Woodhams Brewery, Rochester
In the grounds of Grade I Listed Restoration House we are creating a magical landscape which runs down from the new Italian Water Garden to the old Brewery that once inspired the young Charles Dickens.
There are two wonderfully spacious apartments remaining - The Taproom and The Tower. We've happily broken all the normal rules of development to make a unique space where you can live, work and dream and - who knows- create your own bit of history. Here's what some of our visitors and friends say about them;
But don't take their word for it. If you are looking for somewhere truly inspiring to live, or to live and work, come and see for yourself.
In Tune With Nature
However much we might like our tech toys, and whatever the wonders of digital connectivity, most of us feel better when we are surrounded by natural organic materials - brick, plaster, stone and wood.
The last build of the brewery was 1913, still the age of brick, steel and gypsum plaster rather than petro-chemicals, plastic and modern concrete
So we use virtually no plastic, insist on solid wooden floors treated with wax or natural oils, insulate with re-cycled wool, and spend much more on high quality joinery than most developers would ever dream of.
And then we paint it with our own paint: made with turpentine, linseed oil and natural earth pigments painted directly on to the wood without a primer. Unlike most modern paints, our home made elixir feeds the wood, lets it breath and creates subtle and subtly varying colours that change their mood as the light varies through the day or night.
Properly maintained, these are the same paints that have protected Scandinavian stave churches from a thousand winters and summers, so they are ultimately tougher and more sustainable than their modern successors. And these are the same natural earth pigments that Perugino or Raphael, Gainsborough or Constable used to create their magical landscapes.
Which is why we think our paint feeds the soul as much as it protects the wood.
Lots of people now want their food to be chemical free, as locally sourced as possible, and to include older varieties that come from the days when quality and flavour rather than quantity and appearance on the supermarket shelf dictated what farmers grew. Perhaps in 10 to 20 years time, people will demand the same sort of thing from the houses they live in.
We certainly hope so but in the meantime we've done our best to join modern technology with the natural materials and colours of the past in order to create apartments that are as good for the body as they are for the mind and soul.
But eco-motherhood and app pie aside the most important thing of all is this: we built these apartments this way because we want them to be a daily joy to live, work and play in.
And then there are the gardens..
And finally, there's the lower garden that leads down to the Brewery Yard. There's an 1820s vinery, the new vegetable garden and dahlia corner, sculptured grass banks, a rill that disappears down a whirlpool, a long south wall for the exotics and a huge sunken area that we are still designing and thinking about. It will probably have a natural swimming pond, lemon garden and loggia so you can hide from the sun when it gets too hot - which it often does in this sunny corner of England.
The lower garden is the view from most of the apartments, and when you park. It is part of the "estate" and we will be looking after it. But we're not planning to put a fence in.
Cathedral, Castle, Schools and Trains
Rochester is the most beautiful of the Medway Towns, full of good buildings, interesting history and Dickensian connections. For more on Restoration House and the Brewery see the history section but the Cathedral goes back to the 9th century, the magnificently ruined castle was built by William the Conqueror and you'll find Sir Cloudsley Shovel's house just down from Jacobean Eastgate House and "Pumblechooks" place in the lively High Street. There you'll find award winning Austen's the grocer, good restaurants, antique shops and plenty of cafes including the Sea Plane Works run by the artist Billy Childish.
The High Street is just a few minutes walk from the Brewery and so is King's School, Rochester - one of the oldest and best schools in the country. The Joseph Williamson Mathematical School has now moved up the road, but is just as academically strong as ever, and there's also a good local primary school within 5 minutes walk.
Stratford is 20 minutes away by high speed train, Kings Cross/St Pancras is 35 minutes and the fast train to Victoria is 45 minutes. You're also next door to the Garden of England and handy for the East Kent Coast going through a renaissance at the moment, running down from Faversham to Whitstable and on to Margate an hour away, where Dreamland is coming back to life and you will find the wonderful Turner Contemporary museum, along with a whole new influx of artists and creativity.
News From Nowhere
In William Morris's Utopian novella, written at a time of rampant mechanisation and a proliferation of ugly ornament, the houses and places people live in are lovingly built by hand in traditional materials by creative craftsmen who love what they do. And live better, healthier lives as a result. There's no such thing as Utopia of course but at Woodham's Brewery we've done our best to honour that spirit.
And we don't think you'll find anything quite like it anywhere else.
Flat Iv/ The Tower
Imagine a 3 bedroom house floating in the sky.. like a pentagonal fortress from the outside, all harmony and light on the inside.
Total Space: 1949 sq ft, 19,270 cubic ft
Price: 845-895,000 pounds (private garden space available)
For details click here
For the inner artist or architect in you. It's where they used to dry the hops, some of which were grown on site. Now it's a 1 bedroom, 2 bathroom multi-level space (with extra sleeping platform or gallery) that will have you walking on air. With nearly as many cubic feet as a modern 3-4 bedroom house, this apartment is all about the daily wonder of space, light and colour. And if you still want to dry your own hops, we grow them out in the yard!
Total Space: 981 sq ft 13279 cubic ft
For details click here
The people's favourite, it's huge, flexible, luxurious, exciting and wonderfully calm all at the same time. A bit like a cross between Edwardian mansion flat and industrial loft. Beautiful light, stunning joinery, and a massive curved wall of white glazed bricks in the kitchen are only part of the allure. It's nick name is the Wraparound, because that's what the double height living spaces do - which means the space flows like water. A covenant from 1919 means you can't actually use the 40 ft long living room as a Taproom any more, but you could throw a wonderful party here. Or make it into a stunning studio, and use the "little" sitting room, with its beautiful glazed Kakalunga (Swedish wood burning stove) to relax in. But if you want a sumptuous dining room, a restful library, or even a third bedroom, the Kakalunga room can do that too. And for those who don't like stairs its all on one level, poised half a dozen easy steps above the cobbled yard, as if it knew it should be on a pedestal.
Total space: 2229 sq ft 26,292 cubic ft
Price: 895-945,000 pounds (private garden and extra storage space available)
For details click here
This is where they used to store the casks and bottled beer, and features a grid of massive studded iron beams made by Garnock Steel. We've arranged it as a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom flat on a butterfly plan, with a 650 sq ft studio/office/workroom. The studio has its own front door, with internal access to the kitchen and living area, where there is a separate cloakroom and WC. As well as it's own direct pedestrian access from the street - especially handy if you are running a business from home. This apartment has three separate flagstone terraces lapped around it which get the sun at different times of day. And in the longer-term you might want to convert it into a 2-3 bedroom flat - if the business and family grows as planned.
Total Space: 1751 sq ft, 13,528 cubic ft
For details click here