Casework: Bere Mill, Whitchurch
This Grade II listed former water mill on the River Test includes a mill house, mill, and thatched drying barn, all built from a mix of brick, flint and timber framing. There has been a corn mill on the site since the 11th century, but the current complex was rebuilt in 1710 and was used as a paper and corn mill. The mill was sold to the present owners in 1993 and converted to a private residence.
In February 2018, tragically, the complex was devastated by fire. A significant part of the mill house was saved but most of the mill and barn were destroyed, and the turbine was badly damaged. Malcolm Fryer Architects were appointed to oversee the salvage operation and repairs, and to establish the principles for reconstructing the mill and drying barn. Malcolm is a SPAB Scholar and the SPAB Mills Section and Hampshire Mills Group were involved.
The salvage and stabilisation works commenced under the supervision of a local conservation contractor and a conservation structural engineer. Discussions with the conservation officer and Building Control saw some sections of masonry stabilised but others dismantled where they were too dangerous, and the site was quickly protected by a temporary roof.
The architect and conservation officer were in agreement that the external appearance of the mill was of great significance and importance to the Conservation Area. Given the amount of evidence available showing the complex before the fire, the decision was made to fully repair the external envelope, despite the loss of the internal fixtures and fittings.
The casework team commented on the detailed phase one plans to repair the mill house on a like-for-like basis. We were delighted that the owners were committed to using traditional techniques and materials throughout, salvaged wherever possible, and that a team of highly skilled craftspeople have been involved. Listed building consent was sought where practical minor changes were needed, such as thermally upgrading the structure.
The applications for the second phase of works to rebuild the mill and drying barn have now been drawn up by Kaner Olette Architects. Our Mills Section has been involved and has commented on the proposals as this phase relates to the reconstruction of the mill itself. Discussions have resulted in slight changes to allow the maximum retention of the surviving historic fabric without it having to bear any significant loads, but the finished appearance will be very close to what was there prior to the fire.
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