THE restoration of a Somerset church spire brought down by storm force winds has won a prestigious historic building award.

The top section of the spire of St Thomas’ Church in Wells fell 40 metres to the ground during Storm Eunice in February last year.

Stonemasons painstakingly created an exact replica using traditional stone carving techniques and the original metal weather vane which was badly damaged in the fall was repaired and placed back on top.

Now the restoration firm Sally Strachey Historic Conservation of Wells and architect Alan Thomas have won one of the acclaimed Stansell Awards given by the Somerset Building Preservation Trust (SBPT) for outstanding examples of building, design and conservation.

The award judges, conservation architect Jo Hibbert and SBPT trustee Adron Duckworth, praised the swift action taken in response to this disaster and the close collaboration of all those involved in the successful repairs.

The Stansell Historic Building Awards are held every two years to highlight the positive contribution that well-designed and conserved buildings make to their surroundings.

This year’s winners were presented with their certificates during a ceremony at the Somerset Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury.

There was a surprise additional prize - the Russell Lillford award named after the SBPT’s late chairman – to recognise the extensive and meticulously detailed research prior to and during the on-going restoration work on the Tone Works, Wellington.

It was presented to Dr Joanne O’Hara, Somerset Council’s programme manager for Heritage At Risk, and representatives of Architectural Threads and Corbel Construction.

There were 14 entries for this year’s awards which are named after the late William Stansell, founder and chairman of the Stansell Group, whose great love was the conservation and repair of historic buildings. The awards are sponsored by Tauntfield Ltd (the Stansell family company).

Other major award winners (with the judges’ comments):

  • St Mary’s Church, Nettlecombe, West Somerset, for the outstanding conservation of three individual monuments. Architect: Annie Evans. Contractor: McNeilage Conservation'
  • The Stables: Venn House, Milborne Port, for a restoration guided by the original design for the building. Architect: Studio Indigo. Contractor: Ken Biggs Ltd.
  • Springfield House, Autobarn, Nunney, near Frome, for a new build exemplifying the skill and craftsmanship working with traditional materials. Architects: Bindloss Dawes Architects. Contractor: GDW Buildings and Renovations Ltd.

Highly commended:

  • East Harptree, conservation work. Architects: Benjamin+Beauchamp.
  • Southtown Farm, West Pennard, restoration of an ancient barn. Architect: Philip Hughes Associates.
  • Woburns Almshouses, Yeovil. Architect: Philip Hughes Associates.
  • Welham Library Barn, Welham Farm, Bruton. Architect: Studio Mark Ruthven.