Queen Anne house, Herefordshire

After Eardisley Park burned to the ground on the night of 29 January 1999 when its owners and their family were in London, they were quick to decide ? despite being faced with the trauma of losing their home and all their possessions – that what they wanted was to get their old house back in a form that had as many of the characteristics that they loved, but which addressed some of the inconveniences of a house little altered since the 18th century.

The house had been built in the early part of the 18th century, square in plan and principally of brick construction, with two storeys set over a stone basement and a fourth storey built within a hipped roof ? the formula for a perfect ?Queen Anne? house. Later in the century, the attic was re-built as a full storey under a new slate roof built to a shallower pitch; to disguise the change the exterior was rendered. Accommodation was arranged around two massive brick chimney stacks. There was a fine oak staircase and many of the rooms were panelled. Contemporary stables, farm buildings and a dovecot completed the ensemble in a perfect setting with panoramic views across the Wye Valley. The house was listed Grade II*, and the rest Grade II.

Despite strong local authority pressure to demolish what little remained after the fire ?on safety grounds?, the appointment of the Morton Partnership as structural engineers enabled the survival of nearly all the north wall and the two opposing corners to first floor height. Donald Insall Associates were then appointed as architects for the reconstruction of the house. Guiding design principles were quickly established: the budget would be constrained by what was available from insurers, the house was to be re-built on the surviving stone basement walls, and otherwise the design should carry as many messages from the past as possible, whilst incorporating modern conveniences, such as en suite bathrooms and a kitchen on the same floor as the dining room.

Largely because enough bricks were salvaged to face the whole of two floors, the house was returned to its early 18th century form with the top floor set within a hipped roof, the height and angle of which were determined by evidence of an early flashing line revealed by the fire on one of the chimney stacks. As an architectural conceit, to allow for an every-day entrance hall on the west side of the house and to provide space for a larger drawing room, the basic rectangle of the plan has been broken on the south and west elevations by two semi-circular bows incorporating late 18th century style details to suggest they may have been added at a later date.

By not reconstructing the bulky central chimney stacks and by providing working fireplaces on the principal floor only, it has been possible to increase the number of bathrooms on the first and second floors, and to achieve a more workable plan incorporating necessary voids to allow new building services to pass through the building unnoticed.

Out of sight construction is modern, with concrete blockwork behind the external brick facing and steel beams supporting timber floors and the hipped roof. The new construction has, however, had to respond to the idiosyncrasies of what survived of the old, with new windows on the same level set at slightly different heights to take account of the 75mm variation in the coursing of the original brickwork retained in situ.

Out of the disaster and upon the original basement walls, the early 18th century house has been restored ? a phoenix risen from the ashes, with all the modern conveniences to ensure its survival as a handsome and convenient family house, completing and complementing a setting of surviving listed buildings that have stood on the site for nearly 300 years.