Welcome Luke!

It has been a little while since we last posted, but I am really pleased to get the ball rolling once more with an introduction to a new member of the team - Luke Roberts.

Luke joins us from previous practice, Create Architect’s in Guernsey, where he worked on a variety of commercial and residential projects. Luke graduated from the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales in 2018. The centre focuses on social and economic sustainability and encourages a high level of research and development in project briefs. Luke’s analytical and cautious approach to development are well suited to work in the historic environment and he brings to the practice a wealth of skills and experience in sustainable design.

We are very excited about the input he will bring to our projects, and look forward to you meeting him soon.

Lions lucky escape

James Mackintosh Architects have been appointed to carry out the reinstatement of the north front balustrade stonework to the west of the Porte Cochere at Stowe House. Damage was caused following an accident, involving one of the house security guards who suffered heart attack whilst driving and crashed at speed. The incident came as quite a shock, but fortunately the security guard is recovering following surgery. Works on the reinstatement commenced this week.

The project involves the removal and reconstruction of the lion plinths, and the reconstruction of the balustrade stonework, using as much of the surviving stonework as possible. Careful consideration has been provided to the method of lifting the Coade Stone Lions which have high architectural significance. A method statement has been prepared by the Morton Partnership and the execution will be carried out by specialists Cliveden Conservation.

Coade Stone

Coade Stone was produced by the Coade Artificial Stone Company and was the leading firm in the field at the end of the 18th Century. Leading architects of the period were looking for ways in applying delicate ornament to their buildings, and Coade Stone provided by the most reliable way of achieving this and was used in many buildings of the period by architects such as Robert Adam, Sir John Nash and John Soane. The secret recipe was not discovered until the late 20th Century but was a ceramic – a mixture of clay silicates and glass – Kiln fired for four days at a time.

The North Front

Above. Illustration of the North Front of Stowe by George Bickham 1750

The central block of Stowe house was built between 1677 and 1683 to the design of William Cleere, Sir Christopher Wren's master joiner. It was a brick structure with stone quoins, and a tiled roof. 13 bays in length on both the south and north front, and two stories high plus a basement and attic story lit by dormer windows within the roof. The north front retains much of the appearance of the original house, although heightened and covered in stucco. A cupola was added to the balustraded flats at the head of the tiled roof in December 1688 but it only lasted 30 years.

The Ionic North Portico marked the second phase, and is probably the work of Sir John Vanbrugh and executed as early as 1718. It necessitated the creation of the present, enlarged, North Hall, possibly by Henry Flitcroft, which subsequently decorated by William Kent. The four corner bays were modified at the same time, and raised as towers at each corner. Vanbrugh was also responsible considerably extending the service wings in the 1720s. Low curved walls were subsequently added to contain the north forecourt, and were illustrated in Rigauds view of 1733, published in 1739. Stylistically, as he was working elsewhere at Stowe in the 1730s, these can be given to Kent together with the pedimented gateways through which the service courts were approached. Sections of Kent wall survive at either side of the Leoni arches. It is likely that the current colonnades follow the line of Kent's curved walls.

With so much alteration the building lost its coherence and proposals remodelling Stowe House were made from 1750s onwards and include schemes by both Borra and Blondel. However, Earl Temple did not start the work until 1770 when work on the north front commenced with advice on the design by his cousin Thomas Pitt. William Ride produced the wooden models required for the two Ionic colonnades and work was completed two years later. A scheme for erecting a balustrade around the colonnades was illustrated Seeley's view 1780 but there is no evidence that it was executed. The attic story between the towers was encased by a wall between the towers, and capped by balustrade 14 urns that remained in position until 1924 when they sold to surmount the balustrade of Easton Neston. The scheme designed by Thomas Pitt, Lord Camelford, followed the general arrangement of the design which Robert Adam was paid hundred guineas in 1771, but the handling of the orders was modified and the arrangement of the staircase completely changed. According to Michael Bevington the Coade Stone Lions were added in 1778. The Egyptian Hall was constructed in 1804 and the winter entrance below the Porte Cochere was added by 1778.


