Historic British monuments still stand proud due to modern renovations

Astley Castle in Warwickshire has recently been awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize after being converted into a unique holiday home; beating stiff competition from the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre in Northern Ireland, Park Hill, and a renovated 1960’s estate in Sheffield as well as many others.

The 12th Century castle, which was damaged by a fire 35 years ago and subsequently fell into ruin, has been completely restored in a project costing £1.35 million for the Landmark Trust charity.

The project has received high praise from the president of the RIBA, who described the work as “an exceptional example of how modern architecture can revive an ancient monument” and “a real labour of love”.

The castle, which is now available to rent as a holiday home for up to 8 people, comes with its very own moat, outside dining hall, its own headless ghost (reputedly) and a whole lot of history, with links to three English queens including Elizabeth Woodville (‘ The White Queen’ as seen on TV!), the Astley family and the Grey Family including Lady Jane Grey and the rebellious Lord Grey, who was found hiding in a hollow oak tree at the castle.  At least four members of the family were beheaded.

The Stirling Prize, which is now in its 18th year, is awarded to the best new building which is constructed in the European Union and designed in Britain, but despite these lofty plaudits, the building has also come in for some criticism.

The success of this project which combines authentic historical beauty with sleek modern designs is a controversial one, with many industry insiders believing that a property of such historical significance should be renewed more authentically with traditional techniques.

A video of the project is available from the BBC here. We’d like to hear from you. Do you think historic buildings should be sympathetically restored, or can modern and traditional styles harmoniously co-exist?

Elsewhere on the cliffs at Lands End, Cornwall, another piece of British history has been excellently converted.

Once a World War II bunker, manned 24 hours a day and used to discover information about enemy activities that were then relayed to nearby pilots and commanders, is now a fully functioning three bedroom bungalow on the market for £275,000.

The project, which was the idea of former property developer Ms Strutton, cost £100,000 and took 5 years to complete. The former bunker now boasts 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a 23ft open plan living area and even a wet room.

It was never Ms Strutton’s intention to live in the property, but shortly after she bought it in 2007, the market crashed, forcing her to sell her more marketable home and move into the bunker.

The renovation was anything but simple, with it taking a month just to drill through the concrete roof to fit an emergency sprinkler system.

The structure also had to be damp proofed because it sits under a 3 foot mound of soil. However, Ms Strutton seems satisfied with the work, describing it as “a magical fortress” and going on to explain that “I live in the best place in the world now”

However, due to work commitments Ms Strutton has now had to put her dream home on the market… on the bright side this allows someone else to own this magnificent piece of British history for just £275,000.

BT / SJ / LCB                                                                                                      04/10/2013

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