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Boconnoc announced as winner of Historic Houses Association/Sotheby's Restoration Award
Boconnoc House was in need of extensive renovation after lying empty for almost 30 years following the Second World War. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

LONDON.- The Historic Houses Association (HHA) and Sotheby’s announced that the winner of the 2012 HHA/Sotheby’s Restoration Award – now in its fifth year – is Boconnoc House, Cornwall. In need of extensive renovation after lying empty for almost 30 years following the Second World War, during which it was occupied by American troops, the historic house has since been comprehensively restored to its former glory. Boconnoc was unanimously voted as this year’s winner by the judges both for its overall revival and the outstanding renewal of the main ground floor rooms, in particular the painted staircase influenced by Sir John Soane. The HHA and Sotheby’s also announced three deserved commendations: Althorp House in Northamptonshire, Spains Hall in Essex and The Summerhouse at Homme House in Herefordshire.

Discussing Boconnoc House’s winning entry, Edward Harley, President of the Historic Houses Association, said: “I am delighted that Boconnoc House has won our Restoration Award this year. The house, which dates from 1250, has been home to the Fortescue family since 1834 when it passed by descent to them from the Pitt family. The current owner Anthony and his wife Elizabeth have worked extraordinarily hard since 1997 to breathe new life into a house which had lain empty for over thirty years. Now this important house hosts weddings, conferences and a large number of special events, most recently the Boconnoc Music Award, and once again plays an important part in local and national life.”

James Stourton, Chairman of Sotheby’s UK, added: “This magical house sits in one of the most beautiful settings in Cornwall and was crying out to be restored and used. It is wonderful to see it come back to life and to see the important painted staircase influenced by Soane so carefully respected in its restoration.”

Discussing the award, the owner of Boconnoc House, Anthony Fortescue, commented: “The opportunity to revive some of the great estates in Britain has been a privilege for some of us in our generation. Elizabeth and I, and our children, Clare and Sarah, have found it rewarding to play our part, recognising how previous generations in our family have made this possible. Boconnoc, which has been home to two of our most influential British Prime Ministers, is situated in one of the most romantic landscapes in the United Kingdom and we are thrilled to have been given this very special award. However, no restoration of this kind can be done without the effort of those who give their skills and enthusiasm to bringing their work to bear on giving life to the best of the past, and it is to those that we owe the honour of this award.”

The Restoration of Boconnoc House, Lostwitheld, Cornwall:
Historic Boconnoc House, nestled deep within the Cornish countryside, has an illustrious history. It has been home to the families of three 18th-century British Prime Ministers, played host to Charles I and is linked to one of the most famous jewels in history, The Pitt Diamond. Boconnoc is also the largest park in Cornwall with history dating back to Doomsday.

One of the most remarkable chapters in Boconnoc’s history has, in fact, been written in the far more recent past than any of the stories recounted above. Now a thriving business and family home, just 15 years ago Boconnoc was in a state of near complete disrepair. Having lain empty for nearly three decades from 1969, 30 years of rainwater and rot both damaged Boconnoc’s most precious and important features.

The first stage of its remarkable restoration was to strip nearly the entire roof, fit battens and felt, and replace the Delabole slate, adding extra from in-house stock. Extensive work was necessary in the principal rooms including the Drawing Room, Library, Dining Room and King’s Bedroom. Attracting the most attention from the judges of all the restored rooms was the revival of the painted staircase influenced by Sir John Soane, which had suffered major damage. Further work to the house included complete rewiring and the installation of heating.

Under the supervision of the owner Anthony Fortescue, Boconnoc* has since undergone a complete restoration. The House, its historic grounds, the gardens and deer park within are now available to hire for weddings, corporate days, private parties and events. Group visits to the house, church and garden can be arranged for Friends of the HHA and others at any time of the year. The Estate also provides holiday accommodation, including cottages in the 18th century Stable Yard for up to 20 guests. Since being brought back to life, the Estate has been used for numerous film locations including Rosamund Pilcher, scenes from the 1993 film of ‘The Three Musketeers’ and the BBC 2 production of ‘Daphne’.

The HHA/Sotheby’s Restoration Award was launched in 2008 to recognise and celebrate the restoration work that is continually being undertaken by HHA members throughout the UK. Restoration projects - which must cover the dominant features of a room, building or folly - are judged according to the way in which they respect and are in sympathy with the historic quality of the building. Projects must have been completed within the last two years and entries must be from HHA members. The restoration projects must also be readily accessible to the public - for at least 25 days a year - or to groups by appointment.

The winning entry, which receives an award of £5,000, should be of a nature which inspires other owners to carry out projects of a similar kind. The judging panel this year included: Edward Harley, President, The Historic Houses Association; John Martin Robinson, Architectural Historian; Professor David Watkin; historian of British architecture and specialist on neo-classicism and also author of numerous books; James Stourton, Chairman, Sotheby’s UK; and David Moore-Gwyn, Deputy Chairman, Sotheby’s UK.

The following properties were commended by the judges:

Althorp House, Northamptonshire
For the comprehensive repair and conservation of the roof and exterior of the Grade 1 listed property. The restoration of the house’s façade, lead work and limestone dressing between September 2009 and April 2011 constitutes the most significant work to the house in over 200 years.

The Summerhouse at Homme House, Much Marcle Herefordshire
For the restoration of the Grade 1 listed Summerhouse dating from the early eighteenth or late seventeenth centuries. In danger of catastrophic collapse and listed in the English Heritage Register of Buildings at Risk, the Summerhouse was compulsorily purchased by Herefordshire County Council and returned to the ownership of the Homme estate in 2011. Between May and September of the same year, the Summerhouse was restored, conserving as much as the surviving fabric as possible.

Spains Hall, Finchingfield, Essex
For repairing and conserving the Grade 1 listed building c. 1475. During the restoration works details of the earlier core of the building have been revealed including the discovery of a hidden Elizabethan doorway, two painted family crests and nineteenth century wallpaper.

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