Saturday, 5 October 2013

William Anelay Project Wins RIBA Stirling Prize

Astley Castle in Warwickshire, a venue recently restored by York-based building conservation specialist William Anelay Ltd, has received the ultimate architectural accolade in the form of the RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture.

The castle was transformed from a derelict shell into a stunning Landmark Trust holiday home over a 20 month time frame from September 2010 with William Anelay working under the auspices of architects Witherford Watson Mann.

It finished ahead of five other projects across the UK with 27% of 65,000 votes in a much publicised BBC website poll.

William Anelay Chairman Charles Anelay, the eighth generation of the Anelay family to be involved in the 266 year-old business, commented: 
“This is the ultimate accolade for William Anelay for what was one of the most complex and challenging projects we’ve ever worked on.

Anelay’s MD Tony Townend added “The project clearly struck a chord with the UK public and we’re delighted that the project has been recognised in this way.”

For more details visit or to read the case study and view a selection of images read on ....


History looms large amid the ruins of the recently announced RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture winner Astley Castle in deepest Warwickshire.

One of the most complex restoration projects ever undertaken in the UK, Astley Castle, which dates back over 800 years, recently started a new chapter as a Landmark Trust holiday home.

 Once home to Lady Jane Grey, the nine day Queen who was executed by Queen Mary I in 1554, Astley Castle underwent an extensive £1.3 million refurbishment phase under the auspices of architects Witherford Watson Mann together with York and Manchester based building and restoration contractors William Anelay Ltd, a firm with 266 years of history of its own. 

Leased by the Landmark Trust from the Arbury Estate, Astley Castle, formerly on the UK’s Buildings at Risk Register, is now set to start a new lease of life as a holiday home with the Landmark Trust.

Work started on the current phase of works in September 2010. Completion came in June 2012 with the property now available for holidays.

The moated castle, with many of its remains dating back to the 12th Century and signs of occupation dating back to Saxon times, is known as being ‘owned by 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 ill-fated young Princes who ended their lives controversially in the Tower of London. Her daughter, also called Elizabeth (of York), went on to become the wife of Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII.

 Restoration projects are rarely as demanding as this one with millimetre perfection very much the name of the game and a combination of new build skills and conservation expertise contributing to the creation of what is a truly stunning holiday venue. 

The house accommodates up to eight people and complies with all DDA regulations including a lift, another first for such a Landmark Trust property.

From the 1930s until the late seventies the castle served as a hotel as well as a home for convalescing servicemen during World War Two. 

A fire in 1978 gutted the building and it had remained forlorn and out of use ever since.

 William Anelay Technical Director Tim Donlon is well aware of the history and the complexity in giving this intriguing venue a new lease of life: 
“I’ve worked on many historic and incredible projects with William Anelay but this really has been the most challenging and interesting one yet.

“There were so many different facets to this project that made it unique. The whole of the new build is enclosed within the existing ruins. In order for the new walls to meet the ruins at the correct roof level all of the setting out has been established from the top rather than from ground level using just two precisely defined points on the existing structure as a starting point.

“There’s also the brickwork bond or pattern devised by the architect specifically for this project which has never been used before and involved almost 50,000 40mm bricks imported from Denmark.

“Everything was so exact with this job and being just a millimetre out could have effected everything. The architect’s plans were extremely detailed to the extent that every single brick is shown on the drawings.

“At every point where new ground was broken we had to call in the archaeologists. This is because the below ground site and the curtain walls are registered as a scheduled ancient monument.

“There are so many layers of history here. From the 12th Century onwards, additional aspects have been added at regular intervals and it’s revealed a lot of fascinating construction methods from days gone by as well as some rather shoddy Victorian workmanship!” added Tim.

From a structural point of view over 270 Cintec anchors were inserted into the existing remains to make safe the aspects and help to stabilise the building.

Alastair Dick-Cleland of the Landmark Trust commented: 
“This project really stands out even when compared to the many other complex restorations that the Landmark Trust has undertaken over the last 45 years.

“Whereas we would normally do a traditional restoration, here we have inserted modern accommodation within the ruined walls. This is a first for the Landmark Trust and is a practical solution to saving what was a very ruinous structure. Without this intervention, Astley Castle would surely have been lost forever.

“The completed building will provide a truly amazing experience for any visitor and one that we are very excited about,” he added.

The haunting image of Lady Jane Grey, rumoured to peer out of one of the castle’s Tudor style windows, could well feature a smile as she sees her former residence develop, once again, into a home fit for a Queen!

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