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Andrew Lloyd Webber Names Historic England Angel Award Winners

A rescued country house, a miners' railway hauler house, a church redundant for 30 years, a restored coffin works and the "pointing queen" all celebrated as winners.

Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, John Whittingdale MP, presents award for Best Heritage Rescue.

Andrew Lloyd Webber joined Historic England last night to announce the winners of this year's Angel Awards. The awards, presented with fellow judge Bettany Hughes, were a celebration of the unsung heroes of the heritage world. The ceremony featured a special appearance from John Whittingdale MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who was there to present the Best Rescue of a Heritage Site award.

John Whittingdale MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "I am extremely grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to restore precious heritage sites across the country. Their efforts mean that future generations will be able to appreciate these places for years to come."

"The Angel Awards are a great way to shine a light on these special individuals. I feel honoured to present the 'Best Rescue of a Heritage Site award' to Nicholas and Dinah Ashley-Cooper - 12th Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury - for the rescue of St Giles House and Park in Dorset. Thanks to them, the public can enjoy a particularly beautiful and historic home."

Andrew Lloyd Webber said: "The Angels were set up to recognise the achievements and determination of people who work tirelessly to rescue our heritage. Often, these people start a project using their own initiative, their own resources and have little outside help. The Angels is all about bringing that work, and these people, into the spotlight. Now in its fifth year, the Angels go from strength to strength and this year sees the first Scottish Heritage Angel Awards."

Duncan Wilson, Historic England Chief Executive, said: "Last night was all about honouring people who rescue heritage for future generations. It was a chance to mark collective achievements, take stock of how far restorations and rescues have come, and tackle future challenges with renewed vigour."

The awards are judged by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Historic England's Chief Executive Duncan Wilson, historian Bettany Hughes, TV's Restoration Man George Clarke, ceramics manufacturer Emma Bridgewater and the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall.

The winners of the 2015 Angel Awards are:

Best Rescue of Any Other Type of Historic Building or Place: Nicholas and Dinah Ashley-Cooper, 12th Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury for the rescue of St Giles House and Park, Wimborne St Giles, Dorset

Abandoned and forgotten in the 1980, the Grade I St Giles House and Park rapidly fell into disrepair. In 2010, the new 12th Earl of Shaftesbury began thinking creatively about how to turn St Giles back into a family home. Natural England contributed more than £1 million to the restoration of the superb Georgian landscape. Building work began the following year with a team of craftsmen, specialists and consultants all pulling together to give this very special building a new lease of life.

Nicholas Ashley-Cooper, 12th Earl of Shaftesbury, said: "This started as a small project that got larger and larger. Once we started, we saw the opportunity and had the vision to see this very special project through."

St Giles House and Park
St Giles House and Park, Wimborne St Giles, winner of the 2015 Historic England Angel Award in the category of Best Rescue of Any Other Historic Building or Site

Best Rescue or Repair of a Historic Place of Worship: Friends of St Mary Church for the rescue of St Mary's, Norfolk

The Grade I listed St Mary's Church became redundant in the 1980s and quickly fell into disrepair. The 100-strong Friends group, led by Graham Prior, were faced with a huge challenge to restore the building. The windows broken, walls crumbling, organ vandalised and graveyard completely overgrown the rescue was a real labour of love. When many would have simply given up, the Friends group persevered and achieved the remarkable; bringing a redundant and forgotten church back to life.

Graham Prior, Forncett St Mary, said: "We have a group of 100 friends who made this all possible. Everybody's support has been amazing."

Church covered with scaffolding
St Mary’s Church, Forncett St Mary, winner of the 2015 Historic England Angel Award in the category of Best Rescue or Repair of a Historic Place of Worship.

Best Rescue of a Historic Industrial Building or Site: Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust for the rescue of Blackfell Hauler House, Gateshead

The Bowes Railway is a unique industrial heritage site, once used to transport coal from the Durham coal fields down to the Tyne and to the cities, towns and villages beyond. Of all the buildings at Bowes, the hauler house was the biggest challenge. Subjected to frequent vandalism, graffiti and metal theft that wrecked the machinery, its transformation is all the more remarkable. With support from Historic England and the Architectural Heritage Fund, the Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust has been working on its restoration for nearly 40 years. The roof, windows, doors and steelwork have all been repaired turning the building into a successful workshop producing yurts.

Martin Hulse, Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust, said: "This project had taken over 40 years, we've been involved for the past six. The day I pulled the architect through the hole in the wall into the building, was the day I realised the project had to work."

Blackfell Hauler House behind fencing
Blackfell Hauler House, Tyne & Wear, winner of the 2015 Historic England Angel Award in the category of Best Rescue of a Historic Industrial Building or Site

Best Craftsmanship by a Trainee or Group Employed on a Heritage Rescue: Emma Dawson for her work on several heritage at risk sites

At the tender age of 16, armed only with a Saturday job at Woolworths and an interest in heritage, Emma landed a place on a foundation scheme where she began learning to work with plaster and mortar. Since then she's worked on many historic properties, from the National Trust's Basildon Park to King's Cross St Pancras, and has earned the nickname "The Pointing Queen".

Emma Dawson said: "It's a great honour to work on historic buildings, it's something I've been passionate to work on ever since I was a kid."

Emma Dawson
Emma Dawson at work on a heritage site, winner of the 2015 Historic England Angel Award in the category of Best Craftsmanship by a Trainee or Group Employed on a Heritage Rescue

The People's Favourite: The Historic England followers and Telegraph Readers' award: The Newman Brothers Coffin Works, Birmingham

After 100 years of producing small metal goods in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, the Coffin Works closed its doors in 1998, leaving factory and offices intact, as if the workers had simply gone on a tea break. It soon fell into disrepair and was declared "At Risk" in 2003, leading to a tireless effort from the Trust's previous director Elizabeth Perkins and volunteers, to tell the story of this incredible building. Now open to the public, the building has been rescued and offers a window into a lost world.

Simon Buteux, Birmingham Conservation Trust, said: "This is an incredible thing for Birmingham. We reinvented the Coffin Works, it was an extraordinarily hard struggle but it was worth it."

The future of the Angel Awards

We are delighted to announce the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation has just renewed and increased its funding until 2018. Next year the categories will be broadened to celebrate inspirational community action groups, leading pieces of heritage research and education and, of course, ambitious rescues of our most important historic buildings and places. Look out for more information on the new awards in 2016.

Next steps

See all shortlisted entries for the 2015 Angel Awards

Find out more about the Angel Awards

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Angel Award Winners 2015

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

  • Graham and May Prior
  • Emma Dawson
  • Nicholas and Dinah Ashley-Cooper, 12th Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury
  • Elizabeth Perkins and Simon Buteux, are presented with the award for the People's Favourite Award by Dame Esther Rantzen
  • Martin Hulse and Clare Lacy

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