We asked John Coward Architects of Cartmel to undertake three main tasks:
- To review our ambitions for the house, to advise on their viability, and to suggest enhancements where relevant.
- To carry out a specialist examination of No 14 in order to give guidance as to its structural condition (without commissioning a full structural survey).
- To educate and mentor members of the Society’s Working Group in the processes connected with the acquisition and renovation of the property, and the development of the property as a sustainable visitor attraction.
It is encouraging to read in JCA’s report that they consider ‘the project is fortunate to have a very well-developed and succinct brief produced by the Norman Nicholson Society’. They also write that ‘the Norman Nicholson Society have developed an excellent brief with an incredibly detailed and well considered schedule of accommodation requirements’. Considering JCA’s extensive track record in working on ambitious conversion projects, including many with heritage significance, these comments are extremely rewarding and will act as a spur to greater effort in the future.
We were pleased and impressed by the expertise brought to the project by Marion Barter Associates and Crick-Smith, who both accepted invitations from JCA to contribute.
Marion Barter, based in Glossop, is an expert in heritage properties, a full member of the Institute of Historic Buildings Conservation, and has worked as a Historic Buildings Inspector for English Heritage. Marion has provided a fascinating and detailed historical account of No 14, within the context of Millom’s changing fortunes, which is in itself of immense value to the NN Society. Her conclusion includes: ‘No. 14 St George’s Terrace has regional importance as a Victorian terraced house and shop, notable as the home of poet Norman Nicholson for over 70 years, from 1914 until his death in 1987. The building has high significance for its literary association with Nicholson, as the place where he wrote his published work and which influenced his character and creative output.’
Bearing in mind that part of the Society’s rationale for the preservation of the house is its role as an example of a property where a small businessman plied his trade while the family ’lived above the shop,’ it is heartening to read Marion’s comment that ‘The building has medium significance for architectural and historic value as a good example of a Victorian terraced house and shop, albeit slightly altered, that illustrates the social history of Millom as a northern industrial town that rapidly developed in the last quarter of the 19th century, and declined after the iron works closed in the 1960s.’
She adds: ‘The regeneration of this building by the Norman Nicholson Society also has the potential to contribute significantly to the tourism and community potential of Millom, at a time when local identity is increasingly valued and important for sustainable communities and local economic viability.’
Ian and Michael Crick-Smith are experts in the renovation and conservation of historic buildings, based in Lincoln. They have worked on an impressive range of properties including Osborne House, Kew Palace and Bletchley Park. These are a long way from St George’s Terrace but it was evident when they visited No 14 in October that they both felt real enthusiasm for the building. Their report states: ‘The wealth of evidence surviving for the period and of value to this project, would, in other properties facing renovation, be classed as outdated and in need of replacement. In 14 St George’s Terrace, these are of high significance and relate directly to the childhood and adult home that Nicholson knew and understood.’ The lack of modernisation over the years is seen by Crick-Smith as a boon, since ‘the value of this building not only lies in its association with Norman Nicholson but also in the wealth of information both archival and physical which survive. 14 St George’s Terrace can be represented using a combination of retained ‘original’ and thoroughly understood reinstated items and finishes.’
Perhaps unexpectedly, these conclusions can give us, the Society, an additional string to our bow when it comes to publicising the value of No 14 in years to come.
We are very pleased that JCA judge the concept as one which is worthy of further development. They write in their summary: ‘The property is so intrinsically linked to Norman Nicholson, the man and his life, that the structure takes on a very special significance. With the correct approach and an acute understanding of the link between Nicholson and the house, the building would make an excellent conduit for the interpretation of his life and work. It would make the perfect setting for conveying the essence of Nicholson - more than a backdrop to exhibition and display, the bricks and mortar, doors and wallpapers, can be made to be part of the experience. Nicholson played out his life in the house, and the house has a story to tell’.
With regard to the long-term viability of the Society’s project, they conclude: ‘it has been demonstrated that it is possible to make the necessary changes that will secure the future of the building.’
Big thanks to everyone who has supported us so far, especially the Heritage Lottery Fund who have provided the funding.