Our surveyor told us that the existing extension would probably fall down if we didn’t act quickly, so we had no choice but to consider major rebuilding work when we bought this house in 2006,” says Sarah Tyrrell of her Grade II listed home, which stands within a Conservation Area in Littlehampton, nestled at the foot of the South Downs close to the River Arun. “We knew that a huge amount of work lay ahead of us, but it seemed like an exciting prospect at the time.”
Over the years the house had been extended sideways and backwards, and when Sarah and husband Peter purchased the property it was in a poor state of repair. The construction of the flat-roofed extension above the side-return passageway had been completed in stages over the past 150 years, and the first floor rear section was wooden, supported by the party wall. There was no option but to demolish these poorly constructed additions and rebuild them.
The decision was taken to do away with a space-wasting external passageway which ran down one side of the house, thereby enlarging the ground floor area. The first floor would also be extended to the rear and remodelled to create an additional bathroom and a larger rear bedroom. Peter drew up scale plans before contacting a local architectural technologist to produce working drawings, in order to apply for planning and listed building consent. “My husband was ill at the time, but he spent eight months battling with the planners and listed building people, trying to gain permission to replace the existing extensions. The authorities were concerned that we would create a pastiche, but eventually permission was granted,” says Sarah. “Sadly Peter died in April 2007, before building work had begun, but I decided to carry on with the project alone — which actually proved to be tremendous therapy.”
Local one-man-band builder Kevin Foster was hired and proved to be an absolute perfectionist and a craftsman. “Kevin was the obvious choice for this project,” says Sarah. “ I paid him a monthly salary and set up accounts with local builders’ merchants to supply the various materials.” Doors were boarded up and Sarah continued to live in one half of the house throughout the building work. “It was freezing cold but I knew there was something to look forward to at the end.”
Demolition of the existing extensions was completed and test boreholes dug before new foundations could be constructed. External blockwork walls have been rendered to the front elevation and are faced with flints to the rear. The flat roof was replaced by a pitched roof and new windows to the front of the extension were copied to match timber sashes in the older part of the house.
Kevin undertook virtually every aspect of the build, including the external flintwork — even tackling the plumbing when two plumbers failed to arrive on site to fit the bathrooms. “The one thing Kevin doesn’t enjoy is painting and decorating, and that part of the project fell to me,” says Sarah, who also redecorated every room in the old part of the house. Watching the house change and evolve over a two-year period was an enjoyable experience for Sarah, who is now planning to redesign the back garden.
“Great care has been taken to make sure that the new extensions appear original,” she says. “The house has actually won a local conservation award, which was particularly satisfying considering the long planning battle, and would have pleased Peter immensely.”