Grade II* C15th Farmhouse Restoration

for Private Client

Affectionately named by us as ‘Pandora’s 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. Our work on this project assisted the owners in their complete and intricate restoration of this severely deteriorated building. Completed in 2016 after nearly three years on site, this project required a deeply investigative approach combined with a delicate touch…

Initially, the project required a series of unpicking and interpretation exercises to understand all of the building’s  component parts; and the history, nature and condition of each. 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.

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.

Working in a gradual and sympathetic way, archaeologist Stuart Blaylock completed the building archaeology work, and, based on his recommendations, we agreed the nature and scope of opening up works with the Local Council and Historic England. Our trusted working relationships with specialists and authorities facilitated this considered and pragmatic approach and gave everyone a sound understanding of the building prior to the finalisation of formal consents. In turn, the intimate acquaintance with the building gained from this process supported the development of proposed repair works 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 both preserve the historic fabric and safeguard the property as a family home, the works needed to make the building stable, watertight, 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 was installed and (without exception) sustainable, natural, sympathetic building materials were used in the refurbishment, including hemp insulation, hemp board, wood fibre board and limecrete.

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 that all statutory consultees were reassured. Due to the sensitive approach to the project and the degree of understanding of the structure gained through this process, the Somerset Conservation Officers Group held one of their visits at the property in 2015, co-hosted by Claire and the clients.