Historic building to village hub


Turning a 15th century building into a vibrant village hub - the Courtyard Cafe - has won a top ‘highly commended’ award for a team of Rotherfield designers.

The award was presented to Tangent Space run by Mark Wakelin at a gala dinner. Mark was approached by Anne and Geoff Evans who dreamt of converting a delapidated listed High Street building. The structure dates to the 15th century with an extra building added 50 years later and more extensions in the 1830s and 1870s. It had been a greengrocers and antique shop which closed some time ago. Its listed status and general decay were huge challenges for Tangent Space and the family.

According to Mark Wakelin: “A big challenge was understanding the scale of the damage and general neglect. Much of the interior was clad in boarding so it took a lot of work before we could understand and evaluate the scale of the damage. It’s amazing it was still standing.”

Damp from a defective gutter had rotted timbers and walls and the building was riddled with death watch and common furniture beetle. East Sussex contractors worked on the project together with specialists including an archaeologist with knowledge of Wealden oak framed houses, an historic plaster expert and paint specialist. A water wells consultant was drafted in when a seven metre well dug by hand through sandstone was discovered under crazy paving in the back garden.

Wealden District Council was extremely supportive of the project together with Rotherfield Parish Council who put the building forward for the Award. Vice chairman Robert Harris said: “We’re delighted with the work. Tangent Space has created residential and business premises sympathetic to the village’s architecture and Anne and Geoff’s vision has brought life to Rotherfield during the day when it would otherwise be quiet.”

Judges said the 16 month project is an excellent example of how leading edge material and equipment is used in an historical context. The cafe is now a village hub, welcoming parent and baby groups, parties, visitors and art exhibitions. Owner Anne Evans said: “It’s hard to imagine back to those first few months when we were trying to secure planning permission and listed building consent, while making some truly awful and yet remarkable discoveries.”

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