Inside the Tudor guildhall and derelict barn from Grand Designs, Stowmarket 2010

Balancing conservation with modern living

Simon Bennet clashed with Kevin McCloud over a Tudor guildhall restoration in Stowmarket, Suffolk

By Paisley Tedder | 4 March 2021

The Grand Designs Tudor Guildhall restoration took place on a leafy plot in Stowmarket, Suffolk. Simon Bennet and Jill Wilshaw bought the rundown building in 2006, with the intention of restoring the guildhall and converting the barn into a three-bedroom family home. The two would connect via a glazed cube.

The smaller building was thought to be the UK’s smallest surviving Tudor civic building. It’s of national importance, so getting the restoration right was of paramount importance. Kevin McCloud was keen to offer his advice and views on how to approach the project, but his views didn’t quite align with Simon’s.

Inside a converted Tudor guildhall in Suffolk

Simon was keen to create a modern home. Photo: James Brittain

Both buildings were stripped back to their original timber frames, repairs made and materials such as lambswool and fibreboard used to gain high levels of insulation.

Archaeologist Leigh Alston surveyed the development as part of a routine pre-requisite for planning permission. This is when the couple realised the importance of the site. Simon used Leigh’s archaeological report as a blueprint for the plans and hired architect Keith Day of Keith Day Architects to draw up a design. He then hired a builder on a fixed-price contract, so that any overspend was the builder’s responsibility.

‘If you have a good architect and a good builder, who is employed on a turnkey contract, you don’t need a project manager,’ said Simon. He did regularly visit the site, however.