As the building is listed grade 1, any works of alteration or significant restoration will need to be fully detailed and specified and will be subject to submission of applications to the Local Planning Authority for listed building consent. Applications will also be referred to English Heritage and statutory amenity societies for consultation.
The complexity and extent of the restoration will result in the works being undertaken in phases and will to some extent depend on further evidence, which may be revealed during the course of the works.
It may be considered most appropriate to submit separate applications for the various phases and elements of the work so as to take account of any additional evidence or requirements as the restoration evolves and also to allow each discreet project to be fully justified and undertaken without undue delay.
It is recognised however that there will be an interrelationship between the individual elements and also that all the proposals should be undertaken in the best interests of conserving the overall historic significance of the property.
This conservation plan therefore sets out the overall conservation principles and objectives for the property and any individual applications or proposals should be considered within this context.
Skills and experience
The sensitivity and historic value of the property requires specialist expertise to understand and properly undertake the necessary works of evaluation, repair and where necessary, alteration.
The work is being overseen by Kilburn Nightingale Architects who have considerable experience with historic structures and design in sensitive contexts.
The on-site project manager also has considerable experience of working with historic structures and also an understanding of historic construction and analysis. His team are experienced with the use of traditional materials and restoration techniques. Associated specialist expertise is also available as required to deal with specific areas such as structural engineering, fire safety, planning legislation, etc.
Future proposals (refer to phase plans by KN Architects subject to any revisions as necessary)
Later phases are more uncertain at this stage and will be progressed based on appropriate use and management of the property in accordance with specialist conservation advice, building analysis and good practice. In the interests of practicality and to minimise disruption to the building fabric and business management of the property it may be expedient to combine various elements as appropriate.
This would not affect the conservation principles within this document and all work will be based on appropriate analysis.
Phase 1 (KNA Plans items 1 -3)
This includes repair and essential maintenance of the building fabric to ensure the building is weather tight and not immediately vulnerable to further decay.
Much of this work has now been completed with the agreement of the Local Planning Authority including restoration of Tennyson’s ‘new’ study, the removal of the rooftop water tower and other roof repairs. In the short term temporary electric heaters have been installed to prevent damp and deterioration during the winter whilst the restoration works are in progress. The property will be closely monitored whilst the restoration is being undertaken.
The restoration of the original early C19th part of the house (east wing) will commence with repairs to the roof structure and the roof over the 1840s drawing room (G-05) to include repair and reinstatement of the original roof configuration including reconstruction of Alfred’s roof platform for viewing the night sky.
The first and ground floors will be restored with minor alterations to reinstate room layouts based on archive and building evidence. This will allow these rooms to be available for events and visitors in accordance with the management plan for the house. The restoration of the second floor rooms including Alfred’s original study will then follow on.
Concurrently with the above restoration it is necessary to improve access to the commercial parts of the building and also to provide appropriate access to Tennyson’s study which has recently been restored. This involves removing some of the later alterations dating from the hotel use and reinstating original features as well as making some sensitively designed alterations to allow direct access from the main entrance to the conservatory and function rooms. This will allow the use of the building for public events and commercial functions without interfering with the restoration of the remainder of the house.
Phase 2 Longer term (KNA Plans items 4 -6)
The hotel dining room (G-33) was added at the rear of the property in the early 1960s when it was extended from the earlier (1952) extension below Tennyson’s ‘new’study. Some of the earlier timber sash windows appear to have been re-used in the southern end elevation but the structure as a whole is of little architectural or historic significance, although it does provide useful space and potential income from events.
The later 1960s extension along the eastern side appears intrusive due to its form, design and fenestration. It also intrudes into the rear garden, close to the windows of the principle rooms and obscures the lower section of the stair tower leading to Tennyson’s study.
The future use and management of these areas will require further consideration as part of the later phases of the proposals depending on the development of the business use of the property. However it may be considered desirable to remove all or part of the later eastern extension as part of the second phase of the works. This is particularly intrusive as explained above and the floor space provided has limited value for the future use of the building. The removal of this extension would allow the original stair tower to be revealed and its relationship with the conservatory to be better understood.
It would also allow the opportunity to improve the eastern elevation of the remaining structure by installing more appropriate fenestration. The details will be the subject of further discussions and applications to the Local Planning Authority.
Possible options also include removal of the remaining part of the hotel dining/ function room, either back to the line of the 1950s extension, or to the original line of Alfred’s playroom/ballroom. This would reinstate this part of the building to Alfred’s period and would remove recent structures of relatively low significance which are visually intrusive.
This would impact significantly on any continuing commercial use of the property and must be considered in the context of the future viability of the property.
