of 25 metres. The house itself looks out over an area of open space which features horse chestnut, yew and oak trees, laurel hedges and attractive planting. Sixty natural granite steps will connect Truro’s Piazza and Royal Barham House, offering residents and visitors views across the city as part of a new public garden.

China Tower Restoration, East Budleigh, Devon

Nominated by: Clinton Devon Estates

Project Cost: £350,000

Having stood empty for many years, and been subject to regular vandalism, the castellated Grade II listed China Tower, near Bicton Arena, East Budleigh was leased from Clinton Devon Estates by the historic buildings’ charity, the Landmark Trust for holiday lettings. It is part of the Trust’s unique collection of historic buildings across the UK, including 38 in Devon. Income generated by holiday lettings pays for the ongoing maintenance of the historic buildings.

The project has achieved a stunning restoration of an 1839 Gothic folly keeping true to its original vision but providing modern home comforts for holiday makers to enjoy.

The conversion of the four storey building, complete with a 210 step stair turret, included a fitted kitchen and modern bathroom on the ground floor, comfortable double bedrooms on the first and second floors and a drawing room with spectacular views of East Devon on the top floor. For the first time in its history, the folly has electricity, water from a bore hole and air-source heating. These new facilities and modern comforts have been carefully integrated to preserve the architectural integrity of the tower whilst securing a sustainable future for this heritage asset.

The Tower was designed as an eye-catching folly to be glimpsed within the wider landscape from specific areas of the registered park and garden at Bicton. These key historic views that had been lost over time have been re-introduced by careful landscaping.

The charming and romantic structure was described by the judges as ‘top notch’ and a ‘real labour of love’.  Its success can be evidenced from the glowing comments made by guests since the China Tower reopened.    

Also read about the Building of the Year nominees