In March, we carried out an exercise to record the condition of the damaged stone. Stonework was collected from the rubble arising from the accident and salvaged stone was moved below the porte-cohere and arranged into piles according to the heights of the stone. Stone salvaged was mainly ashlar, with several sections of balustrade coping. All the balusters were badly damaged and could not be re-used. Whilst most of the stone damaged was from the restoration some historic stone dating to the 18 century restoration of the North Front was found – these stone are only dressed on five sides only. Most interestingly - a handful of ancient stones, moulded on the rear, indicating that they were re-used from older part of the building in the 18th Century development of the north front.

Cliveden Conservation commence repairs on the Lions this week. Cliveden Conservation have been involved in several phases of repair at Stowe, including the relocation of the Bickerdyke Lions from the South Front only a few years ago. Their first priority will be safely relocating the west Coade Stone Lion so the plinth can be rebuilt.




Appointed as inspecting architect to St Mary the Virgin, Black Bourton

The earliest part of Black Bourton Church, the Chancel, was presented to Oseney Abbey in 1180 by Hugh de Burton and Ralphe de Murdac. The three lancet windows at the east end are unusual and distinctive of this period. The nave, north arcade and the font are from 1180, but in the 13th century changes were made to the north wall of the nave, including the addition of a north transept, and two lancet windows installed in the south wall.

The earliest record of the village, Burtone, is in the Domesday book where the land is shared by three manors. The manor in the south of the village was held by Oseney Abbey, until the Dissolution when it passed to Christ Church. The manor in the north of the village came into the possession of the Hungerford family through marriage in the 15th Century. The Hungerford family suffered financial decline and after the enclosure most of Black Bourton came under the ownership of the Duke of Marlborough.

James Lupton was Vicar from 1827 until his death in 1873. James Lupton persisted in the construction of a school to improve literacy in the village, and began the restoration of St Mary's in 1866. During the restoration the north wall was rebuilt and two lancet windows installed. The stained glass by Clayton Bell is from 1866. The restoration revealed pre-reformation wall paintings, however, before James Lupton could return from London to restore them, his curate chose to have the paintings white washed once more. It was not until 1932 that the wall paintings were finally restored. The wall paintings depict scenes from the life of the Saviour and from English history of the period - Saint Thomas à Becket canonised in 1174 and Saint Richard of Chichester canonised in 1262.

Conservation of old cottage commences

After nearly 19 months of investigations, design work and negotiation, work has finally started on the reinstatement of the Old Cottage in Balscote, Oxfordshire. The works are being carried out by Oxfordshire contractor Alfred Groves and Son, who won the project having tendered for the second time in July 2017, to reduce costs. As part of a strategy agreed with conservation officer, Jennifer Ballinger, Cherwell District Council, the reinstatement work will see the external appearance and ground floor of the cottage restored to its pre-fire state, whilst the first floor and new roof structure will be constructed from modern materials in a sympathetic style. 

“Having James on board has been a great help. It has been good to have a heritage conservation architect who has been a great help with dealing with the conservation issues and a sympathetic design” Owner.


The Old Cottage, Balscote was built after the Civil War, when building activity began again with renewed vigour. The cottage’s plan form, materiality and scale suggests that it was built during these years of increased building activity, when quarrying for building stone was carried out on a small scale as required locally. The cottage may have originated as a single cell dwelling, however by the late 17th century, the house is shown with a central front door flanked by two windows and eyebrow dormers above on the east elevation.  In 1918 the cottage, was sold by auction. A photograph from the sales document shows that the building was divided into two cottages, each with a front door on the east elevation.

The house was extended in the mid-20th Century by W. A. Freeman Esq who was granted permission to build a new wing to the cottage. Much renovation work was carried out at this time, when the cottage was returned to a single dwelling. Works included the removal of internal partitions and a staircase, replacement windows and alteration to the sitting room fireplace.

