Niall Ferguson: Great House Of Sker Restored For Ferguson

Historians in the News

Allan Laing, The Herald (Glasgow), 16 Nov. 2004

Perched in splendid isolation on a windswept coast, the Great House of Sker is a residence fit for the History Man.

Built by Welsh monks and dating back to the twelfth century, it was a dilapidated ruin until a few years ago. Now, restored at last to its former glory, it is the place which Niall Ferguson, the Scottish historian, and his family call home.

The grade-one listed building near Porthcawl, Glamorgan, has just won a prestigious housing design award from the Royal Society of Architects in Wales, competing against mostly newly-built properties.

The judging panel said the neglected ruin had been transformed over a period of 15 years, not into a museum piece, but into a substantial family house.

The building deteriorated over the centuries until part of it finally collapsed into rubble in 1977. Recognised as one of Wales's most important historic buildings, the Building at Risk Trust bought the ruins from the local authority - for £ 1 - in 1997 and restored it with £ 1.2m of Lottery cash.

It was placed on the market last year, at offers over £ 900,000, and eventually was purchased by the 40-year-old, Glasgow-born academic who, when he is not at his prestigious post as a professor at Harvard University, lives there with Sue Douglas, his wife, and Felix, Freya and Lachlan, their young children.

Michael Davies, the architect who led the restoration work, believes that, with the arrival of the Ferguson family, the magic has returned to Sker House.

"They are now creating the next chapter in its history because they are finishing off the bits we couldn't afford to do or didn't want to do because our purpose was to save the building and leave it to someone else to carry out the final restorations," he said.

Mr Ferguson could not be contacted yesterday but, in an interview recently, he said of his new home:"The view from Sker Point is breathtakingly beautiful. On a clear day, you can see across the Bristol Channel to Somerset and Devon."

In the space of just a few years, Mr Ferguson has earned himself the reputation of being a provocative and controversial historian. His somewhat revisionist Channel 4 series Empire, and the accompanying book he wrote, were together an analysis of nineteenth-century British globalisation.

Earlier this year, his warning that increased numbers of Muslim immigrants could lead to"the death of Europe" within 50 years was described as"alarmist" and"ridiculous".

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