The revitalising of one of Barnstaple’s most iconic historic buildings has been recognised after being shortlisted for a prestigious award.

Paul and Sam Rhodes at Queen Anne's Cafe with architect Perry Mears. Picture: Peregrine Mears ArchitectsPaul and Sam Rhodes at Queen Anne's Cafe with architect Perry Mears. Picture: Peregrine Mears Architects

The transformation of Queen Anne’s Walk, the former Heritage Centre, on The Strand into a café is among the finalists for the RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) Social Impact Awards 2020 in the heritage and South West categories.

Proprietors Paul and Sam Rhodes engaged Perry Mears RIBA of Peregrine Mears Architects to take on the project.

Mr Mears said: “Our challenge was to revive the inherent character and style of this building, enabling it to be used as a café and tearoom, facilitating an exciting and vibrant new lease of life as Queen Anne’s Café on The Strand.

“We effectively wanted to do as little as we could to retain and indeed rediscover some real features of this Grade II building, together with the colonnade, which is the Grade I Queen Anne’s Walk, which predates the Heritage Centre building by some 151 years.

“However, we also needed to integrate modern amenities, essential in any modern catering business, including the challenge of installing a commercial extraction system. We are delighted and proud of the outcome.”

The project is being recognised for its innovation, adding to the life and activity on The Strand, creating jobs and opportunities, providing an amenity for the town and it is even now a fully licenced wedding venue.

What is now the main tearoom was originally a public baths, with subsequent uses being a Masonic Hall, elderly rest centre and most recently Barnstaple Heritage Centre.

Paul and Sam Rhodes worked closely with landlord North Devon Council to realise their dream.

Mr Mears added: “The feedback from visiting customers received by Paul and Sam is amazing, summarised by ‘We’ve never been into this magnificent building before and we’re really pleased that we have. It’s a significant part of Barnstaple’s history, now accessible, flourishing and a real asset to the town’.

“Paul and Sam have really bought this building to life and it’s part of Barnstaple’s life.

“Architects are perhaps generally synonymous with new build projects. Our love of buildings is liberal and working as part of the team to move this special building into its new chapter was a real privilege.”

The award winners are announced by RICS in May and will be chosen from projects ranging from Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Dorset down the South West peninsula to Truro in Cornwall.