8 Market Place

By the early 1990's the building had got into a very poor condition. It had been identified as a building at risk both by Mendip Council and English Heritage for some considerable time and figured on both of their Building at Risk Registers. Sadly a large proportion of the town centre had been demolished around 1970 to make way for a concrete town centre complex. This building was lucky to survive being about only 6 metres away from the development.

I bought the building in February 1994 and started work exactly 10 years later due to personal problems and a high level of research and planning required too.

A building of this nature needs to be examined carefully before work proceeds and the work should be carefully planned around what is found.


The building is a late 17th century wool merchant's house with two adjoining tenements now forming part of the same house after being knocked through by the Victorians. It was all built to be tenented.

By June 2005 the shell of the building was completed into a wind and water tight building again so we celebrated with a topping out ceremony before removing the scaffolding which had shrouded the building for three and a half years.

During November 2005 we had the BBC Restored to Glory team come and film the property as an example of work in progress undertaken in an exemplary fashion by a conservation builder. They brought two film crews, two producers and two assistants. The presenter Charlie Luxton came with the three experts Ian Constantinides, Jo Hibbert and John Yates. The program was screened on the 22nd December at 8pm on BBC2 as an educational program. I received some excellent quotes including "The perfect philosophy of conservation" and "All the right tradesmen and all the right materials".

Respected expert James Ayres has also visited the building to look at the decoration schemes. His conclusion was that there is artwork here of a style which is unique in his experience although it could have been based on work at Longleat House and incorrectly interpreted. See James book Domestic Interiors: The British Tradition 1500-1850 and look for his other titles too.

Since the shell was completed it was a time consuming process getting the inside finished. However the timescale has worked well allowing the green oak to shrink back before the plastering was done and has enabled me to obtain the finish I was looking for with minimal making good required later.

During August 2008 we received the news that we had won a full award in the William Stansell award for building conservation from the Somerset Building preservation trust.

September 2008 has seen the work completed so we can move in.

During April 2009 we received a special award from Mendip Council in their Built in Quality awards This means we have been  shortlisted in the South West Local Authority building Control Awards regional heat in June 2010.

On May 20th 2009 the RICS awarded us a highly commended in their conservation category and Project of the year in the South West. This saw us compete against projects like St Paul's Cathedral in London during October at the Rics national awards but sadly we did not win at national level. Clavell tower which won the building conservation award at regional level when we took project of the year took the same accolade at the national finals with St Pauls Cathedral gaining project of the year. But still it has been an honour to be the small local builder up against such prestigious projects.

In June 2009 the  Wood awards  shortlisted us with only two other projects nationally. At the October award ceremony The Merchants House received The National Conservation Award for 2009 see all award winners www.woodawards.com/winners/.

January 2010 has seen the building not quite make the grade for the Civic Trust Awards with 44 shortlisted,  but has received recognition from their national panel along with another 11 projects out of the hundreds of entries see http://www.civictrustawards.org.uk/news/news-stories/shortlist-of-winners-announced

The Europa Nostra awards received 139 entries this year in 2010. Again just missing recieving a full award we were highly commended by the Jury putting the project shoulder to shoulder with some of the best in Europe.

We are pleased that Save have been avidly following progress too, Please do email me to let me know what you think of my project through the contacts page or my blog spot

Should anyone wish to learn about the history of the building, conservation or sustainability work we do organise public open days. Please make contact through the contacts page of this website. We have recently held several guided tours and an educational visit for the RICS. Tours can be tailored for your special requirements either for personal interest or educational corporate or private. We are please to say that St Margaret's Hospice have again raised a few hundred pounds from The Merchants House as they have been our choosen beneficiary of these events.

If you wish to view the building on another occasion email your interest and when I have enough for a tour I will arrange it for you. I can also customise educational tours for you should you require.

Jon Maine



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