Double Award Win

Two of our projects have scooped prizes at this year’s Ipswich Society Awards.

NJ Architects were praised for our work on a pair of Ipswich landmarks – 4 College Street, known as the Benet Aldred House; and The Old Post Office at No.1 Cornhill, which is now The Botanist.

Our team, alongside Universal Stone Ltd – providers of high-end specialist construction and restoration services – were recognised at an awards ceremony held at The Hold, the home of the Suffolk Record Office in Fore Street, Ipswich, on Wednesday (November 23). It was hosted by the Ipswich Society, in recognition of buildings that have “made a notable contribution to the townscape”.

Mayor of Ipswich, Councillor John Cook; Ipswich Society Chairman John Norman; Hugh Bunbury of NJ Architects; Tom Smith of Ipswich Borough Council; Mark Heady of Universal Stone Ltd. Credit: Ipswich Society

Pippa Jacob, Associate Partner here at NJ Architects, said: “We’re delighted to have been recognised in this way by the Ipswich Society, and honoured to have won not one, but two awards.

“Winning awards is always a compliment and highlights the expertise and knowledge of the team. But to see these two spaces being embraced by the community, and creating buildings which our clients can be proud of, is the ultimate reward. We were delighted to work on 4 College Street and No.1 Cornhill, both of which were steeped in history and really interesting projects to be involved in.”

Michael Whelton, Managing Director of Universal Stone Ltd, who worked with NJ Architects on both projects, said: “The USL team is delighted and proud to be recognised by preservation organisations such as Ipswich Society for the quality of our works and craftsmanship. We are passionate about conservation and repairing the historic fabric of important heritage assets, helping to uphold the rich history of the local community.”

Our team breathed new life into 4 College Street, a Grade II former 16th century merchant’s house in the heart of the town. It sits on the Ipswich waterfront and was abandoned four decades ago in 1981. The property, which was purchased by Ipswich Borough Council, had suffered extensive fire damage after a blaze in 1992, which led to it being placed on the Buildings at Risk Register.

Hugh Bunbury, Associate Partner here at NJ Architects, who took the role of lead architect for the project, said: “This little building has recently revealed its charm after years of looking shabby and ignored. This building is the sole survivor of the medieval street. The beam across the gable bears the date of 1590 and is carved with hops and foliage, so is assumed to have had a long association with the brewing trade. On first inspection the interior was pretty grim. The windows were boarded up and there was all the debris left by squatters. Sadly, they had stripped out a lot of the interior features: doors, fireplaces, stair balusters, the copper; and the rest was left in a smashed mess. Upstairs you could see where the fire had started; with one wall missing, charred timbers and everything black.”

While the internal walls and timbers have been repaired and restored using heritage-appropriate measures, like lime plaster and lath, externally the building has an eye-catching new colour scheme.

Few structural changes were necessary, but the particularly poor condition and lesser significance of the back scullery area justified the creation of a new entrance area and accessible cloakroom.

Meanwhile, the Old Post Office at No.1 Cornhill was originally built in 1881 to a competition design by London architect John Johnson, and the Grade II listed building was in need of extensive interior and exterior renovations. The programme of repairs included chimneys, carved stonework and re-roofing in Penrhyn slate by Universal Stone Ltd, while Skillington Workshop Ltd., Grantham, remodelled eroded parts of the sculptures. Four new stone and bronze finials now stand on the parapet – the originals were probably removed for safekeeping during the war.

Andrew Jackson, Senior Commercial Manager at USL, said: “It is a testament to the craftsmanship and technical expertise of our team who turned this derelict, fire damaged shell into a renewed usable space for the local community. On behalf of the entire team at USL (both onsite and in the head office), we are pleased to have collaborated with NJ Architects to conserve this historical landmark in Ipswich.”

Following the £1million project, delayed by the pandemic, the refurbished doors of No.1 Cornhill were thrown open to the public earlier this year, as the latest addition to national restaurant chain, The Botanist.

The Ipswich Society Awards are held annually and recognise new buildings and the restoration or refurbishment of existing buildings which have made a notable contribution to the townscape. Judges look at architectural quality, and work in character with the surroundings or forming a focal point, as well as improvements to the original building or its setting, and the scale, detailing, colour and materials being sympathetic, well considered and appropriate.

They also take into account good quality of workmanship and standard of finish, and the impact of the project and how it sets a standard for others to follow.