Essendonbury Farm is on the eastern edge of the Hatfield Park Core Estate.
This unique heritage asset hosts a classic car showroom, workshops and offices.
The Grade II listed seventeenth and eighteenth century farm buildings were sensitively restored and brought back into use, and a new barn was built to reinstate the historic 1896 dual courtyard arrangement. As part of the work, the external finishes were removed, timber repairs carried out and the building fabric reinstated to meet 21stC standards.
At the beginning of 2017, the Farm comprised a listed seventeenth century farmhouse, a listed eighteenth century three-bay oak barn, with projecting porch, and an early nineteenth century four-bay oak and elm barn and several incongruous, ugly and newly-added buildings. Technically in ‘agricultural use’, the barns were amidst the varied stages of decay, since they had been for some time unused as functional agricultural premises. Planning and Listed Building Consent was approved for the restoration, conversion and extension of the listed farm buildings at Essendonbury that were no longer in agricultural use. By the summer of 2018, the listed barns had been restored, and their setting, as well as that of the farmhouse, greatly enhanced.
The buildings, now in commercial and light industrial use, are the permanent and more sustainable home of classic Aston Martin restorers, engineers and upholsterers – Nicholas Mee & Co. The two acre site now hosts stat- of-the-art workshops including an upholstery workshop, small office space, mechanic bays with hydraulic lifts, customer reception and showroom. It has brought twenty highly-skilled, factory-trained engineers, upholsterers, other specialists and new purpose into the decaying barns.
This courtyard was recreated through a new ‘traditional’ barn, setting the farmhouse once again at the head of the courtyard with long views towards Essendon village to the south. This new barn is a galvanised steel structure clad in handmade tiles and black painted weatherboarding to fit the historic barn buildings.
The decayed timber frames of the existing listed barns were assessed by a timber specialist, before being carefully repaired using traditional joinery details to meet Historic England standards. This included retaining original fixing elements such as nails and straps. At the same time, brickwork was repaired and repointed using a high quality lime mortar mix.
Changing the use of the barns to workshops, rather than offices, enabled treatments to be more sympathetic – reducing the need to over insulate the walls, allowing barn doors to be left open, retaining an open floor plan arrangement and exposed timber structure. A principal challenge, however, was finding creative ways to accommodate NM’s specific requirements; this included threading almost 1.2miles of new services through the building fabric to their state-of-the-art workbenches and cabinets, and designing the concrete slabs to accommodate the hydraulic car lifts adjacent to listed brick plinth walls without the need of undermining the foundations. During the works, a historic threshing floor was discovered in the early nineteenth century barn. The floor was then surveyed and preserved beneath the new slab.
Gascoyne Cecil Estates maintain their own set of quality specifications for building works within their holdings. Both the specification and code require materials to be of a good quality, which tend to be more expensive in the beginning but extend the longevity of the buildings – handmade bricks and tiles, timber windows and cast-iron rainwater goods. Such longevity not only makes business sense for the Estate, who retain the buildings in perpetuity, but slowly enhances the quality of the local environment.
The result is a bespoke, but adaptable, development, which brings new people, and new purpose, to a beautiful corner of rural Hertfordshire.