The fire

The fire started from a mirror reflecting the early morning sunshine on to the thatch. The fire brigade responded rapidly and after three hours the fire was under control, however the thatch and roof structure were completely destroyed. The fire brigade remained at the cottage for 24 hours to prevent the fire from recurring, through the night there were spontaneous fires from the smouldering thatch. James Mackintosh was appointed by loss adjusters, Crawford and Co. to carry out emergency works to stabilise the Old Cottage, and facilitate a strip-out contract to enable the Old Cottage to be rebuilt. A design team including Price and Myers, Baqus, Greenwood Projects and Robert Demaus were quickly engaged. A heritage statement was prepared to support an application for planning permission and listed building consent for reinstatement. Sadly the owner lost the majority of their belongings in the fire. 

Emergency work

Whilst quotes were being obtained for repair estimates, the team began the work in removing the dirt and debris accumulated within the cottage after the fire. Our conservation accredited engineer carried out a condition survey of the structure to confirm that it was safe to work in and prepare any proposals for propping that might be required prior to the strip out works. To ensure competitiveness, Individual subcontracts were tendered separately to ensure value for money,  including the demolition, asbestos and scaffolding contractors. The soft strip was carried out with great care by AR Demolition, to cost and programme.  During the strip out work, the remains of the building fabric were recorded as evidence of how the original structure was constructed.  At the end of the site strip out works a further asbestos survey and structural report was commissioned to confirm that it was safe to access and work inside the cottage. The temporary roof was erected two days after the strip-out works were completed, to enable the repair proposals to be developed. 


Construction work commenced on the 6th November for a 9 month contract period, so that all being well our client will be back in his house by Christmas 2018.

Redefining the Elizabethan House, Plymouth

James Mackintosh Architects together with DHV architects have been appointed as conservation accredited architects for the regeneration of the late Sixteenth Century Elizabethan House Museum for Plymouth City Council.

The Elizabethan House is a Grade II* listed quay-side merchant’s house in the Barbican area of Plymouth’s beautiful historic old town. The museum is the most complete and unaltered example of a jettied merchant’s house in Plymouth. However, the building is in a poor structural condition and is on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register, and needs careful repair work and complete re-servicing to bring it back to life as a cultural destination for Plymouth.

We are working alongside a team of specialist consultants on the project to help deliver an imaginative interpretation strategy alongside carefully considered repair and conversion work.

The project is being delivered in collaboration with DHV Architects as part of a growing strategic partnership between the practices.

The museum is due to re-open in 2020 as a leading component of the Plymouth Mayflower 400 celebrations.

Mary Somerville back at the heart of Walton House, Somerville College.

Somerville College, Walton House – New Bay Window

Departing Principal Dr Alice Prochaska had long wished to see the former JCR in the oldest part of the College, Walton House restored as a quality interior deserving of an Oxford College. The Mary Somerville Room a contemporary - period restoration of the old Dining Hall.

James Mackintosh was appointed by Treasurer Andrew Parker to transform the room into a very elegant well-proportioned space in a periodically sensitive way. An initial assessment revealed that much of the character of the room was defined by the fitted timber cabinets on either side of the fireplace, the green glazed tile fireplace surround and set of three plaques above the fireplace, which relate to the history of the College and include the date of Somerville Hall’s foundation and the birth year of its namesake.

Walton House, was built in 1826 by Alderman Thomas Ensworth, and whilst the original use of the Mary Somerville Room is unknown, archival research uncovered several old photographs and drawings which provided evidence for the restoration.  In 1879 Somerville Hall opened as a non-denominational college for 12 women. An increase in student number to 101 by 1914 was accommodated by a number of extensions: firstly by Sir Thomas Jackson in 1881, and later Walter Cave who extended to the north-east an also raised the roof of Walton House. In 1903 a new entrance was provided to the Mary Somerville Room as part of a scheme by Basil Champney linking the house to the Library.

Mary Somerville.

Known as the "Queen of nineteenth century science," Mary Somerville (1780-1872) explained the leading scientific ideas of her day in terms that much of the educated public could understand. Though she conducted some original research, Somerville's work as a translator and interpreter influenced how developments in the physical sciences were discussed and delineated. She was also responsible for the first geography text ever published in English.



