A little piece of history: Inside a stand-out St Albans conversion
PUBLISHED: 09:59 15 January 2020 | UPDATED: 14:41 15 January 2020
A unique former factory building in St Albans has been transformed into a collection of striking modern apartments. Jane Howdle visited Beaumont Gardens to take a look.
Residential conversions aren't unusual in St Albans, with offices-turned-apartments an increasingly common sight.
Former factories crop up less regularly however, making the Grade II listed Beaumont Works building - now known as Hansell House - an interesting proposition.
This Fleetville landmark was established as raincoat manufacturing business Nicholson & Co at the turn of the last century.
More recently, the building has been transformed into industrial units housing everything from a gym to a print works.
Where it all began
Original owner AJ Nicholson, a tailor's son from Manchester, was drawn to the area's excellent distribution links, with the Hatfield and St Albans railway line - now the Alban Way - running conveniently alongside the Sutton Road site.
Speaking in 1913, Nicholson said that the relatively cheap land, low rates and rural setting "away from public houses" had also been part of the location's appeal.
Nicholson brought more than 20 families with him to St Albans, and set about building homes for some of them on neighbouring Hedley Road, which was named after his son.
(The Nicholsons themselves lived on the more salubrious likes of Clarence Road and Hall Place Gardens.)
While Nicholson died in 1928, the business continued to thrive for many more years, eventually being taken over by tailor Chester Barrie in 1972.
At the start of 2017, a year after the last tenants had left Beaumont Works, Taylor Wimpey North Thames bought the site.
The developer soon set plans in place for a radical transformation: the listed building would become Hansell House, housing 28 one and two bedroom apartments, and two additional blocks would be erected to the rear. Named Nicholson House and Marconi House, these new builds would consist of 30 one and two bedroom apartments in total, and the three buildings would be known collectively as Beaumont Gardens.
The industrial ties are reflected in all of their names; Marconi produced electronic test and measurement equipment from several local sites, while HE Hansell was the architect who designed the original building.
Planning permission was granted later that year, and a two-year transformation commenced.
Tim Scott, the development's project manager, said that while he's "delighted" with the refurbished building, getting here hasn't been easy.
"When we first took on the project we knew that there was a lot of work to be done," he said.
This began with a six-month spell working with structural engineers to carefully plan out the extensive pipe work and insulation that needed to be put in place to make the building fit for residential use.
Creating modern interiors while preserving the many period features also presented a challenge.
Tim said: "It was important to us that the building design retained its decorative Dutch gables and elaborative terracotta detailing.
"We also inserted glass roofs on the apartments which fill the courtyards with light and display the original trusses and the north-lights [the pitched, north-facing roof glazing] of the listed building."
Hansell House's apartments are unlike any other new homes currently for sale locally. Not only are they housed behind an imposing brick facade, with eye-catching gables and feature windows, but their interiors have drawn comparisons to urban loft living - not a phrase that's often used to describe homes in St Albans.
While there has been interest in the development from downsizers, first time buyers have shown the most interest so far.
Just 13 properties remain for sale at Hansell House, with prices from £299,950 for a one-bed ground floor apartment to £560,000 for a two-bed duplex with the full roof lights/mezzanine bedroom works.
To find out more, visit the Beaumont Gardens sales office on Sutton Road, or call on 01727 226935.