On Sunday 11 September, a team of intrepid Surveyors from Earl Kendrick cycled the 54 miles from London to Brighton to raise money for charity. We undertook the challenge – including the agonising ascent of Ditchling Beacon! – because we wanted to support Sussex Emmaus, a fantastic charity that helps formerly homeless people in Brighton get back on their feet. The bike ride also symbolised Earl Kendrick’s new connection to and affinity for the city, now that we’ve opened a Brighton office.
At Earl Kendrick, we’re especially fond of heritage buildings, and Brighton has them in spades (and buckets!). We bring a wealth of experience of working with traditional buildings, especially residential conversions, in London and beyond. But we were delighted that one of our first major commissions in Brighton was not a residential building, but one of the city’s most iconic pieces of architecture – Brighton Pier! As you can imagine, we’re enjoying getting our teeth into that one every bit as much as a stick of Brighton rock!
Nevertheless, we expect the bulk of our work in Brighton will be on residential buildings, many of them converted heritage buildings with Listed status. These are the buildings that give Brighton its special character, and we’re on a mission to help preserve that.
Over the years, we’ve found that a recurring problem that comes up with traditional buildings is a lack of sympathetic treatment when it comes to maintenance and repairs. Too often, people use cheaper modern materials to replace lovely period material that really ought to be preserved or at least replaced with something true to the original. This is a particular issue in residential conversions, where major changes have obviously been made. Nevertheless, it is perfectly possible to transform a building for residential use without losing its essential character – and to maintain that character over time.
The key to looking after heritage buildings, like any other buildings really, is to take a long-term view. Problems arise when you look for a quick fix to what might appear to be minor maintenance issues. Instead, it is essential to consider the whole life of the building, and ensure all maintenance is undertaken with the building’s long-term future in mind.
That’s certainly the approach we take when advising on the condition and maintenance plan for the nearby Southdowns Park, a beautiful period conversion known as the jewel in the crown of Haywards Heath. Converted to residential use in 1998, the St Francis hospital was built in 1853 as a lunatic asylum, but I can assure you there’s no truth in the rumour that it’s haunted! Clearly, though, there are special challenges with a building originally intended for such a different purpose. By taking a long-term view, we look forward to ensuring Southdowns Park retains its Victorian splendour while serving the very different needs of its current and future residents.
And we look forward to doing the same with comparable buildings in Brighton – though next time I visit our office there, I’m taking the train!
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