Architectural ramblings around Stratford-upon-Avon: Interesting Building Extensions

Sandy Hickey

by Sandy Hickey

07/02/2022, in Main Blog | South Warwickshire Blog

As you may know, Stratford-upon-Avon has endless amazing buildings, whether they date back to the thirteenth century or last year. These buildings are made by a variety of materials and designed by a variety of architects, creating an exciting unison of old and new throughout the area. It’s vital to maintain a building’s original, historic character whilst working on a project to make it a functional space for modern users and many architects in Stratford-upon-Avon have managed to do this beautifully.

Ely House & Dental Surgery

 This building was once a Grade II listed townhouse, called Ely House, and is now an excellent dental surgery, after some added extensions, which finished in 2013. The extension is a long and a low 2-storey building, made with a 2-storey steel frame, with bay windows and a very simple colour palette (e.g. mostly white and some blue brickwork at the bottom of the render) – perhaps an architectural design choice aiming to create a sense of calmness around a healthcare institution. The window design is a very clever choice as they are able to create a good rhythm and break it down as it’s quite a long building, making it pleasing to the eye as well as functional. Also, while the windows allow for lots of light to stream in, their narrowness ensures privacy for the people inside. Another way in which the architects on this project made the extension look its best was by adding an overhang, guaranteeing the building to look more thin and layered and less clunky. In addition, the carved decorative barge boards at the end of the gable are beautiful, and to have such a nice, original flourish on the old building allows for a beautiful variety. Despite the interesting mix of the old house and the more modern extension, it still looks remarkable as all the different materials and designs used are tied together by colour. As for the original Ely House – it wasn’t forgotten about and the architects ensured that it was restored by repairing masonry and roof, reinstalling the windows and repainting the facing brickwork.

Stratford-upon-Avon Rowing Club

The Stratford Rowing Club building was originally a Victorian boathouse (since 1874), which you can see in the photo – the black and white building. It’s based in a beautiful location, sitting on the River Avon, just across from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. However, the downside of this is that it’s on a flood plain, and therefore any extension work is usually restricted by the Environment Agency, except for a few, making them very interesting. The first extension on to the Victorian boathouse was done in the 1960s, which was most likely to add space due to an increasing number of members – in the 1960s, women were allowed to join. The second extension was done in 2015, when there was a waiting list of around 200 people for the club, suggesting that both times this building was extended was for the same reason. In 2013, the club vice captain Glyn Hawkins said  “Our only limiting factor is indoor space. The new building plans could double our membership.”, which could be why their extension was permitted in a normally protected area. The most recent extension consisted of an extra 2 storeys to the left hand side of the Victorian boathouse – the lower level being used only for storage. The architects involved were smart in their designs, one example being that the new first floor overhangs part of the 1960s extension block, meaning that they’ve produced a bigger club, while limiting the amount of extra ground floor footprint needed – rather like a medieval jettied first floor. The materials used to build the extension are very suitable and work perfectly. On the upper level, there is a timber cladding exterior, made from Western Red Cedar, which is a good material for weathering, insulation, water resistance and also the general appearance. The design has been weather proofed further by the upper level overhanging the floor below, creating shelter. The architects have also used shiplap, where profiled timber boards overlap each other, ensuring an even more waterproof exterior. The shiplap design was initially used for ships, so it’s definitely water tight! Furthermore, the overhang also means water sheds away from the wall surface, preventing it from seeping into the wood and damaging the building. Finally, the appearance of the new, extended rowing club is perfect, and a personal favourite. The colours used tone in with the surrounding environment, especially all of the trees and the dark frame around the timber is a pleasing contrast. Hats off to the rowing club architects!

Cox’s Yard

There are so many other examples of mesmerising places like the ones above in Stratford-upon-Avon, big and small. One last one that stood out to some of us at Pride Road was Cox’s Yard. It is now a museum, restaurant and venue but used to be a timber merchants, until 1991. It was only converted into its new uses in 1996. This Grade II building, located to the west of Clopton Bridge, was previously known for supplying the best, finest materials across Stratford, and contributed to building some of the historic buildings there. The old timber merchant was called James Cox, and it’s brilliant that despite the very different use of the building now, he is still honoured.

Stratford-upon-Avon’s planners are very vigilant regarding their Conservation Areas and giving planning permission, which is likely why Stratford has retained so much history through its architecture and it’s famously a beautiful place. This also means that the extensions that are permitted, whatever size, are always interesting and have a story behind them, and are always so cleverly achieved.

Written by Eliza Mulready-Carroll