CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hampshire Life today CLICK HERE

Architect Huw Thomas’ Winchester homes

PUBLISHED: 16:30 02 February 2016 | UPDATED: 16:30 02 February 2016

Spacious kitchen-dining-family area at Elizabeth Place

Spacious kitchen-dining-family area at Elizabeth Place

Alfred Homes

Who lives in a house like this? Possibly you do. Emma Caulton talks to architect Huw Thomas

Do you live in a Huw Thomas-designed home? If you live in Winchester, then it’s a possibility. Prior to our chat, Huw was totting up the number of houses he has designed in Winchester and the city’s surrounding parishes. The total is an impressive 627, including 29 commercial properties. By his own description he is prolific. “There can’t be a street I haven’t touched,” he remarks.

Huw is probably best known as the saviour of Peninsula Barracks. Back in the early 1990s the intention had been to demolish these historic barracks, replacing them with five-storey high buildings and a multi-storey car park.

“This was the ground where Henry V mustered his soldiers before victories at Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt!” declares Huw indignantly, recalling his own battle with the Ministry of Defence and the local council to save the Barracks. He was assisted by what he describes as God-given good fortune: walking across the site one day, there in the skip were all the drawings of the Barracks’ buildings. He took them home and used them to design a scheme transforming the Barracks into apartments and houses, before approaching one of the estate agents in the city to find a developer interested in taking forward his ideas. The rest is now, thankfully, history. His design was kept intact. Even the landscaped formal gardens he described in watercolour to illustrate the scheme were recreated. “I don’t think one thing was changed.”

Today this corner of the city is a gem, known and appreciated, if not loved, by residents and visitors. Ironically, considering Huw’s initial battle, it is now commended by the council for its sense of place. Yet it seems lessons have not been learned. A similar planning battle is raging, this time to ensure that the development of Silver Hill, in the heart of Winchester, is undertaken with similar consideration for the city’s heritage. As Huw explains, the proposed development would have buildings as high as the parapet of the cathedral dominating the city and destroying its character. A view shared by most locals.

Architect Huw Thomas in front of Winchester CathedralArchitect Huw Thomas in front of Winchester Cathedral

“I love history. I love this city...and I try so hard to stop it being messed about with.”

This appreciation of place is at the core of Huw’s work: “I suck up the place and regurgitate it into my work. I start from that. I borrow from the surroundings - I have to find a hook.”

Although well known for his more traditional designs, he does modern concepts, too. Even these complement the surroundings. Mozzetta is his – a rather audacious steel and glass structure on Little Minster Street. Huw says: “Where Mozzetta sits there was a timber-framed pub, but they knocked it down. So I thought I’d do a jettied upper storey like a medieval building.” His design uses exposed steel struts to emulate timber framework. He has also cleverly angled the building, giving the apartments views across to the cathedral and helping retain privacy. Mozzetta may be a modern design, but it is inspired by and respects its locality.

In his offices on Winchester’s Southgate Street, Huw is surrounded by his work. The front of his offices overlooks the Barracks. Down the street a carbuncle of a car showroom has been replaced by another of his schemes - an elegant row of townhouses featuring neoclassical symmetry, porticos and columns with a courtyard incorporating an old coach house and dovecote. Meanwhile from the back of Huw’s office are views across the city to a row of six townhouses on the hillside opposite, glowing in the afternoon sun and looking, with their seemingly haphazard roofline and charming mix of architectural features, as though they have always been there. This is Blue Ball Hill, a development in a conservation area, and the first houses Huw designed for Alfred Homes. It is probably this development that established Alfred Homes in Winchester and was the foundation for the ongoing relationship between Huw and the developer.

Watercolour by Huw of street scene for Eyston Drive development, Sleeper's HillWatercolour by Huw of street scene for Eyston Drive development, Sleeper's Hill

Huw describes Alfred Homes as the housing equivalent of buying a suit from Savile Row: individual, traditional homes using quality materials. Yet behind the elegant facades, these houses are tailored to create spaces suited to 21st century living.

The Oliver Mews development in St Cross, which I visited, comprising three townhouses and a ‘coachhouse’ apartment, sold in about three weeks. The showhouse was launched and sold within hours. Huw says: “You can’t beat that sort of house. Everyone likes it: simple elegant terrace houses – nothing too grand. Through all the architectural styles from Georgian, Art and Crafts to Art Deco, the most popular is the simple, traditional form.”

Alfred Homes’ small developments using Winchester’s architectural vernacular and, more often than not, Huw’s designs, are appearing throughout the city.

Connaught Square, on Chilbolton Avenue, has the appearance of traditional villas, but these are apartments with underground parking cleverly hidden under terraced gardens. Elizabeth Place, also on Chilbolton Avenue, again has traditional frontage facing the road. However, behind is a close of family homes. And while borrowing features from the past (such as stone dressings and bay windows), Huw has been creative in a modern way, using unexpected angles to make the best use of the site. “I happily mix contemporary and traditional – I think it makes design more exciting. I enjoy the tension between old and new.”

