The Alice Hawthorn, Nun Monkton, Yorkshire

Named after a famous 19th century racehorse, The Alice Hawthorn pub has undergone a transformation with the renovation of its Grade II listed main pub building and the addition of 12 brand new guestrooms whose design befits its rural location and history. It charges out of the gate to the colours of a JCT Standard Building Contract.

The Alice Hawthorn is the last remaining pub in the Yorkshire village of Nun Monkton, the closure of four other pubs being indicative of the socio-economic and legal changes impacting the pub industry across the country. Before new ownership in 2013, the pub itself was struggling and briefly closed in 2007 as its status as a meeting point and social hub for the community was under threat due to economic decline.

Nun Monkton is located at a meeting point of the rivers Ouse and Nidd. Historically, the village was an important northern trade hub for the medieval river transport network. The development of the road network as the major source of transport saw the location’s importance diminish as a social and trade focal point. The off-the-beaten-track location of The Alice Hawthorn meant that it was not naturally attracting a passing trade and, despite investment in the kitchen and ground floor pub space since 2013, it was not operating at a level sustainable to secure its future. The owners recognised the need to broaden its appeal and offering to attract a wider range of visitors.

The project brief was to provide a high quality but affordable ‘base camp’ for the local community and tourists to enjoy the surrounding landscape and visitor attractions, including the village maypole which has been in place since the 1790s and is reportedly the tallest in the UK, as well as exploit the village’s proximity to York, Harrogate, and Leeds. The local community was at the heart of the project throughout the design phase and consultation between the project team, local council, and community at each stage ensured that the needs of the community were met and refined through a process of feedback and amendment.

The project itself includes 12 ensuite guest bedrooms – four on the first floor of the pub and eight around a new courtyard which extends the village green into the pub’s rear garden. The layout takes inspiration from the Norse ‘Garth’, meaning ‘a clearing in the woods’ or place of gathering, with the connection to the village green and the sense of enclosure created by the courtyard space. The new bedrooms are also supported by ancillary service areas, including housekeeping and linen store, and staff accommodation. Level threshold access is provided to all buildings ensuring accessibility for all.

The design of the newbuild elements take their cues from the rural and informal farmsteads of the surroundings which continue to be grazed by livestock. The village green is one of the last remaining ‘working’ greens in Yorkshire. The structures mix home-grown Douglas fir frames with authentic agricultural building materials including galvanised corrugated steel and larch cladding. The simple and honest construction anatomy, echoing the theme of agriculture and stables, reflects the pub’s equine connection and provides a harmonious link to the village’s history.

The new timber frame buildings are called ‘sheds’, ‘field barn’, ‘stables’, and ‘tack room’ and are constructed as follows:

  • Sheds – A single storey in-fill building between two existing brick buildings. Contains two staff bedrooms plus a bathroom. Sheds is clad in larch, with a pan-tile roof to match the outbuildings.
  • Field Barn – A south-facing two-storey building with four guestrooms. The lower level is larch clad, whilst the upper is sinusoidal galvanised steel. There are no windows to the north and west to prevent overlooking and light pollution to the neighbours.
  • Tack Room – A single storey structure with wheelchair accessible guestroom. Adjacent to the west boundary and Field Barn, the Tack Room also provides shelter to the outdoor kitchen, pizza oven and pub garden bar.
  • Stables – Adjacent to the east boundary, Stables is a single-storey extension containing three guestrooms. Both Stables and Tack Room are clad in larch with a sinusoidal galvanised steel roof and back wall.

Internally, in contrast to the traditional pub interior, the guestrooms have no plaster but are lined with larch boarding and polar plywood. A tinted treatment subtly blurs the distinction between the different types of timber. The rooms are decorated with lino-cut prints created by the village primary school children, who also have a vegetable patch at the rear of the Garth.

Sustainability has been central to the design of the project and is reflected through materials choice, energy supply, final occupancy, and functionality. All the new build elements score an EPC ‘A’ rating. A ground source heat pump provides heating and hot water supplied by bore holes and supported with high levels of non-combustible mineral wool insulation and air tightness to a higher standard than the current Part L2A Building Regulations.

The timber frames are naturally ventilated through the use of high-level clerestory windows and roof lights on actuators. Solar gain is reduced by roof overhangs which offer shading. LED and low energy lighting, plus low-volume water appliances are fitted throughout. A sustainable drainage system includes permeable paving and surface water attenuation tanks concealed below the pub garden.

One of the challenges was developing a 1-hour fire resisting timber frame wall within 1 metre of the site boundaries. This was solved by employing fire resistant sheathing internally, which in turn avoided the use of carbon heavy brick work. Biodiversity has been improved with extensive planting and new habitat creation. The courtyard is bounded by borders planted with native species which also helps to screen adjacent bedrooms. An orchard at the back of the site, which would have been typical feature in the pub’s medieval past, is being re-established with fruit trees to supply the kitchen.

The redevelopment of The Alice Hawthorn has created new revenue streams for the restaurant and bar business, cemented the pub’s importance to locals, improved visitor footfall from a broader range of users, and improved the level of spend within the local community. The use of the JCT Standard Building Contract underpinning the project provides a stable foundation for parties, especially where the project needs to encompass a number of complex and specialist processes, mixing renovation and new-build with a number of sustainable measures.

Project Stats:
Start: January 2019
Completion: July 2020
Gross internal floor area: 905m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area: 3,620m²
Contract: JCT Standard Building Contract
Cost: £2.95 million
Architect: De Matos Ryan
Client: Kate and Richard Harpin
Main contractor: Gem Construction
Project manager: R Pickering
Quantity surveyor: Aspect 4
Structural engineer: Price Myers
M&E consultant: P3r
Acoustic consultant: Gillieron Scott Acoustic Design
Sustainability consultant: Award Energy
Principal designer: De Matos Ryan
Approved building inspector: Harrogate Borough Council
CAD software: MicroStation, SketchUp


Image: Hufton+Crow