Very occasionally the lump of dirt under your foot contains a diamond. The farm buildings at the heart of Brockhampton were certainly covered in dirt. They had accrued more than neglect. Years of impoverishment had added lean-tos and breeze blocks and corrugated iron. But the bone structure was still there and the location, nestling below the roman fort on Caplor hill and overlooking miles of the Wye valley, is a vision of England mercifully unchanged. Our job was to restore these buildings and give them the importance they once enjoyed. The architect and builders were chosen for their reputation for work on important historic buildings. Our wish was to honour the craft of those that had first worked on the Granary and the Great Barn: and to use traditional materials, sourced as locally as possible.
All the timber, the Oak beams and the Chestnut cladding, was milled on the estate. All the stone for the walls was salvaged from other buildings on the farm; the railings and other metal materials came from the forge in the village; the roof tiles, flagstones and cobbles were all salvaged, cleaned and reused. The amazing, cast iron, Victorian, water tank – still watertight after 100 or so years, was re-sited and will now hold rain water. Two, 19th century, underground water tanks were discovered and restored to use as reservoirs. And 2 huge stone water troughs were sourced from a local reclamation expert to replace those that had once slaked the animals’ thirsts. Recycling is one part of the environmental agenda, reducing is the other. Rainwater is used to irrigate the plants and flush loos.
To reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, we are using the earth’s heat to supply up to 70% of our energy needs. Pipes conducting energy for Ground Source Heat Pumps are laid in the paddock beyond and should reduce energy costs by a substantial margin. Power of a different type is used to the max. We realise that isolation is possible in business today only if it is allied to high connectivity. So we have used the latest Airband wireless technology to beam in 13mb internet bandwidth to all of the units. It is gratifying that our first tenant was an IT company!
The charm of the development is more than just the buildings themselves, it’s the way it is wrapped in the landscape. The relationship is an important one, as the buildings affect the landscape as much as the landscape affects the buildings. We wanted to ensure that the two complimented each other. Having collaborated with Tom Stuart-Smith before, it was clear that he would understand the importance of this association. The offices look over the parkland of Brockhampton Court towards May Hill in the south. The saying goes, that only those within sight of May Hill can grow Perry Pears: source of the champagne of cider. There is one Perry orchard at the end of the valley that we restored in 2000. Tom suggested planting another between the offices and the church.Oak and Beech are the trees of the landscape and these, as well as Crab Apples, have been planted within the development to maintain the link beyond. But just as we have been sensitive to the landscape that surrounds us, so to, are we aware of the architecture…… Inspiration is all around us.
The Lethaby church on the other side of the car park and the faux Jacobean, timber-framed gatehouse to the East are both wonderful examples of the Arts and Crafts movement. Their philosophy is one we have tried to emulate. The Arts and Crafts movement believed in craftsmanship rather than mass production: the importance of natural materials; that the creation of the object was as important as the Art itself. This meant that the process of manufacture was celebrated: the hammer marks on stone, the mortice and tenon joints on wood. They believed that the simple, honest beauty of the work would enrich the lives of those who lived amongst it. We hope you agree.