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The Landmark Trust's Presenters: L-R: Alastair Dick-Cleland, Anna Keay, John Evetts

The Landmark Trust’s Presenters: L-R: Alastair Dick-Cleland, Anna Keay, John Evetts

A viewing void the size of the Great British Bake Off must be daunting to fill but The Landmark Trust has bravely stepped up the Wednesday 8pm slot on Channel 4 for six weeks. Last week’s first episode saw a veritable showcase of properties the charity has taken on – just some of almost 200 they have restored and now manage as holiday lets to the public.

Director Dr Anna Keay described their collection as, ‘…a kaleidoscope of British history’ – reference to the broad range of unique buildings they have saved since their beginnings in 1965. Keay listed the criteria questions for taking a building on to be rescued, restored and redeployed as a holiday let as:

1)   Is it important?

2)   Is it in jeopardy?

3)   Would people want to stay?

The programme touched on what must be huge challenges – all the more so when working with heritage buildings of unique qualities: raising the funds, delivering complex and specialist restoration schemes on time and on budget, and creating something of interest to attract visitors.

These interesting and critical business model-busting factors were not expanded upon in depth, and the hour sought rather to give a taster of the range of their buildings and the importance of engaging traditional craft skills to effectively provide the care and attention these buildings should receive. Last week, for instance, the fascinating art of gold leaf application and the paint effect of marbling used to restore The Music Room property were demonstrated.

Personally I would have loved for more time to have been dedicated to James Evetts’ role as The Landmark Trust’s Furnishing Manager of almost 40 years. Snippets of what must be only part of Evetts’ job were included: organising the testing of old paint, foraging at antiques’ markets, working with specialist furniture makers – and the thorny issue of selecting new interior paint colours. Always a subjective issue and bone of contention on design schemes the viewers were treated to a difference of opinion between the English (Evetts) and the Belgian restoration team (Intercommunale de Bataille Waterloo 1815) over the new paint colour selected for the Hougoumont property in Belgium.  The opportunity to draw confrontational parallels on the very site that was a key battle ground at Waterloo between the English and the French not being missed by the producers! (For a brief history click here).

Quite rightly the salient message was the importance of the work The Landmark Trust does as a patron of British architectural history, and their clear passion in striving to bring to the general public’s attention important historic details that may otherwise have slipped into folklore.

The hour was able to do little more than touch briefly on a variety of challenges the Trust’s construction management team must face daily, and it would be great if over the whole series a more complete picture emerges.

What was achieved, however, was a tantalising glimpse into the rare and unique properties that may have dissolved into irretrievable disrepair and obscurity if a modern-day use had not been creatively envisaged by The Landmark Trust.

Items of note:

  • The Landmark Trust confirmed via Twitter Astley Castle – on which one of my first blog posts was based – will be featured in the coming weeks. Click here for the post.
  • Although the buildings usually receive paying guests the charity does make 50 free stays a year, open to applications from charities and not-for-profit organisations. The deadline for stays between 11th-18th March 2016 is the 30th November. Click here for more details.
  • Open days are also arranged for the general public – for example 20-24th November at Wilmington Priory. Keep a look out on The Landmark Trust’s website here.
  • The series is accompanied by the book Landmark: A History of Britain in 50 Buildings. Click here for more information.