Sam Gill

Project Architect Sam Gill reveals some of the design challenges involved in restoring Chester Farm..

I love to find out what Chester Farm means to everybody and so I've been busy adding a number of new people to our 'Team Chester Farm' profiles, beginning with Sam Gill, Project Architect with Buttress.

Sam Gill outside Chester House

Architect Sam is responsible for delivery of the design and is also the contract administrator through the construction phase. She has been part of the heritage team at Buttress for the past three years, working on challenging and historic sites.

I ask her what her first impression was on visiting Chester Farm in 2014 and Sam tells me that "it's the setting that's so special". On that first visit she started at Claudius Way and felt that the walk across to the buildings is key to understanding the site. "The surprise is that you're so near to the A.45 but so detached" she explains "you'd never know how close you were to a busy A road, when you're in the walled garden looking over the River Nene you could be anywhere."​​

I ask her about the challenges of the design phase and not surprisingly there isn't just one. She describes all the buildings as interesting in their own right, but that the challenge is understanding how they all work together as a whole. "We want to draw people through the site" Sam says "linking the buildings together, with the interpretation being critical to achieving this".

The site is surrounded by a scheduled monument; so not knowing what might be unearthed during our digs is probably the biggest challenge of all. Earlier in the day of our interview a complete pot had been found whilst excavating a Roman well, so we both know that the unexpected is actually quite likely.

The work on the farm buildings involves both restoration of the old as well as the creation of new buildings including offices and an Archaeological Research Centre. 

Sam tells me that the Archaeological Research Centre will have the same footprint and ridge height as the corrugated iron building it will replace. It will be timber clad to look like a modern barn, but inside it will be ordered and functional, with carefully monitored environmental controls to protect the artefacts that will be housed there.​

Sam gill With the Chester Farm team

​The original Chester House, gutted by fire in 2010 is another challenge. The farmhouse needs to be reinstated to a building worthy of its Grade II* listing. Howev​​er, this poses a challenge as the majority of the internal features were lost during the fire, and limited evidence shows us that t​​he detailing was imported from many different places and was not uniform throughout.

Through detailed consultation however, Sam and the team will restore the Farmhouse so it replicates the grandeur of a Grade II* listed building, but it will not be reinstated to a specific date in time.

Sam has already told me that she feels Chester Farm is "a project special to her", I think she really cares about doing the best by the site, so I think we can feel confident in a very safe pair of hands.

Mary Powell, Web Editor. October 2016