Cumbrian Landscape - TLD and Bassenthwaite LakeThe renovation of a Victorian model farm to become England’s premier whisky distillery, The Lakes Distillery, has been voted the Best Small Commercial Building project in the North at the regional heats of the LABC Building Excellence Awards and Highly Commended in the Best Change of Use of an Existing Building or Conversion category.

Originally built as a Victorian model farm in 1860, the refurbishment and alteration of the existing buildings took four years of careful negotiations with the Lake District National Park planning authority to realise the dream. Once underway, work to form the distillery took Architects Plus and contractor Lambert Gill 10 months to complete in conjunction with Allerdale Borough Council.

Set to be one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions, it was vital the £7m development of The Lakes Distillery was both aesthetic and practical. Developed to strict guidelines governing developments within the Lake District National Park, the development team used local materials, labour and techniques where possible.

Work commenced on site in earnest in early 2014 and completed by Christmas the same year utilising Lambert Gill’s skills and experience of working with traditional materials and conservation techniques including slate walling, lime mortar, Westmorland slate roofing and oak trusses.

Over 30 existing decorative stone and timber features that adorned the original buildings were retained and enhanced, the recurring theme being quatrefoils – clover shaped windows and vents – representing faith, hope, luck and love.

The team has also ensured building tradition is complemented by modern environmental techniques, including the addition of a biomass boiler using locally sourced fuel which provides all heating, hot water and steam requirements for the buildings and processes. Most of the by products from the distillation processes will be returned to local farmers for use as animal feed and for soil improvement.

Water pumps have also been included to draw water used for production of The Lakes Distillery’s The Lakes Malt, The Lakes Gin and The Lakes Vodka directly from the River Derwent which runs just 150m from the distillery.

David Blair, director of Architects Plus who oversaw the project, said: “This has been a fantastic project to work enabling us to utilise traditional materials and build methods, sympathetic to the existing building. While maintaining all of the original features of the beautiful buildings, we’ve been able to introduce modern energy saving equipment to ensure the development’s impact on the environment is minimal, a key consideration of its location within the National Park.”

The project has brought many needed jobs to the area and is set to become one of the most popular attractions in the Lake District.

Paul Currie, The Lakes Distillery’s founder and managing director, said of the build: “The expertise of the build team, including Architects Plus and Lambert Gill, has been apparent throughout and is evident in the receipt of these awards.

“Our still equipment has been purpose made so the build team had the task of not only managing logistics around the installing of the equipment, which involved the removal and replacing of the roof, but also ensuring the build was strong enough through strengthening of the existing roof trusses and structure, to take the weight of the stills and production equipment.

“Not only is our distillery England’s largest, but we feel confident that thanks to the care, attention of the build in keeping with local tradition, that we’re certainly the most attractive also.”

The Lakes Distillery opened in December 2014 and is located just six miles north of Keswick in the Lake District National Park. For more information, please visit