South West Bulletin No 6




IHBC South West Branch  -  Bulletin No. 6 July 2003


The Bath Spa Project

Garden House, Wimborne

Accreditation of conservation architects

‘The Good Place Guide’

Heritage Protection Review

Notes from the IHBC SW Chair

BBC 2 ‘Restoration’

Conservation award for St Mary’s, Beaminster

News from the South West


Editor: Neil Buick (

Hard copies of this newsletter may be available.  Please contact the editor.


The Bath Spa Project


In a matter of weeks, and after nearly a quarter century, Bath will once again be able to call itself a spa town.  The opening of the new Thermae Bath Spa complex will herald what is hoped to be not only a boost to Bath and the South West region, but also a resurgence in spa culture throughout Britain .


The new complex - made possible through the commitment of Bath and North East Somerset Council to restore a working, viable spa to Bath, and a £7.78 million grant from the Millennium Commission - involved the restoration of five historic buildings, including the 18th century Hot Bath and Cross Bath, under the guidance of Donald Insall Associates, and the construction of a stunning new glass and stone building designed by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners.


Since the spa was closed in 1978 the Kings Spring, Roman Baths and Pump Room complex had remained Bath ’s primary tourist attraction but they did not offer contact with the water, granted as of right to Bath citizens by Elizabeth I. 


Meanwhile the other two springs and the core medical and recreational spa facilities, had drifted into decay, depressing the whole quarter, yet despite being a mere stone’s throw from the busiest shopping street in the South West. Various attempts were made to reopen the baths, all of which ended in failure as it became clear that the capital cost of restoration within the existing historic envelope was too great to allow profitable operation.


With a new core building, the new spa complex will rectify this. But in addition to new-build and historic conservation, the project included for a thorough archaeological investigation of existing above and below ground features, and a Thermal Resources programme adding significantly to the monitoring of the thermal springs and geological investigations throughout the valley.


In order to respond to the World Heritage status of the city and thoroughly understand the issues, an intensive conservation area analysis was undertaken jointly by Insalls and NGP.  The significance of continuing change emerged, as the city’s story reflects the fashion and fortune of spa bathing from pre-history through Roman and Mediaeval, to the elegant Georgian heyday, thence declining through the Victorian period to the sad abandoned site that remained at the end of the second Millennium.


Fundamental to the design was to find an integrated approach where new and old could relate without discord. The key that unlocked the design of the new building emerged from the analysis of the Hot Bath.  The younger John Wood’s unique, elegant and symmetrical building when observed in three dimensions reveals a ‘cube with a cube’ which became the generating concept of the Grimshaw scheme. 


Similar careful analysis allowed Insalls to ‘discover’ the oval geometry of the Cross Bath before the documentary proof came to light.  The overlapping of this primary geometry was then used to tie the old and new together and add symbolic form to this World Wildlife Fund designated Sacred Site.


When the Dutch spa operator Thermae DC joined the team, abstract architectural concepts were able to be developed into practical operational functions and the final form emerged.


Time will tell how Bath’s latest reincarnations will fare, but this unique project will soon be attracting visitors back to enjoy Bath’s special gift, the only natural hot mineral springs in Britain.  See


Peter Carey, Donald Insall Associates


Garden House, Wimborne


Garden House in Wimborne, Dorset tells a fantastic story of a true English eccentric. It was designed and built by Robin Noscoe, a real character whose personality shone through his work. Moving to Canford in 1949 to become Head of Art at Canford School , where he taught for some 29 years, he was an enigmatic fellow whose approach inspired all who met him. His philosophy to both life and teaching can be described as nothing other than hands-on. Noscoe believed in learning through doing, mucking in.


He began his house in 1959, which became a life-long project that he continually sculpted, extended and added to as he fancied until the end of his life late last year. As a result it can best be described as a curio. It is eclectic to say the least – the main living room window originally followed the composition of a Mondrian painting, with rectangular panes of coloured glass inserted to cast coloured light into the house. The hallway pays homage to Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp, with coloured lights punctuating the thick concrete screen wall to the study. Salvaged old doors, an etched glass panel from an Edwardian pub and old ceramics were plundered from demolition sites and incorporated into his home. Victorian fireplace tiles surround those he made himself, which depict a traced Picasso drawing. Collaged carpets were a favourite with Noscoe. He often made the trip to the nearby Wilton factory in search of off-cuts, which he glued together to make abstract patterned rugs.


Sadly Garden House is being demolished. Although absolutely fascinating, it did not meet the stringent criteria set down by the post-war listing programme, being crudely detailed and having structural problems. Its interest was its unique interior, moulded organically over its lifetime, displaying great ingenuity and charisma. A new owner could not be found for the house but, as is common with houses from this period, it is a single dwelling on a large plot, and planning permission had been given to erect three new houses in its place.


However, it is hoped that another example of his work may be listed. While Noscoe was not an architect, he made numerous additions to Canford, among them a new art school (1970), a music school (1978) and the earlier but still intact Cricket Pavilion-cum-Open Air Theatre (1967). As with all his projects, this was constructed by pupils in his art classes with the minimum of professional support, or in fact supervision, which in one case led to a pupil’s near miss with a sander. The building received a Civic Trust recommendation and is noted by Pevsner in his Buildings of England: Dorset (1993), where he praises the execution of its fashionable butterfly roof ‘in a way that gives it meaning’.  The Twentieth Century Society, the national amenity society founded to protect British architecture and design from 1915 onwards, will be putting this elegant building forward to DCMS for listing, in the hope that it will ensure that the Noscoe legacy is preserved in some way for future generations.


English Heritage is currently conducting a thematic survey on post-war housing. If anyone knows of any building which they believe should be considered we would be very grateful if they could contact the Society.  Contact 020 7250 3857 or


Claire Barrett, Caseworker, The Twentieth Century Society


Accreditation of conservation architects


The need to encourage high standards in building conservation activity is recognised in the IHBC Code of Conduct.  It might therefore be anticipated that IHBC would support the recent move by English Heritage to require conservation professionals working on EH grant schemes to be formally accredited - but this may not be so.


In the April 2003 issue of the RIBA Journal, John Fidler, director of EH’s Conservation Department, has set out the arguments in favour of accreditation and provides an explanation as to how EH will use the system.  EH has long supported the principle of conservation accreditation for professionals provided that any scheme is open to all who are suitably qualified, is based on peer review and assesses individuals and not practices.  The existing RICS and RIAS schemes and the register of Architects Accredited in Building Conservation ( AABC ) all meet these tests.  At present Architects Accreditation is administered by ACCON which is the company that runs the AABC register.  This is a private organisation established several years ago when the RIBA refused to support the proposal for individual architects to be recognised as conservation specialists.  The incoming RIBA President, George Ferguson of Bristol , has indicated his desire that the AABC register should be brought under the auspices of the RIBA and this looks likely to happen.


Concern has been expressed by IHBC members that they are excluded from the accreditation system and that their influence in promoting building conservation is thereby reduced.  It would appear that only those IHBC members who are also Architects or Chartered Surveyors can qualify for accreditation.  Julian Harrup, writing in a recent SPAB newsletter, has also expressed concern about the new system, especially the somewhat opaque way that the accreditation is assessed.  It is surprising that EH should be promoting one aspect of activity, i.e. the exclusive use of accredited professionals on grant aided work, without considering at the same time the effect on the vast amount of conservation work undertaken by IHBC members within the planning system.  It has been suggested that THI and HERS schemes, most of which have been run by IHBC members, might fall into the new category but it is hard to see how that could be achieved.  The number of accredited professionals in England is in the low hundreds and the potential for rapid growth is limited.


EH has indicated that it sees the need to encourage the development of conservation skills in the wider historic environment and IHBC members would no doubt agree with this.  The question is how this can best be achieved.   The branch would appreciate your views.


Colin Johns, IHBC SW Branch Education Officer


Book Review – ‘The Good Place Guide’

‘The Good Place Guide’, published by Batsford for the Urban Design Group, aims to provide an accessible guide to modern, post war places that one can enjoy visiting, and that generate strong urges to return.


The time is right to establish a contemporary list of ‘good places’.  Urban design is today at the forefront of planning, and regeneration of previously developed sites is the principal task that the Government asks of planners.  Good examples have established themselves, and widening the awareness of such places and understanding their appeal can only serve to generate further good places.


The book sets out to challenge the misconception that modern places lack the qualities of cherished historic places such as Cotswold villages, Devonian seaside towns or York , Bath and Cambridge .  It identifies 128 ‘good places’, eleven of which are in the South West, and for each there is a two page spread comprising a photograph and a description.

The book itself is compact and usable, withstanding a prolonged examination as readily as the occasional flick through for reference.  The sites within it range from the ultra modern - Manchester ’s Exchange Square and Birmingham ’s Brindley Place - to sites that combine modern additions to older contexts - Preston’s Market Place and Leeds ’ The Calls.  South Western entries include the Docks at Gloucester , The Piggeries at Frome, Poundbury, The Triangles at Teignmouth and Plymouth ’s Barbican.  Also included are sites in Bournemouth, Newton Abbot, Exeter and Cheltenham; Bristol has two entries - Millennium Square and St Augustine ’s Reach.


The book, compiled through the hard work of longstanding Urban Design Group contributors, Richard Cole and John Billingham, is not consistent in it’s reasons for choosing and including places (Runcorn has never thrilled me), but then one person’s definition of a good place is always going to be different from another.  Overall, the book succeeds on many levels - as a traveller’s companion, a guide book, an academic tool, and a source of discussion it makes the grade.  It is a book no practitioner in design should be without, and no day-tripper should leave at home!


Richard Crutchley, Urban Design Group SW


Government Review of Heritage Protection – Do we need a better system?


The DCMS review of heritage protection was announced by Tessa Jowell in November 2002.  Its aim is to improve and refocus the way in which England ’s historic environment receives statutory protection.


Whilst there are those who will argue that current heritage protection is the envy of many other countries, there are obvious shortcomings: listing and scheduling have proved inappropriate for large, complex historic entities; the process of listing is not ‘transparent’; parks, gardens and battlefields have no statutory protection; current designation regimes lack incentives to promote positive management; existing legislative framework is seen as negative and regulatory, rather than positive and enabling.


Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage argues that we need a new system that “allows us to fight against the loss of character and creeping degradation of quality in our streets and landscapes while at the same time encouraging regeneration ...[it must]... protect what is important about a historic place or building, but also equip developers with clear thinking on how a building can be changed and how projects can be proceeded with to ensure their long-term economic future.”


As part of the DCMS’ preliminary seeking of views, some IHBC SW committee members recently joined architects, developers, owners and ‘leaders in the heritage sector’ in regional focus groups.


Ian Lund reports from the Bristol focus group: “There appeared to be fairly universal agreement at the meeting that current listed building descriptions could be improved, and more certainty would follow, if they were to say more about internal features and curtilage structures. Similarly there was support for widening the scope to include the setting of scheduled monuments. However, the prospect of making up-front, long-term judgements about the future of protected structures, which generally have to pay their way in the general economic milieu, was not thought to be practical. As one member put it, crystal balls are not standard issue to Conservation Officers.


Although a wide variety of opinion was expressed at the meeting, the taking of listed building consent decisions at a regional level seemed to meet with little favour once the ‘coal face’ nature of much conservation work was explained. The objective of improved quality in decision-making was, of course, widely accepted but could not realistically be separated from a need for additional resources in a hard pressed sector”.


Meanwhile, on the very same day in Oxford , delegates to the joint IHBC/IFA seminar about the review heard from Peter Beacham, who heads the English Heritage response to the protection review: “This review is the first opportunity for a generation to create a comprehensive framework for managing the historic environment”.  Dispelling cynics’ concerns about a hidden agenda (is there pressure for change from commercial interests who see the historic lobby as obstructive?), he said:  “I genuinely believe that it is an open question - an opportunity, not something to be fearful of.”


