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Five year project culminates in national award

Project: Rescue and restoration of Grade II* listed house and outbuildings
Builder: Farnham Bros (Youldon and Barrett) Ltd,Yelverton
Client: Kit Martin

A five year project to save, renovate and convert a 1770's listed house and outbuildings on the verge of demolition has won Devon building firm Farnham Bros (Youldon & Barrett) Ltd the coveted title of Master Builder of the Year 2000.

Maristow House, in Roborough, Devon, had stood empty for 25 years, was near derelict and had fallen victim to thieves and vandals. Developer Kit Martin purchased the estate with the plan to turn the property into a collection of 12 luxury homes worth between £150,000 and £400,000. A brave move when it is considered that several conversion attempts had already failed, along with two planning appeals.

Mr Martin, who is based in Norfolk, has a reputation for engaging local tradesmen and professionals on his projects. Farnham Bros was selected on reputation and the recommendations of Maristow architects, the Harrison Sutton Partnership.

The £2.4 million scheme, which has been featured in Country Life magazine, involved restoring and rebuilding the envelope of the house using original materials or those which had been fabricated in the builder's workshop. From staircases to sash windows, shutters to plaster ceiling features and wooden floors, the whole building was given a complete face-lift. With wet and dry rot throughout, Farnhams managed to salvage and treat some timbers, storing and batching them to offer as an option to clients purchasing the properties.


Stripping back and replacing the roof was the first phase of the re-build and proved an intricate task - ceilings below had to be rescued while extensive and complicated structural works were carried out above. Both pitched and flat roofs were used to top off the house, stabilising the building and preventing further deterioration and vandalism.

As the project progressed, properties were sold off plan and buyers began to move in, negotiating with the builders for additional extras they wanted fitted in their new homes.

"The relatively remote site, which was subject to vandalism and theft, had to be fenced and was guarded at night," said judges. "The site was dirty and hazardous, CDM applied and asbestos insulation was dealt with by a specialist sub-contractor. The site was progressive in that some properties were sold and occupied, others being completed for the client, including customer extras, so there were always several clients on the go. This caused unforecasted demands on the builder.

"Once sold, the completion was planned on a tight bill of quantities, which involved a difficult three-way, fully-minuted discussion, often with new methods, replanning and ways of building being suggested to meet the budget. This was coupled with the builder having several other jobs on the go at the same time. At no time was quality compromised. The overall effect is one of outstanding quality and proportion and the completed houses have also been entered for a Civic Trust Award."

A problem encountered during the scheme revolved around a church on the estate. Architects had specified a modern paint for the building, but Farnhams refused to carry out the instruction, insisting it should be lime washed, as the main house had been. However, the architects refused to change the specification and another contractor was used to apply the paint, which subsequently discoloured and began to peel. The matter is now in the hands of solicitors.

"The lime wash on the rest of the house, in comparison, is pristine," added judges. "The Maristow House project builder is an expert on historic building refurbishment and the architect and client throughout have accepted his technical advice on restoration."

Judges were fulsome in their praise for Farnhams, describing the project as a 'classic example of teamwork'.

They stated:

"The architect's skill and ability at being able to relay his interpretation of the multi client's concepts to the builders and his workforce and then to be overawed by what they, as craftsmen were able to achieve, was superb.

"The entire project, which was managed on a very tight budget, only succeeded due to the extreme efforts of the builder and a team of dedicated craftsmen who were employees of a traditional building firm, not sub-contractors. The builder, who runs a family firm, strives for excellence and absolute quality at every opportunity. Whist being realistic and competitive, he will not compromise on quality, as illustrated by the refusal to paint the church. It is impossible to relay in words the work done here. Just visit to admire is all that can be said."

First posted: 23 March 2001. Last modified: 28 March 2001.


Maristow House five years ago
Maristow House as it was five years ago.

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