A profoundly deaf joiner, who left school aged 16, has been singled out for special honours by one of the North East’s top universities.

Steve Todd, who works for Burridge Construction, was one of the key craftsmen involved in the refurbishment of Newcastle University’s 146-year-old Armstrong Building.

And the quality of the work done to the grade two listed building has helped the company to secure its sixth accolade from the university since 2010 – this time as Contractor of the Year.

Burridge has carried out about 75% of the £25 million initiative, which University Senior Project Manager, Stephen Pyle, described as:  “Transformational.”  

As the five year project approached completion, he said:  “To be honest, the changes made inside the building over the years had created a bit of a confusing rabbit warren of unimaginative corridors and rooms.

“We have now really opened it up, bringing back the sense of scale and spaciousness it once had.  It is restored to glory, rather than former glory because many of the areas have been crafted with a very modern feel – beautifully enhancing the original features.

“As work progressed, we never knew what we were going to find behind the plasterboard walls and false ceilings but we unearthed some real gems.  This meant that in addition to providing great craftsmanship, Burridge had to be patient and flexible.”

Commenting on his involvement in the restoration, Steve Todd said:  “I feel very proud to have worked on such an important project in such an historical building.  It was probably the biggest challenge I have faced, particularly replicating the curved oak frames and doors.”

Phil Burridge, Managing Director of the business his father started 50 years ago, recalled how Steve came to join the firm:  “A friend said he knew a lad who was using virtually all his pay to travel from Tyneside to work as a joiner in Peterlee.  He needed to find something closer to home and so we decided to give him an opportunity.  With his honesty, commitment and skills, Steve soon became one of our most trusted and valued employees.”

Commenting on the university project, he added:  “It has been a privilege to work on the Armstrong Building, which is one of the finest examples of 19th Century architecture in Newcastle.

“With the majority of our work involving more modern buildings it has been both challenging and rewarding to create some really individual and striking features in such a magnificent setting.  For me the particular highlights are the King’s Hall, the new lecture theatre and of course the new foyer and courtyard.   

With its headquarters on the Benton Square Industrial Estate in Newcastle and a depot in Wakefield, Yorkshire – Burridge employs 160 people.  It has built a sound reputation carrying out refurbishment and repair contracts throughout the North of England for universities, hospitals, housing associations and private sector clients.

This year the business expects to turn over around £20 million.