Redgate, Uppingham, Rutland. The Life, almost death and re birth of an institution as a family home.

The house was built as a boarding house for Uppingham School in 1872, built privately in the gothic revival style, said to be “school of Charles Barry” (probably based on the designs of his son Charles) by a local builder for a school master. The house is one of four built slightly out of Uppingham to accommodate a school master & his family, servants and the boys who boarded, providing lodging and prep. The house had the re-imagined look of a small priory or grange, a religious house fitting for an adjunct to a reformed Victorian public school. Its heyday appears to have been the time of Rev George Christian in the 1880s and 90s. In WW2 the house was occupied by the upper years of Kingswood School who where evacuated from Bath (1939-46) and then used as an over-spill for the local primary school in the 1950s and early 60’s.

After 90 years of boarding school life, no doubt with a fair bit of tedium, trauma, joy and achievement, the building was in a poor state of repair, and drastic retrenchment took place. In 1962 the dormitory and a third of the main house were demolished, and the whole of the roof and second floor were taken off the top. The house was left with a flat roof and blanked off rear elevation. It must have looked a bit like a Jacobean hunting lodge which often had flat roofs with a parapet. “Dis-masted” was the phrase used locally. The hulk of a building became the Bursar’s House and accommodation for single school teachers until the late 1980s when it was more or less surplus to the school. The school then put on an incongruous hipped roof in second hand concrete tiles, which looked like it belonged to an oversized pair of 1930s semi detached – in stone with a gothic arched door! The boy’s dining room survived with a flat roof and the attached garage had a basement under it. The building was eventually sold to the parents of our present clients who were looking for a challenge in their retirement and made it into a home again in the early 1990s. The house could have been completely destroyed 50 years ago, like much of our lost Victorian heritage, in the reaction against that culture. But instead, the building has survived, hidden away through a series of experiences not out of place in an Ealing Studios comedy, the stories of Osbert Lancaster, a Tom Sharpe novel or indeed any remarkable pre WW1 relative who survived into the early 21st Century.

The house has now passed to a younger generation of the same family who never anticipated living there. In phase one, our clients are adding an Annex for Independent Living at the rear of the main house, in traditional contrasting ashlar iron stone for the main walls, limestone quoins and decorative features. The alterations are partly a restoration and partly an adaptation using traditional forms and materials to harmonise with the existing, except for a contemporary rendered projection housing part of the kitchen / dining on the ground floor and study on the first floor. Phase 2 is the removal of the unfortunate hipped roof, the addition of an authentically steep, plain tile roof with stone gables and chimneys in keeping with the Gothic revival design of the original, but not a full restoration, more of a sympathetic reworking. In Phase 3 parts of the interior of the old house will be upgraded.

The project is part adaptation and part restoration to create something which is useful, true to the original and beautiful. For us as architects it is a rewarding opportunity to restore and adapt a fine if quirky building, working with enlightened clients and good builders for the next stage in what has been a 140 year journey from Victorian institution to Family home.

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