My New Old House

After soSaffron Walden Pargettingme years of advising others on how to handle work on old buildings through my role at the SPAB, I’m thrilled to be taking on a major project of my own – updating, altering and repairing a 15th-century, grade-I-listed house, later part of an inn, at Saffron Walden in Essex.

The property is remarkable for the decorative render, or ‘pargeting’, that adorns its front walls, especially two large, folkish figures over the carriageway. There are also reputed links with Oliver Cromwell to investigate.

I spotted an advert by chance in a local newspaper. The agent, Cheffins (, received great interest so the sale went to ‘best and final offer’, with the suspense of seeing how my sealed bid fared against others. Apparently, a friend’s tip to include a one-sided resume justifying my interest in the building helped greatly.

Now my chaSold Signllenge is to sympathetically return what are presently two cottages back into a single dwelling to provide myself with a home fit for the 21st century. To give you an idea of the scale of my task, there are only outside toilets and one cottage even lacks electricity. It’s a project that will keep me busy for the foreseeable future.


About Douglas Kent

My professional life is advising others on the care of old buildings at the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). Now my home life is to be absorbed through a major project on my grade-I-listed house. Follow my experiences.

My background is as a chartered building surveyor with a Masters degree in the conservation of buildings. Since 2000 I have been Technical Secretary at the SPAB, Britain’s oldest building conservation charity. I oversee the Society’s technical activities, including enquiries, publications and courses of a technical nature. This is a hugely varied and rewarding role that places me at the heart of building conservation.

Previously I’ve worked in the public and private sectors advising on historic buildings for a range of organisations, such as the Ministry of Defence and English Heritage.

I am a member of the technical panels of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation and Property Care Association and the committees of the Traditional Paint Forum and Conservation of Historic Thatch group. I also write and lecture regularly on technical matters and have contributed to various radio and television programmes.

The SPAB was set up by the designer William Morris in 1877 to promote the principles of ‘conservative repair’. I’m relishing the challenge of putting these principles into practice with my work to sympathetically update, alter and repair my 15th-century, timber-framed house in Essex, which, by a remarkable coincidence, the SPAB saved from harm in the 1930s.

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