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1690 HOUSE

House redevelopment

Margate, 2015

This house at 7 Lombard Street, Margate is a small Grade II Listed Cottage in the centre of the Old Town. Over the past year it has been delicately altered and repaired for the next century of use, initially as a holiday home.


The process of restoration slowly revealed its historical layers and stages of development, the first of which appears to be as a walled garden for a handsome late Seventeenth Century Dutch-style gabled house next door at no. 8 Lombard Street.  This chalk block and clay brick wall still forms part of the ground floor structure of No. 7, over which appears to have been built a humble two–storey timber framed house. This was later enhanced with a brick gable wall, itself built on to form No. 6 Lombard St, and later still - around the late C19th - significantly rebuilt internally, slightly taller to form a habitable attic.


Over the last hundred years the house suffered from some inappropriate changes, including quite damaging waterproofing to the ground floor, perhaps installed after the great Margate flood in the 1953. Instead of protecting the house from water ingress, it has rotted much of the timber structure on the outside of the waterproofing layer as it wasn't able to 'breathe' naturally.  In the 1970s the house underwent a ‘Tudorisation’ whereby a layer of historical make-believe was laid over the house, with black-and-white false fretwork glued to modern plasterboard dry-lining, Lath and plaster ceilings removed, exposed C19th beams chamfered to appear older, and fake bulls-eye glass installed in the front windows.  


We have fully restored the house in line with SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) Conservation Guidelines protecting and repairing all layers of history where possible, and adding new layers where necessary.



WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL


Learning to deal appropriately with the building’s complex history and crumbling fabric has been an integrated community effort, including from local contractor G&W Gardner, architect Studio Sam Causer, Structural Engineer Tim Baker and the London-based employer Gary and Margit Pond.  Also supportive in the building’s significant transformation was Thanet District Council’s Heritage Advisor Nick Dermott and Building Control Officer Martin Parnell. The core team’s efforts were supplemented with a great deal of community interest, with neighbours, volunteers at the Margate Museum and locals all offering their knowledge on the building’s past, sharing what it has meant to them.


With many refurbishment projects – especially for commercial holiday let – the desire for short-term private financial gain predominates; in this case, the employer and whole team have been fully committed to forming a sustainable balance between contemporary use, historical exposure, material well-being, and integrated local economic development.  This balance is complex, and stretches into every aspect of the project, including the many decisions on what fabric should be removed, what should remain and how it should be treated. For example, we believe the decision to remove some of the ‘second layer’ of the building’s history – large parts of the late C18th rear masonry wall, and some of the C19th joinery in the middle of the house – was worthwhile in order to improve quality of light and ventilation to the whole ground floor, and enable the C17th timber structure to be read more clearly.  The cost of doing so, and adding a new glass enclosure to the south-facing back of the house may be considered disproportionate from a short-term economic viewpoint, as could replacing the ground floor concrete screed and waterproofing with a breathable, heated and insulated limecrete floor, but nevertheless it was felt that the environmental qualities of the house, the impact on the the local economy and the legacy of the owner’s interventions on future generations outweighed the owners’ profit margins.


The interventions can be divided roughly into three: 1) Stripping Out – C20th dry-linings and much of the materially-damaging non-breathable oil-based paints and membranes; 2) Repairs and alterations to material fabric - Limecrete ground floor, lime-plastered walls, insulation to roof, wood-fibre and lime-based internal insulation to back wall, new plumbing and electrics, fire-safe sprinkler system, garden planting; 3) New Insertions - kitchen, bathroom, glass enclosure, brick wc extension.  The short and long-term impact of all three levels of intervention were carefully balanced, trying to ensure that no aspect overpowered any other. For example, trying to ensure that the glass enclosure, important for capturing the south light and views to the garden, the design team incorporated solid oak framing with proportions similar to the 300-year old predecessors in the middle of the house. The team tried to make sure that new interventions were seen as a continuous lineage of adaptation and change, avoiding the creation of a false historical narrative.



CONTRIBUTION TO THE AREA AND COMMUNITY


Margate is experiencing a remarkable change of fortunes over the last couple of years, following significant investment – both financial and in terms of community affection – in developing a new tourism-based economy, lead most publicly by Turner Contemporary as well as a number of less glamorous regeneration initiatives supported by local and international authorities and organisations.  The success of the sea defence stepped revetment as a public space, and re-opening of Dreamland have received wide and deserved acclaim.  This project to care for a single cottage should obviously be seen as just a small part of this very significant wider effort, but it can however also stand as an exemplar for individual home-owners, encouraging them to develop long-term economic thinking, welcome integrated local community support, exhibit patience, and understand that each decision they make has an impact upon the past, the present and the future. The repair and adaptation of a small building, of which there are several thousand in Margate, when seen collectively can have very significant impact on the economy, every-day experience and cultural richness. 


The house is available for let here:

www.smugglerscottage.co.uk


See more photographs and an interview with the clients on

The Curio Margate website www.thecuriomargate.com


The Margate Civic Society nominated this project for

submission to the national Civic Voice Design Awards 2016.






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