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Work boost for Purcell after winning Channel 4 Restoration of the Year

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Purcell has received a boost to new business after winning a Channel 4 competition for its £12.5 million revamp of Cardigan Castle in west Wales

The project, which included the repair, conservation and upgrading of six Grade II*-listed buildings within the medieval castle walls, including a Georgian mansion, won the Great British Buildings: Restoration of the Year competition.

A Channel 4 television series, hosted by Kevin McCloud, showcased projects involving heritage buildings, with judges shortlisting the best scheme from each episode.

The restoration of Cardigan Castle, which Purcell worked on for more than 10 years, won its category of Georgian buildings before taking the overall title in the final episode, aired last month.

The series also featured Purcell’s restoration of the Grade II*-listed 18th century Sacrewell Watermill, near Peterborough, and Base Court at Hampton Court Palace.

Purcell partner Niall Phillips, partner said the practice had received a ‘really good response’ regarding the three projects. ‘It’s only been three weeks since the programme but we’ve had about half a dozen direct enquiries, mainly on the help we gave the castle in the early days,’ he said.

It’s only been three weeks since the programme but we’ve had about half a dozen direct enquiries

Projects with which Purcell is in negotiations as a result include the Market House in St Austell, Cornwall, and the Abbey Buildings in Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

Cardigan Castle was built in the 12th century, overlooking the River Teifi in Ceredigion county. It comprises medieval buildings and walls, with a 19th-century Regency addition known as Castle Green House. A Scheduled Ancient Monument, it fell into decline after its purchase in the 1930s by a family unable to pay for its upkeep.

Ceredigion Council acquired the castle by compulsory purchase order in 2003. Cadwagan Trust, a charitable trust set up by local people, commissioned Purcell in 2005 to identify potential future uses for the site.

Purcell led the trust’s efforts in securing grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Welsh national historic environment service Cadw and the Welsh European Funding Office, which distributes funds for economic and social development from the European Union. Cadwgan also raised substantial funds from a public appeal.

Phillips said the practice had seen ‘real interest’ from small third-sector organisations in its early stage work with Cadwagan Trust, which included handling funding bids, capacity building and early stage planning processes, and the community engagement aspect of the project.

‘It’s not so much about the architecture,’ he said, ‘it’s about how we helped them build the vision, put the funding together … And there’s several years’ work in that before you even put pen to paper as an architect.’

He added that the enquiries were from ‘people at the very early stages, not really sure as to how to get going … That’s where we have a particular strength.’

The Cardigan project, completed in summer 2015, also reinstated the Regency gardens and repaired the castle’s curtain walls. A local Cilgerran quarry was reopened to source a particular local slate.

A new dual-aspect cantilevered building, above a section of the castle walls that had been partly demolished in the 1960s, now houses a restaurant/café, It has views across the Teifi quayside and the river below, and inwards across the castle’s Regency gardens. The castle site now also boasts luxury bed-and-breakfast and self-catering visitor accommodation.

The television show’s judges, members of the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS), praised the castle’s transformation ‘from eyesore to landmark’.

Phillips said: ‘Purcell is thrilled to have played a fundamental part in bringing the castle back to life, conserving its fabric and creating new opportunities for growth and regeneration.’

He said visitor numbers at the castle, which now brings 40,000 new people to the town each year, had ‘skyrocketed’, and bookings for the restaurant and holiday accommodation been ‘extremely high’, on the back of the television programme.

The revamp of Cardigan Castle was also among seven buildings shortlisted for the Welsh Gold Medal last year, losing out to Hall + Bednarczyk’s Llandegfedd Visitor and Watersports Centre, Pontypool.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Architects doing what they do best, from funding to detail design, and engaged for ten years, with all the different professions involved. In for the long haul? It is so difficult to maintain a consistently high standard across all the different disciplines. It also made an engaging TV program with the congratulations going to those who did the work? But really everyone should be given a medal.

    Well done guys! Must pay a visit.

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