Architect wins award for restoration of historic Walter Wilson store in Amble

A project which has restored the historic Walter Wilson shop in Amble to its 19th Century heyday has won an award

The Walter Wilson store in Amble in the late 19th Century
The Walter Wilson store in Amble in the late 19th Century

Architect Christopher Baglee shopped about for solutions when faced with the task of restoring a Northumberland store to its 19th Century heyday.

The 1837 store in the Amble conservation area had been much altered during the 1970s-80s.

When asbestos panelling and plastic was stripped away, it was found that the shop in Queen Street had been a Walter Willson store from the late 19th Century.

Walter Willson had owned scores of grocery stores throughout the North East.

Christopher, an associate at Spence and Dower Architects in Cambo in Northumberland, eventually tracked down the Walter Willson archive in Beamish Museum in County Durham.

And remarkably the archive contained a set of exterior and interior pictures of the Amble shop which Christopher was able to use as a template for his restoration.

Now the project has been voted joint winner in the built environment section of the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership 2013 Awards for Excellence.

Two doorways and a window of the shop, which had been blocked up, were restored along with the 19th Century window design and stonework revealed under the 1980s alterations has been made good.

Timber Walter Willson signs which were also discovered have been left in place.

Layers of paint applied since 1837 have been scientifically analysed so that the store could be returned to an original colour scheme.

The other joint winner was another shop restoration scheme at The Wydenwell in Bamburgh.

Spence and Dower were also highly commended for their part in saving the 12th Century wall of St Lawrence’s Church in Warkworth, from collapse.

Partner Robin Dower said that the wall had been built on unstable sandy and muddy land near the River Coquet.

The north wall of the church had leaned outwards by 18 inches over the centuries and by another two inches since the 1960s.

With collapse likely, a parishioner turned up with an 1837 painting of the church showing two buttresses which were no longer there.

Excavations revealed no signs of buttress foundations but did uncover five skeletons.

Bore holes were drilled 18 metres down to hit bedrock where concrete caps were laid as anchors for two new buttresses to arrest the leaning wall.

During the work the foundations of a wall from an earlier Saxon church were found.

In the awards, the Farming and Land Management winners were Tom and Karen Burn at Hunting Hall, Lowick.

The North Northumberland Tourism Association won the Sustainable Tourism award.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer