A project that first began in 2012, the story of Batelease Farm is a long time in the making. New British Design were first approached by Alan and Annette after they purchased the Grade-II listed farmhouse near Chumleigh in Devon, in 2011. From the first discussions and visit to the house, the couple’s shared ambition for the project was clear, likewise the fascinating history of the house itself. Having once suffered an accidental bomb hit from a returning aircraft to a nearby airfield during the war, it was naturally this part of the house that needed some rethinking.
The project intended to respect the proportions and heritage of the listed farmhouse, whilst also creating something with a distinct architectural character of its own. New British Design has a strong understanding of rural architecture and its connection with the landscape, having developed extensive experience in barn conversions and sympathetic agricultural buildings throughout Devon and Cornwall. The practice worked closely with the client and conservation officer from the local planning authority to arrive at the proposal, which would create additional bedrooms and a new living space seamlessly connected to the mature gardens.
In 2013 however, Annette suffered a devastating spinal injury and spent a year in hospital and rehabilitation, from which she continues to make a remarkable recovery. This event naturally became fundamental to a redesign of the project in 2015, which would provide barrier-free wheelchair accessibility of the new extension and the majority of the original farmhouse itself.
‘Batelease is beautifully laid out, spacious, warm and just so happens to be designed with a disabled owner in mind’
Devon Life, June 2020
Once again, the practice worked closely with the conservation officer to obtain listed building consent and full planning permission. The decision made at the outset to have a clear visual separation of old and new, ultimately paid dividends. It allowed for an evolution of the original design, with the glazed link adapted to provide level access to both floors via a discrete passenger lift. A radical redesign was therefore not required, rather a process of careful refinement and attention to detail to ensure every space afforded maximum accessibility. The new extension creates an expansive living space in contrast to the introverted rooms of the existing farmhouse. It has enabled the clients to not only appreciate these new spaces, but also restores access to the historic farmhouse and gardens for Annette.
Over the course of the project, Director Ben Huggins formed a firm friendship with Alan and Annette. It has been a rewarding project for RIBA Chartered practice New British Design, who were awarded an RIBA South West Award for the project in 2019.
The story behind the project is featured in full, in this month’s edition of Devon Life.