King of Prussia Award

16th Jan, 2019

King of Prussia Gold Medal, 1 November 2018

The Grade I listed St Mary Magdalene Church, Paddington, was designed by the acclaimed English architect G. E. Street in the 1860s-70s. It was put on Historic England’s At Risk Register, following decades of water penetration and general decay. The conservation project aimed to conserve and bring to the surface the architectural and decorative quality of this Gothic Revival masterpiece, employing sensitivity and high standards in design and workmanship. It is the result of a partnership between the church and Paddington Development Trust (PDT) to bring about long-lasting positive change, not just for the building but also for the local community. The project is being supported by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Caroe Architecture worked closely with Cliveden Conservation to carry out the restoration and specialist cleaning of the internal and external decoration. A key component of this work was the conservation cleaning of fine decorative painted ceilings in the Nave and Chancel, which were executed by a leading ecclesiastical artist of the day, Daniel Bell. The process has involved in-depth trials and analysis to establish conservation techniques to carefully remove the dirt and discoloured varnish, which until recently disfigured and concealed the full grandeur of these ceilings. Having been inducted on to the St Mary Magdalene project in January 2017, I had to quickly get up to speed with the trials process and contract documentation for the project - a steep but thoroughly enjoyable learning curve.

Caroe Architecture are the conservation architects working with Dow Jones Architects, who are leading on the new facilities being constructed for the Church. These include a learning space, cafe and cultural venue, which will be run by Paddington Development Trust. The conservation work forms a major part of the Church’s redevelopment alongside the new annexe. This aspect of the project is currently still on site.

On 1 November 2018, I attended the award ceremony for the King of Prussia Gold Medal on behalf of Caroe Architecture. The ceremony formed part of the National Churches Trust (NCT) AGM at St Mellitus College, London. The Awards are jointly run by the NCT and the Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association (EASA). The description from their website reads:

“The annual King of Prussia Gold Medal award is granted to a scheme of innovative, high quality church conservation or repair that overcomes the greatest aesthetic or technical challenge. Gifted by King Frederick William IV of Prussia (1795 – 1861) to the Incorporated Church Building Society in 1857, the prize has been awarded each year since the 1980s, with this year’s medal presented by Prince Nicholas von Preussen, a descendant of the Prussian royal family.”

We had been shortlisted for the King of Prussia award for the conservation works carried out at St Mary Magdalene. We were delighted to receive the prestigious Gold Medal, which I accepted together with Fr. Henry Everett and Lewis Proudfoot of Cliveden Conservation.

I wish to extend my most sincere congratulations to all those involved in making this scheme an award-winning success, and for teaching me so much along the way.

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