Any building conservation project can raise complex questions, and the need for our buildings – however esoteric – to work as houses can require more active intervention that were they simply to be museum specimens. Our judgments are always thoughtfully made and while we respect alterations and additions that are part of the building’s character, we do not do so slavishly. If later, inferior work obscures something finer, or if decay or degradation has gone beyond even our commitment to repair, we may seek to reverse or even remove later alterations or additions.
We employ both specialist contractors and our own small team of craftspeople in the skilled work of repairing and renovating a building. For the first time in 2015, conservation trades Apprentices will also be a part of our team. Among our craftsmen is Stuart Leavy who joined Landmark in 2006, and has since worked on Lundy, the Shore Cottages, Berriedale and at Belmont in Lyme Regis.
Of his time at Berriedale, Stuart remarks: ‘it was a fantastic location to work in. I had to walk along the beach to work and would think, “Whatever today throws at me, it’s worth it.” When I was not working, I would be taking photographs or kayaking straight off the beach. Along the Caithness coastline there are enormous sea caves populated with dolphins, seals and occasional sea otters.’
‘One of the things I enjoy is that I am constantly problem-solving. The job is so varied that there is always something new to learn. At Berriedale I designed and built a barge to carry the materials across the river to the site and felt a tremendous sense of achievement when it worked!’
Since September 2013, Stuart has been site manager on our major project to restore and conserve Belmont in Lyme Regis – once the house of Eleanor Coade and later John Fowles. ‘Belmont is by far the biggest project I have worked on and it is fascinating. Every day, we are finding something new. We’ve just discovered a staircase and the foundations of Bunter’s Castle, the house that was there previously. We have revealed evidence of where the roof changes from one design to another.’
As well as big conservation projects, Landmark undertakes a rolling programme of maintenance on our buildings, which now includes a focus on improving their warmth and energy efficiency. This ranges from ensuring buildings are better insulated and draught-proofed to installing air source heat pumps and other low carbon heating systems.
Stuart says, ‘Being part of the Landmark buildings team is a real honour. There is a bank of knowledge there that is second to none. Everyone wants to do the best thing for the building: they really care. At the opening of the Shore Cottages, all my family came up to the event. The sun was shining, the sea was like a glass table. To know that you have been part of the rescue of a building, that’s priceless.’