Heritage refurbishment case study: Post-fire restoration in Stony Stratford

Refurbishing Grade II* Listed Shops and Offices Following a Fire

When a mid-terrace Georgian townhouse in Stony Stratford caught fire, it seriously damaged the neighbouring listed boutique shopping arcade and the offices above it. “So much history gone at once and so many businesses damaged – it’s horrible,” commented an eye-witness.

Customer benefits at a glance

  • Good value for money
  • Excellent track record in refurbishing heritage buildings
  • Accommodated prospective tenant viewings during refurbishment
  • Understood how to restore a building in a conservation area
  • Knew how to refurbish to meet modern requirements without compromising heritage qualities


The Challenge
Landlord Ross Ellens stood helplessly in the street, watching 500-year-old buildings burn. The townhouse adjoining his listed shopping arcade was ablaze, and the fire brigade’s A-team was battling a fire elsewhere. The backup support soon arrived in their fire engines and worked hard all afternoon to put out the fire.

 

But when everyone thought the fire had been contained, it hadn’t – it had crept under the eaves and into the roof space of the offices and shops on one side of the arcade! The old roof was largely built of extremely dry timber, and the fire brigade spent all night dousing the flames with water.

In addition, a single-skinned party wall was so badly damaged that it collapsed during the clearing that followed the fire, leaving a hole in the side of the arcade’s shops and offices.

“Everything beneath that roof was ruined by the relentless soaking in sooty water. Fortunately, an old, thick wall acted as a fire break, which protected the opposite row of shops and offices,” explained Ross.

Although the building was swiftly made safe, and the party wall rebuilt with modern materials, the property stood leaking all winter as insurance checks and negotiations progressed. Ross and the local community desperately wanted to return the site to its former glory.

The solution
The arcade is part of a conservation area. The café, salon and offices above them had to be completely gutted and the walls repaired in preparation for a major refurbishment. Although consent was required almost every step of the way, the Milton Keynes Conservation Office was very supportive.

“We chose Wilford & Dean because they were good value for money,  knew what they were doing and local. They had worked on another important heritage building on our high street such as O’Dell’s Yard.

 “Wilford & Dean took the shell and had to refurbish it so it was fit for modern purposes, yet didn’t lose its strong historic characteristics. Their work schedule had to dovetail with that of other specialists, who were rescuing original wooden fixtures and fittings. Before they started, the whole place looked derelict and wet,” explained Ross.

The results

Wilford & Dean plastered the walls and installed new flooring, electrics and plumbing. This included reconfiguring and replacing the restroom fittings and fixtures and the café’s boiler to improve efficiency and bring it in line with modern expectations.

“Wilford & Dean achieved a lovely finish. They also helped enable me to show prospective tenants around and sometimes tailor details to their wishes,” Ross commented.

Refurbishing the salon and offices was relatively straightforward: however, the café’s interior contained historic gems. It was the original premises used by Cox & Robinson, a chemist founded in 1760 to serve the local community. Today the company is one of the longest established suppliers of its kind, although it’s moved away from human medicine.

The original chemist’s wooden fixtures and fittings were carefully dismantled and cleaned by a specialist furniture restoration company. They initially appeared ruined, but the transformation that had taken place before they were returned to the newly refurbished café was spectacular.

“This precious little arcade was derelict, which broke all our hearts. Today, it’s wonderful. Walking into some of the little rooms, you feel like you’re walking back in time. Reversing the damage caused by the fire has cost circa £500,000 – money that has covered a huge amount of work and that I believe was well spent,” concluded Ross.