The client purchased the mill in a dilapidated state as there had been no permanent inhabitation of the building since it stopped working as a functioning mill in the early 20th century. The new owners had a very clear idea of what they wanted and engaged McLaren.Excell to design the renovation, refurbishment, and extension of the building
Extensive research for this Grade II listed mill
The client’s had completed extensive research on the Grade II listed mill and wanted to retain as much of the original building as possible. Preservation was high on the agenda and the designs included many of the original features and mill’s machinery.
Our first challenge was tackling the extensive and well-established water damage suffered over nearly a century of neglect. The mill itself had no foundations, just a stone on each corner and had been built into a bank of earth. Its positioning took advantage of the natural fall of the neighbouring stream and over the years the water had breached the walls. A comprehensive water ingress and damp proofing plan was necessary in the first instance, followed by shoring up the structural integrity of the saturated building before any further work could be done.
Respecting local ecology
Ironically water still flowed from the stream into the mill, and it was decided not to disturb the ancient water courses and allow this stream of water to enter the building. We managed this with an internal membrane system and concealed drainage. This decision not only meant the mill retained its most iconic natural feature, but that local ecology was not impacted, and the river system was not adversely affected.
Retaining iconic natural features
McLaren Excell’s approach was of ‘minimal intrusion and materially sensitive interventions. All their design decisions were based on the mill’s industrial origins; simple, humble, and honest. This was practically translated into using and sourcing materials that would retain a real sense of the original building; original brick work, stonework, timbers and steels were used where possible, and our team scoured reclamation yards for matching additional materials. Raw plate steel was chosen by McLaren.Excell as the primary material to work with the mill’s exposed machinery cogs and cast-iron axels.
The kitchen contained the original large cogs of the mill’s grinding machinery and we showcased more of the mill’s workings behind a glass panel in the spare room, resulting in a stunning feature.
Owing to the space occupied by the mill machinery, we added a modest extension in keeping with the original building to the side of the mill to provide additional accommodation. With no heritage constraints we were able to install a slatted brise soleil screen to the extension façade to help shade the bedroom in the summer. The use of insitu under-heated polished concrete floors provided an efficient and low energy way to add warmth. The thermal mass of the concrete floor improved natural insulation throughout the entire building (where heritage constraints allowed) so heat is retained in the winter while remaining cooler in the summer months.
The successful mix of contemporary design with original features was achieved by working closely with the clients and architects to ensure we delivered their visions. As well as polished concrete floors throughout, we added clad steel finishes on the stairs, balustrades, and internal doors. We used pocket and pivot doors that folded into finished concrete walls to add to the contemporary feel. Although the bathrooms and kitchens are modern in design, they include references in the tiling and partition walls to the original building.
Return to Lower Mill
To celebrate HNB Construction Services Ltd’s fifth year, we return to some of our favourite construction projects. The first being a 17th century water mill building, a conservation project that was in disrepair when Elizabeth and Eric bought it 2004. After more than a decade the HNB construction team were called in to restore it back to an inspiring home for the couple, who were invested in the project emotionally as well as financially.
Lower Mill is a real example of our expertise in projects that are about bringing a building’s historical character back to life. We know we have the skills, dedication and know how to overcome the practical challenges of historical, neglected buildings. All we need is an architect’s sympathetic designs and a client’s passion for preservation to deliver an award-winning project like Lower Mill.
If you are considering an extension or alterations to your home, please do give us a call. It is never too early to speak to us about your project as our experience will often enable us to save you time and budget by identifying possible problems and the solutions early in the project. Our portfolio is testament to the quality of our work and the types of projects we excel in. If you’ve a home of character, or that presents a unique challenge, do give us a call for a no-obligation chat.