Big kitchen-living spaces are in favour. Kitchen by bulthaup in Alfred Homes' developoment, Dashwood, Sleepers HillBig kitchen-living spaces are in favour. Kitchen by bulthaup in Alfred Homes' developoment, Dashwood, Sleepers Hill

He decries the use of that “horrible” word pastiche to describe and deride what he is doing. His designs are much more than that: a fusion of ideas and influences from past and present.

Huw finds that working with Alfred Homes is like working with a private client. “Their briefs include big hallways, which I like. The whole house is set up by the hall - it makes a house. I say if you can’t put a Christmas tree in the hallway, it’s not a home.”

Others include high ceilings – “good ceiling height is very important, it gives you elegance.” Similarly the use of traditional window openings informs the design. He explains that the difference between contemporary and traditional buildings is the windows: traditional-style windows are vertical, modern houses’ windows are horizontal.

“When you use traditional, vertical window openings then everything else has to be proportionate throughout.”

Connaught Square, Chilbolton Avenue, was designed by Huw Thomas to look like townhouses, but these are apartments, and Alfred Homes' only apartment project to dateConnaught Square, Chilbolton Avenue, was designed by Huw Thomas to look like townhouses, but these are apartments, and Alfred Homes' only apartment project to date

The interiors may be proportionate, but they’re not totally traditional. Sash windows sit adjacent to bifold doors. Details include deep skirting boards and architraving along with underfloor heating and MVHR (mechanical ventilation with heat recovery) for greater energy efficiency than any Victorian property could ever achieve. Space is redefined to meet modern day expectations.

“You have to go with the times. What has grown is the kitchen-dining-parlour as a space.”

So, too, have utility rooms, often big enough for showers for dirty dogs. Home offices are positioned over garages for that important separation from home life. Showers are “so big you can get a rugby team in them”. And more homes have an ensuite with each bedroom. The master bedroom is increasingly important, too, and Huw is excited about the ones he is designing for a new Alfred Homes development on Park Road: “I’ve added exceptional roof volume...It is going to be amazing and totally different.”

He describes his designs for Alfred Homes as, “A bit like baking a cake with different ingredients. And they are selling like hot cakes!” Then smiles at his unintended joke. 


Drawing room detail at Alfred Homes' Morningdale House, Bereweeke AvenueDrawing room detail at Alfred Homes' Morningdale House, Bereweeke Avenue

READ ON

Best things about living on Hayling Island - Looking for a quieter, gentler pace of life? What about Hayling Island? Emma Caulton visits

Hampshire walk around Ecchinswell - Head to the north-west corner of Hampshire for some fresh air and great views on the downs says Steve Davison

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampshire visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampshire staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampshire account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Wed, 15:32

Graphic artist Chris Gibson is bringing Hampshire’s landmarks in to people’s homes with his nostalgic posters

Read more
Monday, October 29, 2018

Some of Hampshire’s best known personalities have revealed what they most love about the county. Here, we compile some quotes from our interviews over the years

Read more
Monday, October 8, 2018

Something Wicked this way comes… the hit musical follows the yellow brick road to Southampton this month. Leading ladies Amy Ross and Helen Woolf share tales from behind the emerald curtain

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Turning 40 kick started a career change for Claire Fuller that took even her by suprise. She talks to Rebecca Fletcher about becoming a best-selling author, and what to expect from her latest novel

Read more
Monday, September 10, 2018

You can take the lady out of Hampshire but you can’t take Hampshire out the lady. Yes, it’s a corny expression but it is true in the case of actress, singer, dancer and TV presenter Amanda Holden, who has never forgotten her roots in the county

Read more
Monday, August 20, 2018

With her bold, graphic designs, New Forest artist Evelyn Bartlett captures the magnificent scenery on her doorstep

Read more
Monday, August 13, 2018

From food and drink to fashion and furnishings, Wickham is home to businesses that are pushing the boundaries. Viv Micklefield meets some of those proud to be different

Read more
Monday, August 13, 2018

A surf club… on the Isle of Wight? Surely not! 50 years on, Faith Eckersall meets those that say their little island is the surfing community’s best kept secret

Read more
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Tinnitus affects around 10% of the UK population and often goes untreated. Leightons Opticians and Hearing Care told us everything you need to know about tinnitus

Read more
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Sir Ben Ainslie’s sights are set on bringing home the 36th America’s Cup in 2021 and hoping to join the battle are the sailors currently in his youth squad. Viv Micklefield catches-up with some of the young guns already taking the world by storm

Read more
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

You can’t keep Mary Berry out of the kitchen and the same goes for Hampshire. Bernard Bale hears about her favourite places to visit

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

We are a nation of shopkeepers, but is the shop dying? We head to Winchester’s High Street

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

Vibrant and colourful, Overton artist Arabella Ross captures nature in its most vivid form says Sandra Smith

Read more
Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Once destined for the chip fryer, we visit one north Hampshire business whose award winning single-estate cold pressed oil is giving Tuscan traditionalists a run for their money

Read more
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Latest Competitions & Offers

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory



Property Search