Maxwell Stephens

Rebuilding Notre Dame: Examples of successful restorations in the UK.

UK building restoration

As will most likely already know, a devastating blaze ripped through the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on Monday, destroying much of the roof and causing its steeple to collapse. Thankfully the fire was tackled in time to save this 850-year-old building, with officials stating that it was within 30 minutes of total destruction. The focus has now shifted to the monumental task of restoring this landmark to its former glory. French President Emmanuel Macron has said that the cathedral will be rebuilt “even more beautifully”, however experts suggest this is going to be a lengthy process, with some estimations saying the reconstruction could take decades. This is not a hopeless endeavour though – here we take a look at some examples of amazing past restoration and reconstruction projects throughout the UK.


York Minster


This one sprang right into our minds when seeing the devastation at Notre Dame.  Back in 1984, this historical landmark was devasted by fire following a lightning strike on the roof . The south transept of the cathedral was almost destroyed . The task of restoring York Minster seemed unsurmountable, particularly the famous Rose window which dates back to 1515 and was painstakingly restored after being shattered into around 40,000 pieces!



St Francis Friary


This large Neo-Gothic church was built for Manchester’s Francisan community in the 1800s, but when the Franciscans vacated in the 1980s it fell into disuse. In 1997, it was placed on the World Monuments Fund Watch List of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. After a 12-year campaign by a local charity, £6.5 million to renovate the building was raised. The work was completed in 1997, and the building is now used for events such as business functions, weddings and parties.



Hellifield Peel


In 2004, the 14th century tower of Hellifield Peel in North Yorkshire stood in utter ruins. The roof was missing, and up to the first floor was completely buried in soil. That year, it was bought by the Shaw family, who succeeded in rescuing the building and turning it into a small hotel. The project was filmed by C4’s Grand Designs, and the hotel was recently named by The Independent one of Britain’s 50 best B&Bs.



Tynemouth station


This Grade II Victorian station in Tynemouth has long been celebrated for its beautifully ornate iron and glass canopies, but over the years it fell into disrepair. The columns and roof trusses supporting the canopies became very corroded, and in 1986 it was threatened with demolition. Some restoration work was carried out in the station in the 1980s, but it was not until 2012 that a extensive overhaul was carried out. The central platforms are still used by trains, but the outlying platforms are now a venue for exhibitions, fairs and other events.



Dewar’s Lane Granary


The distinctive tilt of this former granary building in Berwick-on-Tweed dates from when it was damaged by fire in 1815 and propped up with butresses. In 1985, it stopped being used as a granary, and lay derelict until the Berwick Preservation Trust decided to restore it. The granary is now a hotel, a bistro, meeting rooms and a gallery used for major exhibitions. The renovation required the entire internal structure to be removed and replaced with a steel frame.


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