Delegates also learned about the latest research on management agreements (these might have a positive role for the management of large modern buildings or nineteenth century buildings subject to dynamic use and frequent change), and the unification of consents (perhaps helpful to those struggling to co-ordinate planning, listed building, conservation area, building control, fire and environmental health regulations).


A Consultation Paper setting out the main changes the Government is minded to make will be issued in July followed by a 3 month period of consultation.  A White Paper outlining legislative reform is planned for 2004. and


Notes from the Chair


Since the last Bulletin the SW Branch has contributed to the Heritage Protection Review and responded on The Draft Strategy for the Historic Environment in the South West and the SW State of the Heritage Report 2002.

We had hoped to mark the proposed new Historic Environment  Planning Policy Statement (a ‘ PPS ’ to replace PPGs 15 and 16) with a regional conference on “Informed Conservation” as this seemed likely to get a higher profile in the new PPS .  However, the draft PPS has been delayed  - the release date may be in July with the Designation Review (as mentioned elsewhere in the Bulletin).

The Branch AGM , which usually takes place alongside a regional event, is now likely to take place in the autumn, probably linked to a Law and Practice Event.  This will provide more time to obtain nominations for the SW Branch Committee.  Colin Ellis (Branch Treasurer) is currently “acting” Branch Representative at national Council meetings and I hope will be nominated for Branch Chair. We may therefore need a new Treasurer and another person to share the attendance role at Council.  The Branch Representative role would only require attendance at about 4-6 meetings a year and a change from the usual day job. So, we need your support - please get in touch.


David Stirling, IHBC SW Branch Chair


The South West Committee are:


Acting Chair -                   David Stirling []

Treasurer & Dorset       Colin Ellis []

Secretary –                     Ian Lund []

Bulletin Editor –               Neil Buick []

Education –                      Colin Johns []

Cornwall                        Alyson Cooper []

Cuba                              Greg Beale []

Devon                            Peter Child []

Gloucestershire –            Mike Hill []

Somerset –                      Adron Duckworth []


We welcome the following to the SW Branch: Andrew T Hayes, Denise Haylor, David Viner, Neil D Quinn, Jenny Schillig, Kevin Simpson, Stephen Turner, S C Tyrell (full Members);  Eva Ormrod, Guy Bentham-Hill, Richard Fairs (affiliate Members);   Monica Watson (associate Members).


‘Restoration’ -  BBC 2’s Buildings at Risk Big Brother


Poltimore House in Devon is one of three buildings in the South West that will be featured in a  forthcoming summer BBC 2 programme, ‘Restoration’.  The programme, described by the BBC as “a new call to action in the fight to save our architectural heritage” will highlight thirty of our “most endangered buildings”.  Each site will have its own 'champion' - a well known personality - to sing its praises, and the whole series will be presented by the actor Griff Rhys Jones with two SPAB scholars as co-presenters.


Jocelyn Hemming of the Poltimore House Trust describes the building: Poltimore House is a grade II* listed building  surrounded by parkland and woodlands about 4 miles north east of Exeter . The Somerset family of Bampfylde had owned the land at Poltimore since the end of the 14th century, but it was not until 1550 that they began to construct the present house. The original Tudor building was thereafter enlarged and rebuilt by successive generations of Bampfyldes, culminating in an extensive west wing  in 1908.  It remained a private residence until 1921. From 1923 to 1945 it housed two schools and this 75-roomed house subsequently converted well to use as a hospital, and remained so until 1975. Unfortunately later ownerships allowed much of the house to fall into disrepair and for the last 16 years it has been empty and open to vandalism of all descriptions, including arson. It now belongs to a local trust who are seeking a new use which will allow its repair and preferably involve maximum public access.


Viewers will have the opportunity to vote for the building they would most like to see restored.  Support the South West!


