An extension to an old rectory uncovered a terrifying feature

JCA Team:
Peter Cave, Chris Lawler, Rory Duncan
Project Design Team:
Johnston Cave Associates (Architects) 
Michael Edwards Associates 
(Quantity Surveyor) 
Michael Hammond Associates
(Structural Engineers) 
Ian Fraser Partnership 
(Services consultant) 
Charles Gilchrist 
(Landscape designer) 

Principal contractor: 
W.G. Carter Ltd
Project type:
Repairs, alterations and extension
Project year: 2008

After 200 years our clients' 1803 Grade II listed Rectory needed some TLC.  

Its fine old brickwork and Regency details needed repair and our client was desperate for more space to include a kitchen come family room, and additional bedrooms and bathrooms. They were also hoping for a cellar. 

The repairs were reasonably straightforward for any architectural firm with an eye for detail and an understanding and experience of old materials and construction techniques. Fulfilling a clients’ wishes for a harmonious extension to such a fine old building, took the project into a different league.

Any architectural practice worth its salt would immediately see two possible solutions; one to build a dynamic modern extension, the other to build something to modern standards, but very much in keeping and sympathetic to the existing structure. 

The first solution has it’s attractions; subject to planning consent, there’s no need to worry about matching the existing and you can do pretty well what your client wants with any materials you deem suitable. The other is to understand the historic significance of the existing structure, balance it with a structure that draws on the visual language of the original but still produce an exciting building that fulfils the clients’ needs and meets planning requirements. 

The latter solution requires a particular skill-set which we pride ourselves as having at Johnston Cave Associates. 

Having gained planning consent that included demolishing the remains of a 1950’s failed extension and nearly doubling the original floor area, meant that any complimentary extension needed careful integration otherwise it would simply appear to be yet another modern bolted-on structure. 

The secret to the success of such an ambitious project was not only to build using similar architectural details as the current building, but critically, to seamlessly match the original brickwork. To this extent we analysed the existing brick and commissioned a local handmade brick manufacturer to reproduce the brick using the same clays, sands, recipes and techniques which we then complimented on-site with a careful selection of lime mortar to mirror the original. The end result was such a perfect match that the original bricks may well have come from the same brickworks 200 years earlier. 

We also managed to avoid a mistake lesser architects make of building a replica or pastiche and created a truly exciting new structure that not just matched the existing, but enhanced it too. 

The final result required some tricky work so as not to disturb what we suspected was a bat-eating barn owl that had taken up residence in the attic of the main house, but also to excavate deep foundations into disturbed ground without undermining the original building and allow for the creation of the new cellar.  

During the course of our work we uncovered a 100 foot deep well slap in the middle of the proposed extension. This is now fitted with a 3 inch thick glass floor and lighting to provide a terrifying sense of vertigo as you cross the kitchen floor.