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Ecclesistical & Heritage World No.99

Conservation rooflights allow period house to become a 21st-century home

0n6596The Old Court House, Worcestershire, post renovation project (left); and Clement Conservation rooflights – photos courtesy of Harrison Brookes ArchitectsThe Old Court House is located on a large farm in the West Midlands which is under private ownership. The farm had been purchased with a number of outline consents for the conversion of the various farm buildings into habitable dwellings and staff accommodation; but those consents were all linked to the repair of one particular building on the site: The Old Court House.

The house, which had been derelict for over 30 years, was close to collapse and on the Buildings at Risk Register. It was home to bats, newts, slow worms and badgers and its location on the edge of several Sites of Special Scientific Interest presented further challenges. In the words of the architect, it was ‘more ecosystem than building.’ 

The local planning authority had placed a Section 106 agreement on the property, detailing its rescue from dereliction, and was preparing to increase its listing status to Grade One, as it was rumoured to be a hunting lodge gifted by Queen Elizabeth I to Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. Dating carried out during the course of the works confirmed that the building had been constructed in phases between 1526 and 1613.

Consisting of a central brick chimney stack, a stone base and a badly deteriorated oak frame, which was unstable on one side of the house and completely gone from the other, there were only limited clues as to the structure’s original design and features. The timber-and-lath frame had survived but showed signs of distress.

Clement pic3The Old Court House before work began – photography by Roy HuntHarrison Brookes Architects undertook a complex archaeological investigation to try to establish what had been there and put together a plan of works which would recover as many elements of the original structure as could be safely put back together.

A team – which included among others the private owner, the architects, Speller Metcalfe Contractors and specialist engineers, geologists, archaeologists and ecologists – worked closely to bring the house back to life using a range of conservation skills. The objective was always to preserve the character of the building by working with the structure rather than against it. Specially-made components were employed, such as bricks and tiles and Hempcrete – a hemp-lime material which can be used to add thermal performance to medieval timber frame buildings.

Often the team involved had to learn ancient techniques, such as how to mix and apply wattle and daub to the internal walls; but they were combined with the state-of-the-art modern technologies needed to construct the 2km road, 7km water pipe and new reed beds for filtration that were also required for the site.

Clement Windows Group were approached to supply roof windows from the Clement 3 range of conservation rooflights, in a tile profile because of their adherence to these traditional values. Modern replicas of Victorian originals, Clement conservation rooflights are particularly suitable for listed buildings or heritage projects. Available in two profiles for tile or slate roofs, each rooflight is silicone fronted, giving the appearance of conventional putty glazing, but offers many of the advantages of a 21st-century building product. When tested for air, wind and rain performance they achieved a BFRC Window Energy Rating of A+.

Clement pic4Interior of The Old Court House following renovation – photo courtesy of Harrison Brookes ArchitectsAs Rhys Brookes from Harrison Brookes Architects commented: “This Grade Two¬-listed building was in a dilapidated state and required meticulous and painstaking reconstruction. The inclusion of Clement’s conservation rooflights helped us to stay true to the original character of the property, whilst also meeting the demands of Building Regulations.”

Today, The Old Court House has been remodelled into a stunning 4/5 bedroom house and is a wonderful balance of the old and the new. The restored wing pays tribute to the original materials, while the new wing provides an opportunity for contemporary interior design.

The project has won numerous awards, including a RIBA Conservation Award, and was shortlisted for Grand Designs’ House of the Year in 2018.

• Clement Windows Group manufactures an innovative range of steel windows, doors and screens. Recognised as specialists in conservation work for both private residences and commercial projects, the company’s standard range of conservation rooflights is available from stock within a few days. The range can be viewed at clementwindows.co.uk/gallery-rooflights.

For more information contact 01428 643393, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.clementwindows.co.uk.