1913 Image of existing fireplace removed mid twentieth century.

The Mary Somerville Room was originally a Dining Hall but was converted to a JCR in 1913. Old photographs from 1913, revealed an original fireplace on the south elevation similar in a design similar to the fireplace on the north. The overmantle contained 3 carved inset timber panels, 2 of which remained in the college archive. From 1915 to 1919 the College buildings were requisitioned for use as a military hospital as an extension to the facilities in the neighbouring Radcliffe Infirmary. After the war the room returned to a JCR and in the latter half of the twentieth century a bar was installed in front of the north fireplace. The bottom set of cupboards were removed, and a series of poor low relief cast panels were set into the wall.

Mary Somerville Room, prior to the re-presentation.

Mary Somerville Room looking north. New ceiling by Cliveden Conservation.

The aim of the project was to restore the space to how the Hall appeared in 1901 – its finest period of decoration. However, a true arts and crafts interior would have been heavy and masculine – in contrast later dates would have been too domestic. The brief for the detail developed with college archivist, Anne Manuel, was ‘classical with a hint of arts and crafts’.

The design solution was to install a new lower ceiling to conceal the down-stand beam and integrate the space as one room. The cornice was created based on an existing pattern by Stephenson’s of Norwich. A new ribbed plaster ceiling with thistle relief mouldings was created by Cliveden Conservation, a symbol that reoccurs throughout the room. The inferior cast plaster relief panels were retained but hidden behind stud partitions. Services boxings, modern lighting and radiators were removed and a new oak floor with underfloor heating installed. A new classically designed bay window replaced Champneys’s former entrance to provide an informal seating area. The north fireplace was restored, and the south fireplace recreated from the 1913 photographs.

Existing and new panelling, recreation work and restoration by Alan Lamb.

Mary Somerville Room looking South.

Paint analysis by Catherine Hassall revealed that the original paint colour was a very dark masculine green – the tone was adjusted to an appropriate colour and to match the interior furnishings by Sophie Chorley of JT Interiors. One of the discoveries on site, was a pretty painted tiled fire surround dating to the mid-20th Century. Whilst the tiles were not part of the original scheme it was agreed that the new joinery would be designed around them. 

New bay window and seating.

The building work was executed by Mark Copeland of ML Copeland building services, and managed by Chris Clover at Bidwells and Steve Johnson. The Mary Somerville Room has a renewed sense of elegance, suitable of an Oxford College interior, a classical re-presentation of its arts and crafts origins. The room will formally open in the New Year and be used as a space for entertainment and recitals.

Bay window from outside.


New Office!

21 High Street, Chipping Norton

21 High Street, Chipping Norton

Planning permission granted for Change of Use at First Floor 21 The High Street.

Offer accepted, and after an incredibly quick planning process West Oxfordshire have granted change of use for the first floor of 21 High Street, Chipping Norton from A1 into B1 Office use. Until recently the first floor was occupied by Kellow Books, who have now moved into a space to the rear of the Bay Tree Cafe.

21 High St is Grade II listed for group value with the rest of the High Street. Originally two houses, and now shops. Both were built in the 18thCentury altered in the mid 19th Century. 

Hopefully we’ll be in by Christmas!

Foxcombe Fireplaces

Example of Delft tile

Example of Delft tile

Early 20th Century changes to historic fireplaces at Foxcombe Hall.

Despite the modern lighting, carpet and furniture, Earl Berkeley's Bedroom and Dressing Room of 1904, designed by Ernest George and Yeates, remain largely intact. Decorative relief plaster cornice and carved wood doors, the period fireplace with blue tiling. However, one thing I overlooked (until my recent meeting with Vale of the White Horse DC, conservation officer, Sally Straddling) was why were these precious tiles installed? ...and what the fireplace would have looked like originally? This was a good question, and on reflection is something that I have seen over and over again. Firstly at the Radcliffe Infirmary in 2011, and more recently at Somerville College.

The main period of tin-glazed pottery in the Netherlands was from 1640-1740. Delft - based on 14th Century Chinese Porcelain became incredibly popular as a result of Dutch trade with China.  Despite the artistic process involved in the creation of Delft tiles, the tiles did not evolve into a luxury item, andinstead remained accessible to most of the middle class population in colonial Dutch society. As Dutch Delftware increased in popularity, the English began to incorporate the Dutch painting style into their tiles as well. As demand grew, the production of Delft tiles was manufactured in factories, the most famous of which were based in Bristol and Liverpool. Eventually the Dutch followed suit and began to produce their own tiles in factories. The tiles became popular after an embargo was imposed against the importation of goods into Britain

The fireplace in Berkeley's Drawing Room at Foxcombe 2017.