Dorset News - Conservation Award for St Mary’s, Beaminster


Conservation work to a church in Dorset has won a nomination in the 2002 Pilgrim Trust Awards.  The tower of St Mary’s, Beaminster is spectacularly adorned with pinnacles, saints, beasts, grotesques and demi-angels but the Ham Hill limestone used for this astonishing carved detail is particularly sensitive to various forms of erosion, and incorrect bedding has led to severe weathering. In addition, repairs carried out with such inappropriate materials as hard cement mortars and iron fixings have led to further deterioration.


Strachey and Strachey Conservation ( brought together a team that required not just first class technical skill but also an intuitive aesthetic approach. They used ‘Lime Technique’ methods originally developed during the major conservation work on Wells Cathedral in the 1970s and 80s:  cleaning surfaces, removing previous cement repairs and iron fixings and stabilising lamination and fractures with stainless steel micro-pins and dowels.


Meticulous investigation and recording marked every stage of the project, for the dual purpose of documenting each instance of damage, treatment and repair and also to aid long-term assessment of the efficacy of techniques used. This was supplemented by an archaeological survey of the tower that was undertaken in parallel to the conservation work, The mortar used for jointwork, for instance, was matched closely to the excellent lime mix used during repointing done in 1876.


The work was completed with the application of a skillfully colour-matched and unobtrusive sheltercoat that, together with the cleaning and repair work, has greatly enhanced the appearance of the tower.


Context and IHBC Website


Regular visitors to the IHBC web site - - will be aware that

the Context on-line archive is now fully operational. All the main articles in the first 76 editions are now available. The archive has a ‘key word’ search engine and there is an index of article titles. New editions of Context will be added 12 months after publication.


The credit for achieving this goes to Peter Badcock, the Institute's IT consultant, who obviously drew inspiration after taking up residency in the SW region. Well done, Peter!


The Context archive may also partly explain the ever-increasing numbers of visitors to the web site. April produced a new record with 113,024 hits. Peter has found that the most popular individual page was Ian Hume's "French Drains" Technical Note. We wonder if everybody found what they were after? The 'South West Branch' page lay in a satisfying 6th place just behind ' Romania ' but comfortably above 'UNESCO'. It's nice to know one's place!


Conservation conversation


“It’s going to be very difficult for me and my chairman, Neil Cossons, to become the Posh and Becks of the heritage world.”  Simon Thurley, English Heritage Chief Executive, quoted in Planning.


“In anthropological terms, we’ve been trying to be endogamous – now is the time to get exogamous.”  Christpoher Caitling of Heritage Link, describing the heritage sector at a recent IHBC/IFA conference in Oxford .  For full text, see the IHBC website.


Wiltshire News


The District Councils, and Swindon Borough, have been invited to contribute to the Wiltshire Archaeological Festival at the end of July. The authorities are working together to produce a small display on the work of the various conservation teams in protecting the historic environment. The display will be part of a larger exhibition being held at Nursteed School in Devizes. In addition, a wide range of activities and lectures are being planned for the week throughout the county. Full details of the programme can be obtained from Wendy Smith at the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society (01380 727369).


Salisbury District Council welcomes Jocelyn Sage, formerly of English Heritage, as a new member of its conservation team.


The rescue of a small Wiltshire well house has recently been completed. The Well House at Derry Hill, near Calne is a circular timber structure, dated 1900, carrying a conical stone slate roof which provides a cover for the well that once supplied water to the surrounding cottages.  This well house, together with similar structures at Biddestone, Colerne and Hilmarton, was provided by the Poynder family of Hartham Park , and over the years it had fallen into disrepair.


The Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust, Calne Without Parish Council, North Wiltshire District Council and Viridor Waste Management provided funds for the project.


Ian Lund /Colin Johns


Cornwall News


There is currently a hive of activity in Cornwall with a significant number of grant-aided projects.  Looe benefits from an English Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme (HERS) to the tune of £60K a year for the three-year period.  The overall package includes contributions from Caradon DC , Objective 1, SWERDA and local partners to refurbish and restore the historic and commercial centre of the town.


The HERS scheme, which comes at a timely moment in the town's regeneration strategy, will be a key element within a wider series of initiatives, including the region's Coastal and Market Towns Initiative, which are aimed at putting Looe on a sustainable economic, social and environmental footing.


