The ultimate goal of heritage builders is to preserve the living history of Britain’s architectural heritage, using the materials and methods that brought these buildings to life in the first place.
Exactly how difficult this can be can depend on a lot of environmental conditions, and these difficulties were highlighted on one of the largest stages British heritage has ever had.
The 2003 BBC television show Restoration had a rather unusual concept; thirty at-risk and severely neglected buildings across ten regions would compete for public votes, first in regional contests before a live final would give a building a Heritage Lottery Grant of £3m.
Whilst there was some criticism of the somewhat cut-throat competitive nature of the show’s presentation, to the point that rival Channel 4 did a counterpoint show called Demolition that instead of celebrating unloved historic buildings demolished historic eyesores, the show was a big success.
However, despite this popularity, the first winning building, the Grade II* Victoria Baths in Manchester had a somewhat troubled restoration period, to say the least.
Initially opened in 1906, the former swimming baths closed in 1993 and the plan with the winning £3.4m heritage grant was to redevelop and repair the Turkish bath section before finishing the rest of the restoration work on the Baths when the £20m of alternative funding needed was raised.
However, the big issue was that the repairs were far more expensive than initially thought, and the £3.4m was only half of what they actually needed to restore the Turkish bath section.
Four years after the public vote, structural work finally began and the baths were finally restored in 2008.
Whilst it has seen use as an exhibition centre and concert venue, and there is a range of guided tours, the process to even reach this stage has been long, and the building is still on the Heritage At Risk register due to how other areas still need considerable restoration.