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The best builders in Britain

Whether you're embarking on a new-build or painstakingly restoring a listed building, here is our choice of the craftsmen with excellent foundations.

New-build country houses and extensions to listed or historically-sensitive buildings require professional attention and specialist knowledge. It’s worth spending just as much time choosing your builder as you do your architect.

Our recommendations to firms specialising in country houses are based on their craftsmanship and expertise in the fields of conservation, restoration and time-honoured building skills.

Collectively our list – which is largely made up of family companies – have several hundred years’ experience in restoring and refurbishing period properties and employ their own skilled craftsmen, who have undertaken apprenticeships and climbed the ranks. Testament to their reputation is that many of them are commissioned to work not only in the British Isles, but also by clients overseas who require the assurance of excellence.

Artichoke Ltd

A specialist joinery designer for country houses (and traditional town houses) established by managing director Bruce Hodgson in 1990. The firm bridges the gap between architecture and interior design and makes all its fitted furniture, kitchens and interior joinery in its Somerset workshop.

01934 745 270;

Carpenter Oak

Award-winning builder of handcrafted oak-framed buildings, houses and extensions, examples of which have been shown on Channel 4’s Grand Designs. Based in South Hams, Devon, the firm has a reputation for marrying modern technology and expertise with age-old skills and the team has completed a number of international projects, including a new-build house in the Dordogne and a swimming pool in St Petersburg, Russia.

01803 732900;


This large company is based on the outskirts of Hereford and operates both nationwide and abroad. It’s won multiple awards for the design and construction of all styles of oak-framed houses and buildings, in both traditional and contemporary styles.

01432 353353;

Prime Oak

This Staffordshire-based firm was founded in 1998 and, since then, it has won many awards and established a reputation for delivering innovative new products to the market, such as bi-folding doors and windows. Sister companies include oak-framer Julius Bahn and the garden room and window supplier Montpelier.

Prime Oak: 01384 296611;

Julius Bahn: 03444 171400;

Montpelier Joinery: 01384 279933;

R. Durtnell & Sons

This family-owned, family-run firm was founded in 1591, making it the oldest building group in the country. Last year, it won the contract to restore the Brighton Royal Pavilion. Based in Kent, the company undertakes every type of project from new-builds to alteration and renovation work, much of which is carried out by its in-house tradesmen.

01959 564105;

R. J. Smith & Co

Known for its work on high-end new-build projects as well as the repair, conversion and alteration of historic buildings, this Hampshirebased firm has worked with top architects including George Saumarez Smith of ADAM Architecture.

01256 892276;

R. Moulding & Co

A long-established Wiltshire-based residential building firm, its work is often featured on the cover of Country Life. Recently completed projects include a Grade II*-listed house near Winchester, and the extensive restoration of an Elizabethan house in Wiltshire.

01722 742228;

R. W. Armstrong

Family-run residential building firm with five offices across London and the South, specialising in new build and the refurbishment of period and country homes (including the one pictured at the top of this page). Recent projects include the refurbishment of a Grade I* listed Baroque manor house. Its conservation arm, Daedalus, has received RICS awards for four years running.

01256 850177;

Stevensons of Norwich

This is the go-to firm for architectural mouldings for all periods of traditional buildings as well as the restoration of traditional plasterwork, cornices and ceiling roses, which are all hand-cast. It’s the only manufacturer licensed by the National Trust to produce decorative plasterwork.

01603 400824;


Based in Oxford, this family-owned firm carries out much of the highly specialist work itself, thanks to an in-house team. Residential projects include everything from alterations and full refurbishments on listed country houses to dramatic glass extensions for Victorian town houses in London.

01865 254900;

List compiled by Arabella Youens

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