Reviving a Bristol Family Residence from 1845: A Race Against Time

Restoring a Historic Residence on Canynge Square: Urgent Renovation for New Owners

Restoring a Historic Home in Bristol’s Canynge Square: A Race Against Time

The restoration of a historic residence on Canynge Square, situated in the upscale Clifton Village neighborhood of Bristol, England, unfolded against the backdrop of an impending deadline. Nick Cryer, the founder and managing director of Berkeley Place, a Bristol-based home builder specializing in heritage and period home restoration across the U.K., recounted the project’s timeline.

“The client reached out to us in January 2023, hired us the following month, and aimed to move in by September for their children to begin the school term,” Cryer explained. “The question was whether we could achieve it.”

The clients, based in Hong Kong but originally from Bristol, had purchased the circa-1845 house as an investment property six years prior and decided to relocate back to the U.K. last year.

“The father attended Bristol College School nearby, making Canynge Square a prime location for them. This marks our third project in the square,” Cryer added.

Canynge Square, named after the affluent 15th-century merchant William Canynges, boasts an average property price of £638,000 (US$805,000) over the past year, according to data from U.K. real estate site Rightmove.

While the house possessed Grade II listed status, indicative of its historical significance, it was in a state of disrepair. “The property suffered from a leaky roof, extensive dampness, outdated wiring and plumbing, and deteriorated windows due to lack of maintenance,” Cryer noted. “Although suitable for rental, the client recognized the need for a comprehensive renovation to make it habitable.”

Before restoration work could commence, the team navigated local government permissions and secured listed-building consent—a process that added complexity and time pressure to the project.

To meet the deadline, Berkeley Place focused on renovating the above-ground floors while leaving the basement untouched. This strategy ensured the property’s livability upon the clients’ relocation.

“The restoration encompassed Bath stone elements—a hallmark of Georgian architecture in the region,” Cryer elaborated. “Our efforts extended to refurbishing windows and external joinery, adhering to stringent conservation guidelines.”

Interior renovations followed a “like-for-like” approach for essential maintenance, permitting replacements where necessary while preserving the home’s character.

Highlights of the restoration included a light-filled hallway with restored wooden staircase and limestone finishes, a socially oriented kitchen adjoining a reception room, and well-appointed bedrooms and bathrooms.

Berkeley Place completed the project to move-in condition within the stipulated timeframe, with ongoing work on the lower floors. The basement now houses utility spaces and an additional bedroom, seamlessly integrated with the rest of the residence.

Reflecting on the project, Cryer underscored the collaborative effort required to restore the historic home to its former glory.

What was the total expenditure for the restoration, and which aspect incurred the highest cost?

The restoration project amounted to approximately £750,000 (US$945,500). The most substantial expense was attributed to the joinery work, encompassing elements such as doors, skirting, cabinetry, and wardrobes. Given the listed status of the building, meticulous attention and care were essential in executing these tasks.

What common oversight do individuals encounter when restoring historic residences like this?

A prevalent oversight is underestimating the financial investment, time commitment, and labor-intensive nature required to restore features like stonework to their original condition, particularly when dealing with properties in a state of disrepair.

What aspect of the renovated property do you personally find most appealing?

The entrance and staircase hold a special allure for me. The architectural design from the Georgian era exudes meticulous craftsmanship and elegance, which is evident in the refined detailing of the entryway and staircase.

What proved to be the most challenging aspect of the project?

Managing the tight timeline and coordinating numerous trades to meet the deadline posed significant challenges. As with any construction endeavor, the final month witnessed a flurry of activity, compounded by logistical constraints imposed by the neighboring properties.

Negotiating space limitations for multiple trades and equipment amidst a densely populated area required careful navigation and diplomacy to ensure smooth progress.

Were there any unexpected expenses encountered during the restoration?

Unforeseen expenses are inherent to restoration projects. In this instance, the rewiring process incurred higher costs than initially anticipated.

While there was an initial assumption that some existing wiring and lighting fixtures could be salvaged, a comprehensive overhaul of the electrical system became necessary.

Fortunately, the client displayed commendable flexibility in accommodating such unforeseen expenses within the project budget.

Additionally, we managed to circumvent a potential surprise expenditure by preserving a pulley system beneath the floorboards.

This historical feature, utilized by servants to transport food to the upper floors, would have incurred substantial costs for restoration or removal, thus opting to leave it untouched proved to be a prudent decision.

Clare Trapasso
Clare Trapasso
Articles: 72

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *