Bailiffscourt, Climping

In the autumn of 2001, the practice was appointed as lead consultant by Historic Sussex Hotels, to create a luxury health and leisure spa, together with additional bedrooms and dining room facilities, at one of their unique destination hotels, Bailiffscourt, at Climping, near Arundel in West Sussex. The existing hotel set in 12 hectares, comprising sixteen listed buildings, including a 13th century chapel, was, with the exception of the chapel, commissioned by Lord Moyne (Walter Guinness) in 1930 as his country retreat.

The buildings were salvaged from sites around the country and assembled to create this unique collection. The designer and procurer was Amyas Philips, an antiquarian and enthusiast of historic architecture. This was his one and only architectural commission, having given up his architectural studies to join in the family antiques business. A fuller history of the site and the buildings can be viewed by visiting the Historic Sussex Hotels website.

Working on such a sensitive site with a rather chequered planning history, the practice spent many months negotiating with English Heritage, West Sussex County Council and Arun District Council, to achieve designs that would sit comfortably in designated open countryside, viewing onto the south-coast shoreline and alongside a widespread group of listed buildings.

An enlightened and enthusiastic client made this task possible, with the entire team being committed to the project and the site. The resulting buildings demonstrate what can be achieved with such commitment.

The principal new build is the Spa, which stands on the site of an old outdoor swimming pool, surrounded by mature oak and ash trees; this area is a natural enclosure. The problem was how to provide a high-ceilinged building with a floor area of approximately 900m², adjacent to a Grade II* Listed Building, Bailiffscourt.

The solution was one of the largest green oak frame structures produced in the south of England in the last two hundred years. The barns, clad in green oak weatherboard, are topped with two very substantial roofs covered in "Canterbury mix" clay tiles.

The building is formed of two interlinked double height barns creating a T shape on plan. The double height reception hall, with the cross of the "T" is a wonderful space, viewing onto the indoor swimming pool, through a totally glazed gable wall. The pool hall has its south-facing gable also fully glazed, as is the entire length of its west elevation.

This side looks onto an infinity edged outdoor pool, with the pool water spilling over a wide black limestone edge into a white pebble filled channel. The sheet of overflowing water creates a most dramatic effect, especially at night.

There are outdoor decks at ground and first floor, both facing south. An oversized oak staircase from the reception hall accesses the upper deck. The hall itself, which leads onto locker rooms, a gymnasium, sauna, steam room, dance studio, treatment rooms and a lounge, is furnished and lit in a very contemporary style, with many pieces of furniture being especially commissioned for the project.

Space, movement and light are the recurring themes throughout the building, creating a warm and intimate atmosphere, whilst at the same time providing guests with tantalising glimpses of what the facility has to offer, such as the seashore view from the upper deck. The one restrained and simpler elevation is that of the main entrance. This faces onto Bailiffscourt only 30 metres away and excessive glazing would have created unacceptable levels of reflected light.

The project received three Conservation Design Awards, with the spa receiving the highest accolade and has been featured in many popular magazines and further details can be viewed by viewing the Bailiffscourt Spa website.