Raby Estates Preserving the Past with Traditional Skills
A team of specialists in County Durham is bringing back to life a property which is on the national list of historic and architecturally important buildings.
During significant restoration of Hilton Hall, a Grade II* listed, two-storey building with medieval origins located in the hamlet of Hilton, craftsmen from Raby Estates’ buildings team have discovered several original features of the property which have been hidden for decades.
Several recesses in the formal sitting room have been carefully restored and leaded windows – which had been covered over to create storage areas within the Hall – have been revealed and preserved using traditional materials and methods.
Intricate ceiling mouldings, which had been painted over and lost their unique features or had been damaged beyond repair, have also been brought back to their original design using specialist methods or replacement plaster mouldings created by the buildings team.
Historic elements of the former chapel of St Catherine, a chantry to Staindrop Church, have also been uncovered and the team has worked closely with Durham County Council and Historic England to retain these historical features.
Philip Dent, buildings manager at Raby said: “It is at least 60 years since this building has had any significant investment and our buildings team have worked hard to update the existing facilities within the house with a future tenant in mind.
“Our team consists of highly skilled individuals – many of whom started with us as apprentices – who have been trained during their time here at Raby in highly traditional methods due to the heritage buildings that can be found on the estate, including Raby Castle itself.
“We use processes that have been in existence for over 100 years but with modern equipment, and it’s reassuring that traditional skills training and development on the estate will help to preserve important heritage buildings like Hilton Hall, Unthank and Gainford Hall.”
The work at Hilton Hall – which is thought to have originally been the chapel of St. Catherine before its conversion and adaptation to use as a farmhouse – has been undertaken to make the building fit for habitable use once again.
The most significant change is to the first floor with the addition of bathrooms and elsewhere the changes have created improved spaces for modern living, whilst retaining the historic fabric and therefore special interest of the building.
Philip Dent continued: “We knew there were heritage features in this special building however to find even more has been a pleasant surprise – and adds even further to the historical importance of Hilton Hall.
“We have made sure this restoration project retains the legacy of this building, whilst restoring the hall back to its former glory.”
Once finished, Hilton Hall will have four bedrooms with two en-suites, a large kitchen and a living room with original decorative features and will become part of Raby Estates’ let residential portfolio.
Raby’s buildings team offers an array of opportunities across its historic estate – from joiners, construction support, labourers and trades workers, and has a successful apprenticeship programme to share the knowledge and appreciation of these vital traditional skills to preserve the past.
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