Darlington craftsman named UK’s ‘Heritage Angel’
A restoration expert at Stone Technical Services (STS) in Darlington has been named as best in his industry at one of the heritage sector’s most prestigious awards.
Kenny Brunskill was this week (Monday November 20th) named as Historic England’s ‘Best Craftsperson’ in their annual ‘Angel Awards’ which recognise outstanding achievements of people protecting local heritage.
Kenny was nominated by Martin Hulse from the Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust (TWBPT) for his work preserving and restoring the Corbridge Bottle Kilns, part of the famous 19th Century Walker’s Pottery and scheduled monuments on Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ register due to their poor condition.
The kilns had deteriorated in recent years and Kenny and the STS team carried out a range of preservation works to stabilise them and make them safe for visitors. The kilns are two of only 44 designated bottle kilns in the UK, with the majority of these found in the south of the country.
Kenny beat off competition from dozens of other craftsmen from around the UK and was crowned the overall winner at a ceremony hosted by Andrew Lloyd Webber in London’s West End. He was presented with his award by George Clarke from Channel 4’s The Restoration Man.
Kenny, from Willington, County Durham, joined STS in 2007 as an operative having been in the Army and, since then, has risen through the company to be a supervisor within STS Restoration. Kenny has worked on a number of prestigious projects for STS including St Paul’s Cathedral, the Serpentine Bridge in Hyde Park and Lumley Castle, to name but a few.
Speaking about his award, Kenny said: “Being nominated was a huge moment for me but winning has come as a massive shock- I am thrilled not just for me, but the whole of the brilliant team at STS. We’re really proud to be involved with some hugely important restoration and preservation projects- and the bottle kilns’ project as it meant such a lot to the local community. Preserving local heritage is such important work and should never be under-valued.”
Dave Stone, MD of STS, said: “Kenny’s enthusiasm, work ethic, maturity and natural skill at working at heights have made him the “go to” guy for masonry work on steeples and spires around the region. He has exactly the right qualities for this work and we are so lucky to have him. The sector needs more young people like him.
“The success of the Bottle Kilns project reflects Kenny’s remarkable trajectory as a mason since leaving the British Army in 2003. After first working as a labourer, he developed a passion for masonry. He soon carved out a niche at working at extreme heights – a skill that is highly sought after in the world of conservation.” STS’s is made up of five divisions- STS RopeSpec, STS Lightning Protection, STS Restoration, STS Maintenance and Facilities Management and STS Conservation. The company works all over the UK for organisations such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Central Hall, the Royal Courts of Justice, Ineos and BP and various local councils and housing associations, as well as with the National Trust and English Heritage.
STS was established by Darlington brothers, Dave and Grahame Stone, in 1998 and they now have offices in Edinburgh city centre, near Stockport in Cheshire and in central London as well as their HQ on Kellaw Road in Darlington