Hampstead conservationist awarded a Queen Mother medal
Growing up in the oldest house in Hampstead, it is no wonder that Philip Venning OBE has made conservation a passion.
The former assistant editor of the Times Educational Supplement has just been awarded the Queen Mother Memorial Medal for his “outstanding contribution to heritage crafts”.
He is the third person to win the 10-year-old award, but he stands out with his unique contribution – that of setting up a training project for studying craftsmen to observe and learn from experts at work.
His students have gone everywhere from Buckingham Palace to small cottages made of mud and thatch in Devon.
“It was a long standing interest,” said Mr Venning, 64, who has also been secretary of The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) for 28 years.
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“My mother, sister and I lived in Wyldes House, which is behind The Old Bull & Bush in North End Way.
“It’s a farmhouse that dates back to the 1600s. An architect from SPAB helped us restore it, so that was my first contact with the society.”
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The old farmhouse where Charles Dickens and William Blake used to spend time, no doubt inspired Mr Venning to pursue conservation, particularly in Hampstead.
Although the life-long resident has been involved in the campaigns for some of the more famous historical buildings in the area, like Cromwell House, he concedes that these are not his favourite.
“What’s lovely about Hampstead is the much simpler Georgian cottages,” said Mr Venning. “And also the narrow little alleyways and the old steps. It gives the area huge character and identity.”
Although Mr Venning is retiring next year, it is clear that conservation will long be a part of his life.
He currently lives in a 300-year-old house which almost burnt down in the 1980s on Highgate High Street with his wife and two daughters.