The historic buildings that have withstood times of crisis

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City & Country is the proud custodian of some of the UK’s most interesting and significant listed buildings. These include King Edward VII Estate in West Sussex, Factory No.1 in Bristol and St Osyth Priory in Essex.

Whilst all of City & Country’s buildings boast many fascinating stories, some have withstood times of crisis more than others. Several have served operational roles during World Wars, others have provided care during international health pandemics, whilst others still have provided sanctuary to fleeing European royalty.

Here we take a look at some of these unique buildings and uncover their stories in more detail.

King Edward VII Estate – an Arts & Crafts masterpiece

During the early 20th century, tuberculosis had emerged as one of the UK's most significant health problems.

During the second half of the 19th century, research and advancements into the treatment of tuberculosis had triggered the development of sanatoriums – hospitals and treatment facilities built in areas designed to encourage patients to “take the air”, recovering through time spent in the natural environment.

King Edward VII Estate in West Sussex was one such sanatorium, built in 1901 and opened by King Edward VII in 1906. The design for the hospital and its grounds was undertaken by an important triumvirate of the day; Charles Holden, Percy Adams and Gertrude Jekyll - a partnership which played a pivotal cornerstone of the Arts & Crafts Movement.

The Estate’s buildings offer a wealth of architectural features that celebrate layout, design and decoration, which in turn present a vast range of exceptional restoration challenges.

More than 100 years later, City & Country has breathed new life into the Estate and provided it with multiple uses for many generations to come. The striking Grade II* listed building has been transformed into a range of high-quality apartments, whilst the nationally significant Gertrude Jekyll-designed grounds have been reinstated.

Features that have been fully restored and incorporated into the converted homes include teak staircases, detailed parquet flooring, wall paneling, fireplaces by Heals of London and bespoke light fittings that have been painstakingly replicated using original designs seen in archive photography of the estate. Specialist masons have revived original parapets, stone copings and stone windows.

Factory No.1 – a key part of Bristol’s booming industrial past

By the early 20th century Bristol had emerged as a tobacco production powerhouse, thanks to importers and manufacturers W.D & H.O Wills, who created The Imperial Tobacco Company alongside 12 other family-run manufacturers.

The arrival of World War I did little to dampen production; instead having the reverse effect. From September 1914, the company managed the production of weekly tobacco rations, but this increased greatly when, in 1916, the War Office asked for tenders from manufacturers for the supply of tobacco and cigarettes to the British Army. The Imperial Tobacco Company went on to secure the contract, supplying huge quantities of cigarettes and tobacco to soldiers for the remainder of the war.

Now the Grade II listed factory buildings that previously served as Imperial Tobacco’s headquarters are being given a new lease of life thanks to City & Country, with unique homes being crafted from the historic buildings alongside a range of new apartments. Restored original features include fireplaces, cornicing and plasterwork.

St Osyth Priory – a medieval history

With a history spanning more than 1,400 years, St Osyth Priory in Essex includes a unique range of heritage buildings, environmental and ecological features. Its buildings alone comprise 16 separate Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II listed buildings and a number of Scheduled Ancient Monuments together with a registered park and garden.

It is no surprise that the Priory has borne witness to much older crises; in the 16th century its abbey was dissolved during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which formed part of King Henry VIII’s Reformation. 

Then in 1539, the King granted the Priory to his minister Thomas Cromwell, but following Cromwell’s execution, the abbey and its estates were returned to crown possession. St Osyth Priory’s gatehouse, dating from the late 15th century, is the most significant remnant of the original monastic structures still standing today.

Hundreds of years later, expansive regeneration plans are underway. Many of the historic buildings will be painstakingly restored and transformed, under proposals to create a range of new homes alongside retail and commercial premises for public use.

These are just some of City & Country’s current projects. Other highly regarded developments include The General in Bristol (the restoration and conversion of the former Bristol General Hospital), The Playfair at Donaldson’s (a Category A listed former school in Edinburgh) and the Mansion at Sundridge Park (a Grade I listed mansion in Bromley designed by John Nash).

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