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Gotwick Manor, Hammerwood, East Grinstead, Sussex

Client: The Chandler Family

Local Authority: Wealden District Council

Gotwick Manor is a substantial early-20th Century Arts and Crafts style house, with extensive later 20th-century alterations. It is situated within the grounds of a country estate near the hamlet of Hammerwood, approximately 4 km east of East Grinstead. In addition to the principal dwelling, the estate also comprises several cottages, agricultural buildings, formal landscaped gardens to the south and west, as well as an outdoor swimming pool, extensive woodland, and a lake. For the purposes of this assessment, it is classed as a non-designated heritage asset.

The Proposal

The proposed development sought to dismantle the existing dwelling and replace it with a new, higher-quality Arts and Crafts manor designed to PassivHaus standards with clear reference to the local Sussex vernacular, ensuring the retention and re-use of those elements of the surviving historic fabric which hold heritage significance. Additional elements of the scheme included:

  • Reinstatement of historic garden layout

  • Construction of basement pool

  • Construction of additional boundary wall to kitchen garden

  • Installation of energy-saving infrastructure in order to make the estate carbon neutral

The Challenges

As a non-designated heritage asset, Gotwick Manor was subject to some heritage protection and this scheme required early engagement with the Local Authority Conservation team. This took place in the form of a pre-application, in which the following response was received:

'In our view, the proposed replacement would not comply with local policies which aim to conserve and enhance the character and natural beauty of the AONB, as well as safeguarding the non-designated heritage asset… [officers therefore] do not consider that the planning balance has been tilted in favour of the proposal.'

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The Solutions

In order to demonstrate that the development was indeed in line with relevant local policy contrary to the pre-application response, Blue Willow Heritage undertook a Local Character Study in order to establish the following:

  • the character of the local area around Gotwick Manor

  • whether the property, as existing, fits this established criteria and is a property of 'valuable local character'

  • whether the proposed replacement dwelling would be in keeping with the established local character

Additionally, extensive archival research was undertaken which uncovered that the property had undergone substantial alterations in the mid-20th century which denuded much of its significance. This assessment found that Gotwick Manor, as existing, was not a property of ‘valuable local character’, neither as an exemplar Arts and Crafts property, nor as one which meaningfully reflects the local architectural character.


In contrast, the proposed dwelling, with ongoing input from Blue Willow Heritage, was designed with principles of the Arts and Crafts movement at the forefront, as well as the prevailing local vernacular, incorporating traditional materials including Flemish bond brickwork, roughcast render, and hung tiles, as well as elements of the original 1910 elevations. Not only was the result a higher-standard property exemplary of the Arts and Crafts style, but also one which would contribute to the local character of the wider landscape in which it sits. 

This Local Character Study, along with an in-depth Heritage Impact Assessment to support the proposals, was submitted as part of a full planning application.

The Outcome

Following submission of the full application, planning consultancy Squires Planning worked hard to secure local support for the proposal, engaging with the local District Councillor who called the application to be determined by committee as opposed to delegated powers.  

Despite objections being received from The Victorian Society and the Council for British Archaeology, in large part thanks to the heritage-led approach, the proposal was supported by Heritage, Design, and Planning Officers at the Council allowing the case officer to conclude:

'In this instance, while the objections to the proposal have been noted, it is concluded that on balance, taking account of the above, the impact of the development, along with other material planning considerations, conditional planning permission should be granted.'

Shortly thereafter, the proposal was granted planning permission under delegated powers with minimal conditions, allowing the creation of a high-quality, energy-efficient new build dwelling but also one which faithfully references the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement and the local vernacular.

Since then, Blue Willow Heritage has been involved in discharging the heritage-related conditions, including a Historic Building Recording. 

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The design team for this project comprised Blue Willow Heritage, Squires Planning, Cowan Architects, Impact Sustainability, Tully De'Ath Consultants, PJC Consultancy & CT Ecology.

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