In Carrick the Falmouth HERS is in its fourth year. In North Cornwall the Camelford HERS will start shortly following delays in securing match funding and in Kerrier the Helston Townscape Heritage Initiative will commence in August and the Redruth HERS in October. The latter will compliment the Camborne- Pool- Redruth Urban Framework Plan (UFP). An Urban Regeneration Company has been formed which is currently pursuing compulsory purchase of a number of sites highlighted in the plan. Feasibility studies have been commissioned for Robinson’s Shaft and Pool where major development is proposed.


Full details of news on the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site Bid are posted on the excellent web site and introduces the Cornwall and Scilly Urban Survey - a pilot project examining the historical development and historic character of 19 towns that have been identified under the Objective One Programme as centres for regeneration in the Programme Area.


Alyson Cooper


Cornwall Industrial Settlements Initiative


The Cornwall Industrial Settlements Initiative (CISI) is jointly funded by English Heritage, Cornwall County Council and six District Councils. The work has been undertaken by The Cahill Partnership, a specialist conservation planning consultancy based in Cornwall (IHBC and RTPI members).


The purpose of CISI is to assess the history, character and significance of Cornwall ’s industrial settlements including villages, ports and towns associated with mining, quarrying and china clay production.


Since beginning in earnest in 1999, some 40 of the county’s principal industrial settlements have been assessed. These have largely been concentrated in the heartland of 19th century Cornish mining in the west of the County but the programme has recently been moving into new areas, including the Delabole slate quarrying area, the mid 19th century copper bonanza settlements around Bodmin Moor, the Tamar Valley mining, quarrying and port settlements and the China Clay country around St Austell.


Between them, these settlements are associated with all stages of Cornish mining, from extraction through processing and ancillary industries to transport and shipping.  The data produced substantially modifies some of the standard received notions of industrial settlement in Cornwall .


Data and expertise is being fed into a number of other projects such as the World Heritage Site Bid, the Cornwall and Scillies Urban Survey, and the Camborne–Redruth Regeneration Programme.


As a working tool for local authorities, CISI has had the rare experience of almost immediate application in practical terms, being used as the basis of conservation area designations in the St Just area and conservation area appraisals in both St Just and Looe, in the development of enhancement and regeneration schemes in St Just, Hayle, St Day, Redruth, Looe and Delabole, and to inform traffic management proposals in Camborne/Tuckingmill.


CISI has already proved its value in the immediate context, and looks set to do so for the long-term as well.


Nick Cahill


Devon News - Dartmoor Thatch Project


Dartmoor National Park Authority is undertaking research into the use of thatch on Dartmoor . It has been reviewing records of its own grants given towards thatching over the last 50 years.  These records may provide detailed local information on modern thatching practices – such as the local trend away from the traditional combed wheat reed to water reed (Norfolk, Scottish and imported) - and may also provide information on the longevity of the various materials.


Applications for some 400 buildings exist and information about 650 separate thatching repairs has been entered into the Authority’s thatching database, including details of the aspect of the building, the year and season of work, the thatcher and the thatching material.  The national grid reference and the listing details (where appropriate) have also been noted together with any references to smoke blackened thatch.


 Further research possibilities for the recorded information have been identified and external bodies will be approached to gauge interest in continuing the research.


If anybody is interested in finding out more about the thatching database please contact Val Harrison, Historic Buildings Officer, Dartmoor National Park Authority.


Pilgrim Trust Conservation Awards 2004


These awards celebrate excellence in completed conservation or restoration projects in museums, galleries, historic buildings, libraries and archives – see St Mary’s, Beaminster, page *. To be eligible, projects may focus on the conservation of individual items or collections, on the decorative elements or fixtures associated with a historic building, or on monuments and sculptures, or on improving the environment in which collections are housed.


Deadline for submission of projects for 2004 Award for Conservation will be 30 September 2003.  Contact Susan Hughes Tel: 020 7326 0995.