The commercial kitchens are of poor quality, intrusive and obscure the historic parts of the building particularly the original service wing and the later two storey castellated ‘cottage’ (G-23 25 26) at the western end on the building. The interior layout is also confused and inefficient.
It would appear possible to remove most of the 1960s structure and to re-organise the kitchen in a more practical and efficient way within the remaining historic structure. This would allow the commercial use to continue whilst making the best use of the existing structures. Some further research and analysis will be necessary to better understand the historic value of the various elements and also to establish a practical and viable layout for the kitchen.
The possibility of removing the western part of the three storey later Hallam and hotel extension (FF-19-22 and SF-19-22) may be considered. Although this is of some historic and family interest the construction is clearly of lesser quality than the earlier work with sections of non-matching brickwork, straight joints and partial support on with iron beams etc. The scale and location of this structure tends to dominate the form and appreciation of the western elements of the service wings, the original service entrance and the western section of the main frontage. Earlier detailing which could be significant could also be hidden by this later construction.
Further investigation of this part of the building will be necessary to establish the relative sequence of construction and any remaining evidence of the previous design and appearance of the building.
It seems that the ground floor element may be earlier and may therefore be considered for retention if the upper parts are removed.
The original design of the rear service entrance porch (G-17 18 19) should be investigated and possibly reinstated if there is sufficient evidence for this.
The western elevation of the remaining parts would need to be reinstated and based on any remaining evidence.
The two storey ‘cottage’ (G-23-26 and FF-24-26) could also be separated by the removal of later infill structures. However further investigation would be necessary to establish the original use and connection of this structure to the service wings. The use and layout of the kitchens would also be affected which would have to be understood in the context of the continuing commercial use of the property.
Later phases (KNA Plans items 3 – 6)
The potential removal of Hallam’s second storey extension over the northern service wing (SF-11-22) is also a possible option in the longer term.
This would reinstate the form and appearance of the house to the period of Alfred and Emily’s occupation and would reinstate the view north from Tennyson’s study (notwithstanding subsequent development which has affected the wider landscape to the north of Farringford).
However this would be a significant intervention which would affect areas of some historic significance and quality. The extension was specifically constructed to meet the needs of Hallam’s family and has been a significant visual element of the building for at least a century.
The actual date of construction would need to be established in the context of the family's occupation. It is possible that this work was undertaken whilst Alfred and/or Emily were still in residence or maintaining an interest in the property.
The work would require reconstruction of a replica roof which could be based on the evidence of the surviving roof on the southern service range.
Before any decisions are made regarding this proposal it will be necessary to undertake further building analysis and consultation with relevant expert advisors such as English Heritage as well as the Local Planning Authority.
The loss of potentially income earning accommodation would also need to be considered as part of the long term business plan and viability of the property.
There are two groups of holiday chalets in the grounds of the property. These are located in the walled former kitchen garden to the west of the house and around a grassed courtyard to the south of the main house.
These do impact on the setting of Farringford House and in particular on views from some of the principle reception rooms and bedrooms. The chalets within the former kitchen garden also impact on the setting of the garden wall and spoil the appreciation of the garden space and character.
However it must be recognised that these are now an established feature of the estate and they do allow significant income generation for the upkeep of the property.
In addition the chalets to the south are of some architectural and historic significance as they were designed by the architect Sir Clough Williams Ellis (28 May 1883 – 9 April 1978), famed for the construction of the fantasy Italianate village of Portmerrion in Wales. The design was developed in conjunction with Lionel Brett. There was initially an ambitious scheme for development of a holiday centre but (perhaps fortunately?) this did not materialise. The chalets as built are of simple but high quality construction with elements of natural stone and weatherboarding under tiled gabled roofs informally grouped around a courtyard.
A later extension to this group is of lesser merit and encloses the courtyard and is particularly prominent in views from the house. Some additional hedge screening could help to mask this structure but consideration is also being given to its removal, which would allow space for landscape screening and reinstatement of the open courtyard as designed by Clough Williams Ellis. Some further research will be required to establish best option for this group.
It would be practical to undertake any demolition in conjunction with the alteration and removal of part of the dining room structure in order to minimise disruption to the grounds.
The chalets within the walled garden are of less architectural interest and have a significantly adverse effect on the character of the garden which was an important part of Alfred and Emily’s enjoyment of the property. The western part of the garden wall was adapted so that they could see distant views from the summer house.
The potential removal of these chalets would enable the garden to be restored in the long term. However the chalets are of substantial construction and are relatively discreet in the context of the setting of the main house. They provide a significant income without affecting the accommodation within the house itself so their loss could seriously impact on the future viability of the property.
The original garden wall is still intact although some parts are in poor condition.
Consideration should be given to undertaking essential repairs in the short term with the possibility of a more comprehensive restoration in the future.