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Pandora's Box, The Quantocks

Client: Private Client

Affectionately named by us as ‘Pandoras Box’ this house is a Grade II* Listed C15th Farmhouse and associated complex of modern and traditional buildings set in a secluded position on the lower slopes of the Quantock Hills.

The project has required a series of unpicking and interpretation exercises to understand all of the buildings component parts, and the history, nature and condition of each. The project acquired the pet-name ‘Pandora’s box’ because everything we touched revealed more - gilded dressed stonework fragments in the core of the 1480 built wall, an inverted gothic arch in the inside face of a chimney stack, two layers of bread ovens and a post medieval tripartite screen to name but a few.

To work in a gradual and sympathetic way, archaeologist Stuart Blaylock completed the building archaeology work and based on this we agreed the nature and scope of opening up works with the Local Council and English Heritage. Our trusted working relationships with specialists and authorities facilitated this considered and pragmatic approach, pre-empted any formal consents and gave everyone a sound understanding of the building. In turn the intimate acquaintance with the building gained from this process supported the development of proposed repairs work and alterations, including a contemporary addition, which were all assessed and approved.

Our work was combined with the owners’ conscious decision that, in order to safeguard the property as a family home, the works needed to make the building stable, watertight and structurally secure and also upgrade the building where possible to increase its sustainability and lessen its impact on the environment. In line with this ambition a biomass boiler has been installed and natural sympathetic building materials have been used in the refurbishment, including hemp insulation, hemp board and lime-crete.

Our work began with establishing the history, condition and evolution of the historic building. The significance of each area and feature, as well as the overall composition, was fully explored with repairs identified and proposals developed to meet both the needs of the client and the building.

Ultimately, the strategic approach to the project, set out from the first meeting with the client, acted as a guide through each process, keeping the project grounded and ensuring all statutory consultees were reassured. The project is due to be completed by the end of 2015.