Category Archives: Refurbishment


Conservation award for 1 – 3 Ock Street, Abingdon

This gallery contains 6 photos.

At the prestigious Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT) Awards on 4th November 2014, 1 – 3 Ock St was awarded a plaque in the Building Conservation category. The awards panel commented on the sensitive and sympathetic restoration, the marrying of the old … Continue reading

1 – 3 Ock St, Abingdon – the work is almost complete

It is some while since I last posted an entry and I do feel awful about that. But the past 6 months have been hectic beyond belief and only now with the finish line finally in sight do I find I have time to even contemplate an update to my blog.

The boardroom, complete with refurbished 1760 fireplace and signature "Papered by E R Petty July 24th 1762"

The boardroom, complete with refurbished 1760 fireplace and signature “Papered by E R Petty July 24th 1762”

As I write the carpet is being laid and in a few days the furniture will arrive. The portico is undergoing a much-needed and long overdue face lift and the finishing touches are being made to the electrical, security and fire alarm systems. All will be ready for when Kemp & Kemp move in at the end of January.


The new reception

The new reception

It would be nice to say that the work has gone entirely to plan but with an old Grade 2 listed Georgian building it was inevitable that there would be some unknowns. Having said that we have not been hit by too many surprises, and nothing that we perhaps could not have anticipated. We had to completely rebuild two chimneys that had clearly been rebuilt (badly) back in the 50’s or 60’s, the gas pipe through the building has been rerouted and we ended up having to re plaster the entire building, including many of the ceilings, whereas we had budgeted for patching and repairing and then papering. But when the plaster falls off as soon as you touch it there is simply no choice and the end result is so much better.

The exterior to the building still needs redecoration but that can wait for a period of better weather and the courtyard gates and the courtyard itself need to be upgraded but that too can wait.

Work on the portico roof .....

Work on the portico roof …..

....... almost complete.

……. almost complete.

Some of the tradesman that have worked in the building are convinced that it is haunted, but I do not subscribe to that, quite the opposite in fact. I have spent many a silent hour in the building, alone, late at night, and in the early days with nothing more than emergency/temporary lighting through the property and I have never felt anything other than 100% “at home”. In fact if buildings were ever able to have a soul I would credit 1 – 3 Ock St with a warm and friendly one!

An original outside wall, complete with 1760 Georgian window frame!

An original outside wall, complete with 1760 Georgian window frame!

I wrote in an earlier blog about the D’Almaine family who occupied the building 100 years ago. The father was a solicitor who lived and worked from the building and sadly lost his then only son Roy (Duroy) on the Somme in 1916. Last week I was contacted by a direct descendant and we will be arranging for them and other members of the family to visit the property. I will post on that as and when it is arranged but I am very much looking forward to reuniting them with their past and to learning more about their family.

Finally, we are putting a time capsule under the floor to the building and are asking a number of Abingdon institutions and organisations to contribute to the content. As well as telling the story of the building and its new occupants, we want the Abingdonians of the future to know what life was like in Abingdon in 2014. If any of you have any ideas or suggestions do please post a comment.

Thank you for reading.

At last the work begins 1 – 3 Ock Street, Abingdon – on – Thames.

It has been a long time coming but finally we have made a start on the refurbishment of 1 – 3 Ock Street, Abingdon – on – Thames, Oxon. The reason for the delay in starting has not been planning, or funding, or matters of design, but simply that we have been so busy at Kemp & Kemp that we had to park our plans for the building for a few months. Now we are determined to press on, and finally the work was started last week.

Steve at work on the sash windows.

Steve at work on the sash windows.

The first stage will be the strip out. The lighting and power circuits are to be renewed, as will the heating system, with the domestic water supply to be adapted and modified. So all the old installation, save for the existing boiler, will have to be stripped out. The prices are in and the contracts will hopefully be issued this coming week. More on that in the coming weeks.

The next stage after that will be the building strip out. There are internal and external walls to be removed, windows to take out, new ones to install, and much making good. The building has been neglected for many a year and is in much need of a great deal of TLC. The services and building strip outs will be the start of that process.

The newly discovered shutters

The newly discovered shutters

In the meantime we have been having the sash windows overhauled. Some were already in working order, but not many. Painted over, jammed, sash cords broken, or cut and in a generally neglected state, most of the windows were incapable of being opened. Maintenance work undertaken on them in the past had been clumsy to say the least, causing more harm that good. Some of the windows were even double sashes, with the inner sash since removed. At the time they simply cut the sash cords and pulled the sashes out. A form of joinery cannibalism! Not that we are complaining too much, because the net result when the windows were opened up this week, is four redundant lead counter weights, totalling 60 lbs in weight, c.£80 in value.

Another bonus has been the discovery of built-in shutters to one of the downstairs front windows. Steve, our joiner has taken great care over the window refurbishment. He discovered the shutters on finding a  heavily painted hinge on what simply looked like a section of panelling. But, with a little care and some patient easing, 300 year old shutters complete with their original ironmongery were revealed. Sadly they are the only ones left in the building.

