“Restoration Homes”

I thought that only third world countries like us faces challenges in preserving old historic buildings. I would have never thought that even a country like the UK is racing to save some of their most precious treasures.

There’s this great TV series in UK called “Restoration Home” that shows new owners trying to restore their new homes. Well, newly acquired but some of these properties has been around for centuries!

In this series (Episode Six), a humble casual worker, Alan, from Pembroke decided to buy what is practically a ruin over the riverbanks of his hometown. He have fond memories seeing the so called “Big House” as a child and hearing stories about it. This is one of the best episode in the series. A man who practically devoted his life restoring what turns out to be one of the most historic house in the area.

Alan and his wife plans to earn from drawing money from converting the house into a bed and breakfast. It’s a long shot as they struggle to raise funds but they’re committed to see it through. They found surprising revelations after a historian and an architect delved into the DNA of the place that was believed to had been built in the early 18th century.

Interesting is that there’s seem to be no regulation at all in rebuilding ruins in UK but existing structures listed as historical have to be applied for when owners desires to make changes. Basically, everything is left out for the new owner to work on. Good thing is that most Brits are conscious of their pasts importance. It’s fascinating how people could commit their entire resources, their time , just doing things that most people would consider madness. And this is what I love about this documentary series. People doing extraordinary things to save history!

Another episode I like is this one [click here]. An abandoned church that was sold to a couple. But  the church being listed a historical landmark, renovations has to be approved first by the government. Another stipulated condition is that it be made open for the public. I don’t know how that would work out for this wonderful couple who worked so hard to make a home out of this medieval-Gothic church. And I must say, they did well, considering that most of the work was done by both of them!

While there was absolutely no doubt that the works inside St. Thomas a Becket church turn out just fine (thanks to the DYI master Paul, the new owner) I couldn’t wrap my mind around having a graveyard for a yard!

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4 responses to ““Restoration Homes”

  • John Earle

    A strong sense of our personal identity as individuals comes from our background. Feeling the past through daily physical contact with a building which was lived in by people hundreds of years ago is a very special and humbling experience. It must be admitted that some British people would not wish to spend money on old ruins but a significant proportion of people desire a strong feeling of continuity in their lives with previous generations through physical connection with the buildings of the past.

    I totally understand why a Filipino chooses to allocate his meagre amount of disposable income on food for the family for the rest of the week rather than support the restoration of an old house. The people in Britain who undertake these house restoration projects need to have access to some funds and the level of personal devotion to such a project would often attract additional funds from national bodies. The amount of funding available totals many, many millions of pounds across the country. Where no external money is available, people do invest a high proportion of their personal money into such restorations. For example, my elder son bought a house which was built about 150 years ago and is now restoring it to its former glory. It is not a grand house but would have been occupied by a middle class family with some servants. His only motivation is to restore the house to authentic original condition. Where many a Filipino might set up a small business to bring in a bit of extra money, my son spends much of his spare time trying to locate and rescue doors, windows, glass, woodwork, tiles, floorboards, etc., from houses of the same period which are too far gone and have to be demolished.

    Make contact with me directly on my personal email johnearle27(at)gmail.com and I will certainly meet up with you when I am in Manila.

    John

    PS Will you be celebrating your namesake’s anniversaries this month??

    • De AnDA

      Will you be celebrating your namesake’s anniversaries this month??

      You must be referring to Simon de Anda who came and left this world this month. Not really celebrate but I plan to visit a small monument in Bacolor which I have not seen. As you know, he had an interesting encounter with the British during his time. Interestingly enough, October is also the month when Manila was taken by the British.

      I remember this story of an American colleague who went to a local pub England. He almost fell out of his seat when his friend told him that the place was first built in the 1400’s. A beer house twice as old as their country’s founding!

      I could imagine how difficult restoration is for common folks even in Europe. Props to your son who’s doing his share. While I was stationed in Germany, I noticed the same attitude towards heritage. You’re right, this has something to do with the level of living and access to funds. Here, private individual are left to fend for themselves. I’ve met a few families who has given up and opted to sell their old homes.

  • John Earle

    I have the advantage in that I have seen all of these programmes in the UK at the time of original transmission. Restoration Homes is just one of a series of BBC television programs which started several years ago, the original series being called simply Restoration.

    In the UK, we have two organisations – The National Trust and English Heritage – which exist to maintain and preserve the nation’s architectural and landscape heritage. English Heritage is government financed and has castles and the grandest buildings.monuments as its main focus. The National Trust was founded by a group of private individuals more than 100 years ago and its work concentrates on preserving and maintaining houses and areas of natural beauty. Both organisations have membership schemes and get a significant proportion of their income from private individual and family subscriptions. One very significant feature of both organisations is that they go to great lengths to attract families wanting an interesting day out and all castles, houses, etc., put on a wide range of events, some educational, some for pleasure, but all of them relevant to the former life of the site. The details of both organisations can be easily looked up: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk and http://www.english-heritage.org.uk. It is an interesting reflection on British culture that between them both organisations have millions of members, tens of thousands of volunteer workers, and maintain thousands of properties. [Discussion of volunteering as part of British culture would require a whole essay by itself.]

    I am a subscribing member of both organisations. Last year, when my Filipina girlfriend (now wife) and her 11 year old daughter came to visit me for 2 months in the UK, we visited several National Trust and English Heritage site and one of their strongest memories is spending a day at Warwick Castle where they visited the dungeons, saw knights having mock battles and walked around the ramparts. Of course, the closest thing they could relate it to was Harry Potter and we did indeed manage to have lunch in one of the buildings used in the Harry Potter films.

    Do not get the impression that the UK is struggling to maintain its old buildings or that the commitment to heritage is weakening. There are just so many formerly grand or semi-grand buildings that it is inevitable that some of them will deteriorate beyond the point of realistic restoration over time. The people who do undertake these projects do so as a kind of heritage mission and they are admired by some, considered foolhardy by others, but they are all respected as people with their hearts in the right place, even if their financial heads might come to different conclusions.

    Also bear in mind that when the economy is not doing so well as before, restoring old buildings slips further down the priority list for public funds. in fact, a large part of restoration work being undertaken in the UK is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund which gets its money from the National Lottery. It is another interesting reflection on British culture that proceeds of the National Lottery are spent on cultural, heritage and community projects, both large and small. All funds are allocated by committees (not individuals) according to strict criteria with every pound spent subject to public audit. No pork barrels in sight!

    I am pleased that people in other parts of the world are seeing something of what goes on today in Britain. I am currently in Bacolod City and my current research is into the origins and growth of the Negros sugar industry – in particular the role of Nicholas Loney (who was British). He is often described as an imperialist destroyer of local industries – but I have found no evidence for that interpretation. But that is a whole difference story!

    Thank you for your interesting post. No culture has a monopoly of wisdom and we can all learn from each other if we open our minds.

    • De AnDA

      As always, you’re a gold mine for information when it comes to these things. Thank you my friend.

      I can’t help but admire these peoples quixotic dreams. Some of the restoration has practically destroyed some of the owners finances. It’s hard to imagine something like this happening here.

      When you’re in Manila let me know. Good luck on your Loney project.

      Cheers!

      De Anda

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