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.