The fireplace in Berkeley's Drawing Room at Foxcombe 2017.

In the colonies, Delft tiles became an expensive item as authentic copies could only be imported from Britain.

It is not clear whether the tiles at Foxcombe were Dutch or a reproduction from England, nevertheless they appear to pre-date the 1904 Chimney.

Hilary Grainger's recent book 'The Architecture of Sir Ernest George and Yeates' predominately illustrates exteriors and therefore doesn't provide a clue to the typical George and Yeates designs. Gavin Stamp's book on Lutyen's (Pupil of Ernest George) has a number of fireplaces similar to the fireplace at Foxcombe, such as the fireplace at Sullingstead See fig 1. Given the grandeur of the interiors carried out by Ernest George and Yeates at Foxcombe It seems most likely that the fireplaces at Foxcombe would have reflected the architectural fashion of open fires, reflecting the designs of fireplaces from the medieval country house.

Sullingstead, Lutyens

Sullingstead, Lutyens

So why and when was it covered up?

During the Edwardian period 1901-1914, the preoccupation as far as fireplaces were concerned was to achieve greater efficiency with less fuel consumption. Slow combustion techniques were constantly being improved. The cheeks of the fireplace would be made from fire-brick, splayed at the sides and with the back sloping forward, so to project more heat into the room. Often the grate was ventilated directly from outdoors to the fire did not draw a draught across the room. Chimney pieces took many forms, with an increase in the use of glazed tiles more elegant than in the Victorian Period, and often set within older period frames.

So my assumption is that it was covered up by Albert Richardson as part of his 1935 alterations shortly after Rippon Hall purchased the House. The closing of the back would have improved the efficiency of the fire and the ancient tiles have proved a sympathetic and appropriate design solution of the time. 

So what to do? it would be lovely to see what is behind the fire boarding, but perhaps the tiles have more relevance now that the building has been taken over by Peking University. Perhaps the simplest thing to do is to find a suitable fire grate to install within the tiles - we shall have to wait and see.

Elements of Style, Calloway S. Octopus Publishing London 1992.
Edwin Lutyens Country Houses. Stamp G. Aurum Press, London 2001.
The Architecture of Sir Ernest George and Yeates, Grainger H. Spire Books, Reading 2011

Sensitive solutions for 9 and 10 Ship St


9 and 10 Ship St are Grade II listed properties owned by Oxford City Council. The properties are on the Medieval Town wall and are timber framed. A short heritage snapshot revealed that both 9 and 10 Ship Street, retain surviving building fabric from the medieval wall of Oxford, which survive within the cellars. Both properties were re-faced and re-roofed in the 18 Century whilst elements of the timber framed structure seems likely to date from 1643-1675. According to the Inventory of the City of Oxford, 1939, No. 10 Ship Street was re-fitted in the 18th Century and No. 9 has a newel staircase. At this date both properties were in a good condition The listing description confirms that no 10 Ship St was altered in 1969, however, from our initial inspection of the surviving fabric and a verbal description of previous alterations provided Oxford City Council, it appears that both properties were substantially altered at this time.

Oxford City Council have engaged James Mackintosh Architects Limited to prepare proposals for upgrading the building to comply with the stringent requirements of the HMO (House of Multiple Occupation) design guide and part B of the Building Regulations. Timber framed buildings are naturally difficult to upgrade for fire as there are often voids between floors and walls allowing a fire to travel from basement to second story. The good news is that there are many suitable construction details and specialist products to overcome this. Specified and approached correctly most are benign in conservation terms. An added complication is that in both properties there is no direct means of escape to outside, so alternative means of escape from the first floor are proposed.

We have currently prepared a strategy to for escape and to avoid additional claims whilst the work is on site plan to prepare bespoke details for upgrading each and every junction.