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Conservation win for architect

Richard Elphick at his home and office in Brinkburn.
Richard Elphick at his home and office in Brinkburn.

A north Northumberland architect has just won a prestigious national award for his work on Mount Stewart, a National Trust property in Northern Ireland.

Richard Elphick, from Brinkburn, took the title in the Building Conservation category at the RICS 2016 Renaissance Awards.

Mr Elphick was appointed in January 2012 from a shortlist of conservation architects from around the UK, both because of his approach to the project and also his previous experience of major restorations at Wallington Hall and Cragside in Northumberland.

For the next three years, he commuted regularly to Northern Ireland to design the £6million restoration of the County Down property – a 159-room Georgian and Victorian mansion that overlooks the Stangford Lough.

With involvement in all aspects of the restoration, which included a full re-wire using specialised cabling, new intruder and fire alarm systems, adaptations to the existing 1920s heating system and structural strengthening of the weak first floors, he also carried out the interior design of the private rooms of Lady Rose Lauritzen, who still lives in part of the house and is a descendant of Mount Stewart’s original owners, the Londonderry family.

The restoration also included the design of a wide range of fixtures and fittings, including fitted hardwood bookcases, a new kitchen with Italian marble tops and a new room to exhibit the Londonderry silver collection, which is displayed behind bullet-proof glass cabinets.

Of particular note was Mr Elphick’s solution for protecting a priceless painting by George Stubbs where the skylight above was casting too much daylight onto the picture causing it to degrade, so he conceived a specialised fabric using performance sailcloth to provide an external shade, successfully reducing the level of daylight by 50 per cent.

After all parts of the house had been restored – including all the sash windows – and with full re-decoration throughout, the project was completed in March 2015.

Mr Elphick said: “This was a particularly challenging project which drew on all my conservation and architectural skills, but it was a dream to work on such a fine building with so much history.

“This has sadly marked the end of what has been a most enjoyable three years of travelling to Northern Ireland to work with an excellent specialist team.

“It is also gratifying to view the completed restoration work in the knowledge that Mount Stewart’s long-term future is assured.”