The original 300 year old ironmongery to the shutters.

The original 300 year old ironmongery to the shutters.

As part of the refurbishment project we invited year 4 pupils from Rush Common School to visit the building and learn a little about its history, and what life in Georgian Abingdon would have been like. They were a lively and engaging group, and since their visit they have drawn pictures and written stories about the building. I intend to feature their stories as the tale of the refurbishment unfolds. The first such story has been written by Max, who clearly recognises that as a small boy in Georgian times he would have been put to work, even at a tender age. A good education was only available to those who could afford it:

The camouflage painted shutters. Difficult to know when the paintwork was done.

The camouflage painted shutters. Difficult to know when the paintwork was done.

Dear Diary

I woke up in my small house.  I went downstairs.  I ate my eggs and sausages.  Then I went to 1-3 Ock Street to clean the dusty chimney.  It was a shame I don’t get paid much. 

Next I saw the big blue door.  My  hand struck the door with fear.  Finally the door opened and I walked into the house.  The man said “Boy, that is the fire”.  So I went up the chimney.  Then the man just put on the fire.


The chimneys are still there, and they are no doubt still dusty, but don’t worry Max, we won’t be asking you to sweep them.

Watch out for weekly updates on the buildings progress.For more information on Kemp & Kemp LLP visit:

1 – 3 Ock Street, Abingdon – planning application is in!

The planning application has now been submitted and has been registered by the Vale of White Horse District Council.

As posted earlier, the building is Grade 2 Listed and sits in the  Abingdon Town Centre Conservation Area. So as well as applying for planning permission we have to apply for listed building consent too.

Proposed rear elevation, 1 – 3 Ock Street, Abingdon

Over the years the building has become institutionalised with fire doors, signage, security doors and systems, anaglypta wall paper, magnolia paint, surface wiring and general neglect. We cannot ignore safety and other regulation but we do want to return the building to its former glory, restoring some of the original features as well as rendering the building “fit for purpose” as a modern office environment. A number of changes are proposed which include the following:

  • the reinstatement of some openings within the building
  • the removal of modern internal partitions
  • restoration of an external side opening
  • refurbishment of and restoration to the roof of the front portico
  • external redecoration in heritage Georgian colours
  • creation of an internal glazed roof office
  • removal of the rear internal fire escape
  • provision of a replacement fire escape with first floor deck area
  • refurbishment of external elevations and woodwork

We feel the proposed changes will breathe new life into what is at present an outdated, tired and somewhat neglected listed building. Our proposals seek to respect the history of the building, where possible restoring original features, whilst at the same time creating modern and useable office space. That special fusion of old and new.

The importance of the front facade is evident from the listing schedule. In order to maintain the importance of this facade, the portico will be restored, the brickwork repaired, the stonework cleaned and the woodwork repainted in traditional Georgian heritage colours.

The proposed development will comply fully with Local Plan Policy HE5 and with the NPPF requirements set out at paragraphs 128 and 129. In summary we believe that the proposed works will benefit the conservation and future of this heritage building as well as enhancing the character of the conservation area.

Copies of the planning application and all the supporting plans and documents can be found at;

and at

Any comments on the proposals would be welcomed.

Old Building, New Beginning at 1-3 Ock Street, Abingdon

Who would have thought it. 35 years ago I was involved in the acquisition of an office building in Abingdon, on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council and today that very same building is now owned by my business partner and me.

1 – 3 Ock St, Abingdon

My first job, straight out of school, was as a trainee surveyor in the Property Department to Oxfordshire County Council. The work was very varied and gave me a good grounding in a profession that has treated me well, and of all the jobs I became involved in I remember driving into the courtyard of 1 – 3 Ock Street, Abingdon as if it were yesterday. The County were acquiring the building for occupation by the Probation Service, which at the time was a County function, but now, my business partner and I have bought the building from The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. We completed on the purchase two weeks ago.

Rear of 1 – 3 Ock Street, Abingdon

Yet buying the building is probably the easy bit. The challenge now is to breathe new life into a beautiful building that has not seen much love and affection for many a year. The building is late Georgian and would have originally been built by a local merchant or professional as a fine residence with substantial grounds. Over the prevailing years the building has been extended, on occasions with not much care or thought, whilst the gardens have slowly been lost to surrounding development. But what we have now is nonetheless a fine well-built property that has since been converted to commercial use, with a rear courtyard, accessed under the existing building, that provides parking for 6 – 7 cars. Extending to approximately 2,500 sq ft, the building is Grade 2 listed and is situated in a Conservation Area. So there is much to think about and consider.

Our plans are to restore the building to its former glory, returning some of its original features, as well as rendering the building “fit for purpose” as an office building. This needs to be done with sensitivity whilst recognising that merging old and new, or modern if you prefer, can be difficult to achieve, but a very successful fusion if you can get it right. We intend to get it right, but appreciate that to achieve that involves the co-operation of the architect, planners, conservation officer and of course the owners.

