After renovating Hellifield Peel Castle on Grand Designs, Francis Shaw wants to build a Romanesque villa.

tv series secrets hellifield peel castle

Who? Francis and Karen Shaw

What? After realising his dream of renovating a castle on Grand Designs, Francis is now ready to move on to the challenge of a Roman- style house in Bath

Since renovating Hellifield Peel Castle was such a huge undertaking, why have you decided to sell it?
‘Our youngest daughter Morgan sadly had oxygen starvation at birth, which has affected her development, and is the primary reason we moved to Hellifield. It meant we could be near Brooklands, a great special school in Skipton, where their ability to develop her skills is just startling. She’s at the end of that schooling period and we need to find a college for her. She’s really into cooking and two of the good specialist colleges are based in the south west. We’re also going to be closer to Karen’s parents.’

Can you tell us more about your plans to build a Roman-style villa in Bath?
‘I’ve always wanted to do a Roman villa and Bath is probably one of the epicentres for them in the ancient world. There have been attempts, with varying levels of success, depending on your point of view. I’m working with English Heritage and some archaeologists on ideas for how to create a replica third-century Roman villa, which is a project that’s been dear to my heart for a very long time. I hate the phrase bucket list, but basically that’s what I would like to achieve before I snuff it.’

Can you tell us about some of your other recent interesting projects?
‘We’re working on Mingary Castle in north Scotland, where we discovered the first use
of Roman cement since the twelfth century. It’s an amazing property and the cement is
a revolutionary discovery; you can use it underwater and it’s practically indestructible. We are going to use the Roman cement because it will greatly enhance the performance of the building and it gives me, as an architect, the opportunity
to experiment with traditional materials.’

tv series secrets hellifield peel castle2

What do you like most about working
on specialist projects?
‘I enjoy research. It’s part of the reason I bought Hellifield, because the historical background revealed a very exciting house that not many people had looked into. If your first line of resources dries up, you look at secondary material to try to find its history. That side of projects has always interested me. I could bore for Britain on the subject.’

How do you feel about leaving Hellifield?
It probably won’t hit me until we’ve gone. Doing the B&B and working full-time as an architect means I don’t have much time to think about it. When we left our Elizabethan farmhouse, I was quite heartbroken and am sure I will be again. It’s part of my life. It’s sort of defined me in a way, and I was able to launch a practice off the back of it. It’s been a wonderful catalyst in my life to new things.’

Kevins Column

Grand Designs Live: Ask an Expert Weekend 22-23 May 2021

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