Chillington Hall already had much to shout about.
The grand south Staffordshire house is owned by a family who can trace their ancestors back to one of the knights who came over with William the Conqueror in 1066.
And its Georgian rooms are packed full of stunning architectural features, family portraits and historic wonders, including a room dedicated to novelist Anthony Trollope – another ancestor.
But now owners John and Crescent Giffard have something else to brag about as the hall has scooped a national award for the painstaking restoration of two of its rooms, which were first created by the acclaimed 18th Century architect Sir John Soane.
Following strong competition from 35 entries across the UK, the hall was announced as the winner of the Historic Houses Association (HHA) and Sotheby’s Restoration Award 2009, scooping £5,000 prize money.
Mr Giffard, aged 57, former Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police, said: “We’re very pleased. It’s a very prestigious award and I imagine we were up against some very strong competition.”
Retiring from the police force three years ago, Mr Giffard found he had more time on his hands to carry out the extensive restoration works begun by his late father 20 years ago.
It has cost around £100,000 to bring the front hall and saloon back to their former glory, money raised through selling derelict buildings on the outer edge of the estate.
But for the Giffard family, who have owned the land for more than 800 years, it was always a labour of love.
As Mr Giffard, who has two sons, explained: “When your family’s been here 800 years there is a weight of responsibility. You don’t want to be the ones to move out! I think my father would have been very proud.”
All restoration work was undertaken in consultation with The Soane Museum, The Georgian Society and English Heritage. The jewel in the crown is the renovation of an elegant lantern which had been in particularly urgent need of repair, letting in water and posing a danger from dropping glass.
In addition the saloon has received extensive redecoration in colours more suited to the design intentions of Soane, most famous for creating the Bank of England.
Discussing this year’s award, Edward Harley, President of the HHA, said: “The extensive work carried out by John and Crescent Giffard at Chillington Hall breathes new life into the elegant rooms created by Sir John Soane and has been done to a very high standard.”
James Stourton, Chairman of Sotheby’s UK, added: “The judges were impressed by the quality of the work both structural and decorative, which included rebuilding the delicate Soane lantern and the excellent redecoration. We look forward to the completion of their plans which will eventually take in all the main public rooms.”
Now in its second year the award was launched to celebrate the restoration work that is continually being undertaken by HHA members throughout the UK.