From 12th century ruins to Second World War structures, our experience ranges across a wide expanse of history. We have repaired and adapted many different building types ranging from the military bases in northern Hampshire and the Palmerston Forts in the south to the brick, flint and tile vernacular of the regions in between. Whatever the prestige of the building, Winchester Great Hall, the ruins of Odiham Castle, the splendid Tudor Barn at Basing House or the modest timber granary at Manor Farm, Botley, we treat them all with the same attention to detail.
Our approach to building conservation work is to gain a full understanding of the history and development of a particular historic site in order to make informed decisions about alterations and repairs before they are started. This ensures that the impact of new work on the historic fabric is minimal. We undertake evidence based studies and on-site investigations to achieve a considered and justified case for all alterations and interventions.
We have found that strategies which enhance the significant historic aspects of a structure through sympathetic repair and imaginative presentation can apparently increase what is there to be seen and interpreted without succumbing to the temptation to re-build what has been lost over time. Our aim is to repair buildings in an appropriate and sensitive manner and always try to avoid extensive dismantling and rebuilding in order to preserve as much as possible of the character and history of the building fabric. Repairs are focussed on minimal intervention such as scarfing in timbers and stitching brickwork. Where a greater degree of repair is needed, we respect the original details and insert new elements that can be clearly identified. We believe in consultation with English Heritage and other conservation bodies at the beginning and during all stages of a project.
If an historic building is to be preserved and kept in good repair for future generations to enjoy it must have a secure and economically viable use. Very few buildings can be simply preserved as they are without some adaptation to enable them to earn their keep. We strive to work within the constraints of an existing historic building when planning new uses for it and make sure that the loss of original fabric is kept to an absolute minimum. At the Grade I Listed Horse Guards Building on Whitehall redundant stables were converted to house a new regimental museum for the Household Cavalry. Most of the work involved the removal of unsightly later structures and services and repairs to the fabric but three door openings had to be formed through principal walls to connect the museum spaces together and this was seen as a proportionate price to pay to be able to accommodate a significant new function within the building.
Patience and flexibility are ideally required in the search for a viable and appropriate new use for a building of special historic significance. Insensitive conversion can so easily result in the irreversible destruction of much of what make a building special. It is a matter of finding a use which fits the building rather than changing the building to suit a pre-conceived use. In some cases it is best to adapt the brief to suit what a particular site can offer. When a site of historic interest needs new accommodation such as a visitor centre and education facilities to service the flow of visitors, our first option is to look for appropriate existing spaces to match the required functions. We only add new buildings when there is no alternative. At Basing House Grange Farm, a secondary barn to the famous Great Tudor Barn has been repaired and glazed in to function as ticket office, shop, café and exhibition space and a former stable range has been converted into a learning centre and cloakrooms. Other structures accommodate staff, storage and informal shelter for school parties. No new buildings were required and the first impression of the farmyard is that it has not changed at all. This is an indication of success.
We consider ourselves as guardians of all the buildings we work on and hope that we always leave a positive impact on the historic fabric and setting for future generations. We use a light touch on historic buildings to retain their character whilst adapting them to suit a new use or enhancing the existing function. An important part of our approach is to provide a full written and drawn record of all alterations to provide a valuable historical resource in years to come.
Specialist Conservation Architect
It hardly seems a year ago that we were all looking at the site wondering what on earth we had let ourselves into. And look at it now – a complete triumph! …I defy anyone visiting not to be drawn inexorably into the museum by its design and feel…
Col. P. J. Tabour
MVO Commander Household Cavalry