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Almshouses Refurbishment

  • Summary: Refurbishment and extensions to nine almshouses, some of which date back to the 18th century
  • Value: Approximately £600,000
  • Location: Colchester, Essex
  • Architect: Nicholas Jacobs Architects Ltd
  • Challenge: The site was confined within a busy residential area. It had very little space for storage and very limited access.
  • Solution: Bakers of Danbury carried out the refurbishment and extensions to nine almshouses within the Old Square, Colchester, Essex over an 18 month period.
  • Former Colchester Mayor, Alderman and farmer, Arthur Winsley, who died in 1726, left much of his property to a new charity to house 12 men who had: “lived well and fallen into decay”. The 81 Winsley’s Alms houses are now home to more than 100 people.

    Refurbishment and extension works to the nine properties included:

    • Demolition of 3 single storey extensions
    • Construction of 3 two storey extensions
    • Reconstruction of 2 existing flat roofs with external patio/balcony
    • Complete new kitchen installation
    • Complete new wet room installation
    • Landscaping to enhance the area - communal gardens and planting areas
    • Substantial internal alterations to improve circulation and space

    • Demolition of old sheds and garden walls
    • Removal of raised walkway and stairs
    • New energy efficiency measures installed
    • Soundproofing
    • efficient and controllable heating
    • enhanced fire precautions
    • Scooter charging facilities

    Acting Trustee Irene Kettle said:

    Our Founder’s legacy is important to us and we are very proud of the history of Winsley’s, but it is essential to remember this is a thriving, friendly community and a place which must grow and improve. In this way, we can ensure the legacy of Arthur Winsley and Others, lives on.

    At a ceremony held in January 2019 at Winsley’s Square, off Old Heath Road the renovated properties were blessed by the Rt Rev Roger Morris, Bishop of Colchester and officially opened by The Mayor & mayoress of Colchester. Residents were invited to take a look around.

    A Quacking New Duck House

    Bakers of Danbury's in-house joinery workshop recently built and donated a new duck house to the village. Bakers of Danbury takes pride in supporting both our local community and the communities in which we work - sometimes through sponsorship or even offering a helping hand. We thought our ducks needed a new home!

    On Friday 1st February representatives of Danbury Parish Council, Bakers of Danbury Ltd, children from the ECO Council for St John’s C of E Primary School, children from Heathcote Preparatory School and some local residents all braved the cold, wet and snowy weather and met on Eves Corner Friday morning to watch the ducks officially take up residence in their new home.

    Stuart Berlyn, Chairman of Danbury Parish Council said;

    “Once again Bakers of Danbury has supported the village and Parish Council with this fantastic donation to celebrate their 140th Anniversary. So much thought and hard work has gone into this duck house. It's the poshest duck house we've ever seen, but only the best for our ducks!”

    The duck house design has taken inspiration from the The Parish Church of St John the Baptist. St John’s stands high on Danbury ridge, as a landmark whose spire is visible from the A12 and from many local vantage-points.

    Peter Smyth, Managing Director of Bakers of Danbury Ltd said;

    “The guys in our church department, who overlook Eves Corner, felt sorry for the ducks in their wonky house with holes in it.

    So, we decided to ask our in-house joinery workshop to build a new duck house. We asked our Bench Joiner Robin Palmer to build the duck house, because he has taken his lunch by the pond almost every day, since he joined Bakers over 14 years ago!”

    The church duck house design seems very fitting for Bakers, as they are well known for their conservation work to churches, ancient monuments and cathedrals, as well as work to listed buildings and private homes. Bakers have recently carried out conservation works to both St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey amongst other ecclesiastical buildings.

    Bakers’ in-house joinery workshop handcraft bespoke joinery and furniture. The joinery shop meets all the joinery requirements of the company, as well as taking orders directly from clients for projects such as bespoke kitchens, dressing rooms, furniture for business reception areas and bespoke ecclesiastical items. The duck house is something a little out of the ordinary them!

    Bakers took advice from The Essex Wildlife Trust who suggested the duck house should be installed in time for early spring as the Ducks will be looking for nesting sites then. The duck house has two nesting boxes – a door for each box can be found at either end of the house. Each nesting box has a floating ramp leading from the house into the water.

    Bakers joinery shop made the duck house from weatherproof ply with a felt roof and a spire covered in Cedar shingles. Over time the Cedar will go a dark grey, more like the colour of St John’s Spire. The tower has been thoughtfully designed to capture the rain water on a felt roof within the tower and redirect it back out from under where the tower meets the church.

    The duck house sits on metal stilts with the wooden legs sitting above the water level to prevent the wood from sitting in the water and rotting. It took a whole day to paint the duck house which includes details such as a mallard duck, flowers and detailed stone quoins, very much like those on St Johns. Peter Smyth said;

    “We've been trying to give a bit back to the village, as we've just celebrated our 140th anniversary last year. Bakers have always been on Eves Corner, so we bought the Christmas tree to go on Eves Corner last year, as a thank you to the village too.”