The layout plans are well advanced, we have had an initial meeting with the Conservation Officer and the planning application should be submitted next week. Whilst the application is being determined we will finalize the specification and go out to competitive tender. We hope to have the builders in within 2 – 3 months, and for the building to be available for occupation before the end of the year. It will be tight.

There is light at the end of the tunnel

I intend to post regularly on the rebirth of this building, so why not “tag” this blog and keep up with its progress.

Property industry continues to lack genuine confidence.

I have worked in property all my working life, that’s nearly 40 years! Having done anything from basic property management, through to surveys and valuations, commercial agency, and for the last 20 years, property planning and development, you would think that over such an expanse of time that I would have seen it all. And you would be right. Yet all the experience in the world cannot prepare anyone for the market conditions we are currently enduring in the property industry. I have witnessed several recessions, I even started my working life as the country came out of recession in 1974, but never have I experienced anything like the market conditions of today.

I am fortunate in one respect in that my work is mainly in the South East, in fact Oxfordshire and the surrounding counties, and in another respect that my work is mainly in residential development. Oxfordshire in particular is a robust location when it comes to housing, and values and demand have held up well, yet market conditions are still difficult.

My own experience, and that of my competitors if what they say is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, is that whilst developers still want the best sites, getting them to sign on the dotted line and complete the deal is getting increasingly more difficult. Therein lies the issue at the heart of our current stagnation, a flat spot that has produced the dreaded double dip.

Now, I can only speak for the property industry, and, in the main, only in respect of a part of the country, but I suspect that my experience is not far from the norm. At the heart of the issue is confidence. Or rather the lack of it. The confidence to commit and to take risk. Two essential ingredients to any thriving economy. Getting developers to make that final commitment and complete the deal can be difficult at the moment.

One aspect of change that stands out from when I first started work nearly 40 years ago, and now, is the degree of due diligence attached to everything we do. Take the, once simple, act of making a planning application. I can remember filling in a two-sided form, a couple of notification slips, putting a red line around a plan and submitting the form to the Local Authority. Now, we have to virtually cut down a copse to first produce all the paper necessary for the reports and supporting documentation that today accompanies a planning application. When that is followed by an appeal, the copse becomes a wood! The cost was once a few hundred pounds, now the cost of submitting an application often runs into tens of thousands. Whilst I do not advocate a return to the days of two-sided forms and 1/2500 scale plans, the pendulum has surely swung too far. We seem to go out of our way to make securing planning permission as difficult as possible, in the meantime the housing list for the country grows to c.5M. Not a statistic in which we can show any pride.

Due diligence does not just extend to planning, but to the land and buildings themselves. The search for “issues”, be they legal, environmental, topographical, planning, or whatever, is also far more detailed now than it ever was 20, or even 10 years ago. And this is where developers are very skilled at slowing the process down by adopting the principle of “first get a foot in the door” and then dictate the pace. They are masters of it, and push as hard as you like, they will buy all the time they need, first to satisfy themselves on all the practical issues and then to convince their Board that this is the right thing to do and the right time to be doing it.

Wake up every morning to Robert Peston and his fellow doom makers at the BBC and is it any wonder that confidence is shaky? The news is scary at times, what with the banks dragging down a number of Euro countries, the Middle East and North Africa in turmoil, a government that likes U turns, and has drastically cut its spending, manufacturing that is in decline, unemployment amongst the young at unhealthy levels and new housing at levels not seen since the 1920′s. Yet there must be some good news out there, but do we hear it. Not often!

So, instead, we have the doom and gloom merchants hogging the limelight, giving the impression that we might as well pack up and go home. In the meantime 5M people are screaming for a decent home and the construction industry is wondering where the next big contract is going to come from. Demand for housing is there, yet it remains in short supply, the result of which is house prices at levels the young simply cannot afford. Developers want to buy sites and to build houses, but a lack of confidence in an economy that keeps disappointing, makes them cautious and risk averse, and slow to complete on deals! Who can blame them.

My solution would be a simple one. First, make the planning system easier and quicker to deal with, and don’t just say that is what you intend to do. Do it. Action is required, not words. Start by giving overworked and undermanned local authority planning departments the man/womanpower and investment they need to function properly. Many years ago I read an article that suggested that land for building was scarce. I did not agree with it then nor do I now. We have plenty of land; it is land with planning permission that is scarce. So we must speed up the process, and help those charged with the task.

Secondly, instead of cutting government investment, plough money into house building. Put roofs over people’s heads. Give jobs to the young in the construction industry. Put money into people’s pockets. They in turn will spend it in the High Street. Give some of it back in taxes. Keynes said in times of downturn pay people to dig holes and then pay other people to fill them back in. He did not mean it literally of course, but he did mean that governments should spend money to create employment. He was right.

Let’s instill a feeling of confidence and belief back into the country. A good starting point might be to put Peston and his doom merchant mates in the Tower for committing the equivalent of economic treason. If you think that too drastic, lets at least unplug his mic.