ANCIENT wall coverings featuring oil paintings on linen dating back to the Middle Ages were discovered in phase one of the restoration of the Grade II listed 3-5 Blake Street.

Phase three, just completed, uses the latest in eco-efficient building specifications.

The £1.3 million refurbishment and redevelopment, which included sensitive conservation work, has been carried out by the LHL Group, York-based architects, building surveyors and conservation specialists, for York developer, The Helmsley Group.

All the work has been carried out during the last 18 months at the terraced property which was most recently occupied by household electrical retailer, House & Son, which had a ground floor showroom and living accommodation above used as offices.

The business occupied the premises for almost a century, and was one of the first electrical retailers in the city, until it closed down in 2004.

Phase one created two modern shop units of 1,000sq ft and 600sq ft, one of which has recently been occupied by Office Angels.

Phase two saw the refurbishment of upstairs offices at the heart of former timber-frame medieval houses into two apartments.

One is called Bluebird, which has a striking dome-roofed room refurbished by local artist Ron Burnett; the other is dubbed Jacobean where 14th century wall coverings featuring oil paintings on linen were discovered behind panelling.

These were inspected by City of York Council and English Heritage as part of the conservation work which has protected them.

Postcards from members of the Women's Royal Airforce in the Second World War, and others written to staff at House & Son in the 1950s and 1960s, were also discovered tucked behind panelling and have been preserved by project manager Colin Linley.

For phase three, a former TV repair workshop and a warehouse at the rear of the property have been transformed into two mews houses designed by DSP Architects and built to the latest eco-specifications.

It includes a green sedum roof with moss and small plants to replace lost habitat, heavy insulation, under-floor heating and cooling and water saving devices.

Colin Linley, LHL's group director, who project managed the refurbishment, said: "This project has been exciting and extremely satisfying as it included preserving wall coverings and working with timbers which lay undisturbed for 600 years.

"I wonder if people working in the former offices ever realised they were sitting so close to part of the city's history.

"We have ensured that this part of local history has a 'living future', by conserving the historic older elements and in using the latest eco-friendly specifications for the mews houses, rather than becoming dilapidated, disused or a museum piece."

Ian McAndrew, an associate director with The Helmsley Group, said: "Our strategy has been to retain the fine elements of the building's past and incorporate them into a design that gives the property a viable future.

"The fact that only one of the shop units and one period apartment remain for sale is testimony to the popularity of a well-developed building which now has a great future."

The LHL Group also has offices in Leeds, Harrogate, York and Hull.