In early 2020, we began work on the renovation of a three-storey Georgian House, C.1720, found to be languishing in disrepair. We stripped the building of damaging cementitious renders, gypsum plasterboard, manufactured insulations, asbestos panels and other unhealthy products, returning the house to its previous environmentally sustainable nature, using reclaimed material and natural finishes. This peeling back led to the exposure of Georgian brickwork and timber work, sometimes found shimmied up with oyster and winkle shells.
The house is located in Deal, Kent, a former fishing, mining and garrison town, once described by Admiral Nelson as ‘the coldest place in England, most assuredly’. Deal’s Middle Street was designated in 1968 as Kent’s first conservation area. The House has evolved in keeping with the context, which has remained intact since Nelson’s time. It’s value and authenticity can be analysed through its layers as a palimpsest of Deal’s history.
Newly introduced materials are solely natural products, including extensive lime mortaring and lime render, hemp and sheep’s wool insulation, and new oak joists sourced from a local woodmonger in Kingsdown. We were keen to use bio-based hemp insulation for its carbon sequestering properties. Hemp fibre batt insulation is also breathable, helping to regulate moisture building up. Similarly, Lime render allows the building to breathe. Its porous nature allows for the collection and evaporation of moisture. This is in stark contrast to cementitious renders, such as Portland cement, which can trap moisture, slowly eroding the masonry. Stripping the building of damaging products and replacing them with natural finishes should ensure the longevity of the building, whilst dramatically improving internal air quality.
The interior is to be finished with traditional high quality natural products, such as horsehair plaster, fine lime render, sheep’s wool insulation, and straw packed clay. The project seeks to retain the original tactical approach to reclaiming materials, and ethos of the people who built the town. The render and clay products have been fully tested on a variety of substrates including the fabric of this build, to ensure compatibility before their application. Some areas of horse-hair plaster and layers of previous wallpaper will be encased behind glass, enabling residents and visitors to experience some of the previously hidden history of the property. The natural finishes will be complimented to a minimalist approach to interior design, in order to showcase the building’s characterful form. Careful insertions will create multiuse office space, catering for a work from home lifestyle.