Ex-Boathouse, Mixtow

‘The Flagstaff’ is the official name of the property but locally it is known as ‘Watty’s Cottage’. This is an attractive house by the river, a former boathouse with accommodation above. This project is an interesting one and the building is very distinctive and full of character.

The property has been in our client’s family for a long time. Our client’s old photograph from 1904 (see below) shows it alongside another timber clad boat house that they also own. The buildings are almost exactly the same now but the canopy depicted in the photo over the slipway in front of the adjacent boathouse has gone.

Our client approached us on recommendation, as we designed and administered a successful refurbishment project further up the hill, in Mixtow.

The building is an fascinating project to work on. There is no vehicular access to the building and the original lower ground floor was once used as a boathouse but now is a kitchen. When there are extra high tides or storms, though, the water laps into the lower part of the kitchen through a hole in the wall. The floor is sloped toward the river and the flood water simply runs out again as the tide lowers.

Our client’s original brief was to expand the property, replacing the existing single storey extension with two storey’s. It has now turned into three, as they decided to add a utility room and loo below, accessed from the kitchen.

The double piled (two ridged) extension is designed to be subservient to the original, thus keeping the scale and proportion of the original building, without dominating it.

The existing wall materials are a mixture of: (a) natural stone and cement rendered bottom storey and (b) red asbestos cement slate hanging to the upper storey. The latter looks attractive – the tiles are weathered, which adds character to the building – but the tiles are asbestos and trying to replicate the weathered look of these with new red fibre cement tiles would not be possible, even if these were available. Therefore it was decided to clad the upper part of the new extension in a contrasting material but build the lower part in natural stone. The new stone will contrast with the old in any case.

The building is set with woodland behind and therefore timber cladding was chosen for the extension, but rather than opt for timber boarding, wooden shingles (or shakes) were chosen because they will complement the tile hanging and give a textured finish, that adds to the character of the existing house.

The roof of the extension is to be finished with a natural grey slate, matching the original building.

The floor in the kitchen, which floods when the tide is very high, is to be raised slightly with a channel to allow water to escape and a non return valve fitted to ensure that water only goes out and does not come back in. The door at this level has a step over and a flood defense board will also be installed to prevent ingress of water. Should water penetrate then fittings will be water resistant and since this floor has always flooded it will not be any great issue.

Since the site lacks vehicular access, building materials will need to be man handled to the site along the pedestrian pathway or brought along the beach, which is uncovered at low tide. At high tide a boat could also be used to bring materials to the site. Apparently the Harbour Master hires out a barge for this purpose, as there are many buildings along the river that do not have an access road.

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