Chilswell House - Religious Rejuvenation



Sitting within a 17 acre estate on Boars Hill, Chilswell House was initially the home to poet Robert Bridges between 1907 and 1930 with the now friars chapel his personal library. In 1958 the Carmelite Order purchased the site with who it has remained since.


The main house is a large Victorian property which had to be virtually rebuilt in 1927 after a fire. The attic storey was removed with concrete floors and flat roofs installed along with the timber windows being replaced with steel frames. 28 years after becoming a priory the top floor under a pitched roof was reinstated.


In the 1960’s an extension was built to facilitate more guests visiting the Priory. A basic timber framed system was installed with a flat felt roof and timer cladding used.


Home to up to 12 friars the priory is a place of retreat, contemplation, teaching and prayer. The buildings are in need of an upgrade and rejuvenation so as to improve environmental performance across the site as well as the quality of accommodation for both friars and guests alike.


Issues to be addressed:


The current layout of the site presents many issues to both the friars and their guests.


i. Site aesthetics

The buildings on site have been developed and added to over the years with no coherent masterplan strategy resulting in a mixed collection of buildings which aren’t connected and have no consistency of architectural styling; the main house has lost some of its original charm and could be improved with careful adaptations.


ii. Connection to surrounding landscape

Set in an idyllic surround there is little correlation between the buildings and the surrounding gardens, woodland and accompanying views.


iii. Landscape utilisation

Utilising the available woodland setting along with the natural views of the gardens and woodland areas are required to see the site reach its full potential.


iv. Quality of accommodation

The accommodation within each building requires updating in order to meet 21st century friars and guests. The existing guest bedrooms are too small and only offer shared washroom facilities which have grown considerably out of date since their instalment 60 years ago.


v. Environmental

All works must be focused on improving building performance so as to reduce energy usage and improve the efficiency of the buildings. The current site is very inefficient in its energy use & heat retention and will be a key area of focus for BTP.


vi. Building condition

Many of the buildings on site require upgrading due to becoming tired over time with the ongoing maintenance burden a key area of concern for any site wide strategy.

vii. Continuing the Carmelite tradition

Chilswell House has been a place of contemplation, prayer, Christian worship and teaching for the past 60 years. It is vital that any upgrade works continue on the legacy which have been laid so as the site can continue to be available for future generations.



Energy Strategy Development


BTP were at the forefront of developing the Energy Strategy for the project which has adopted the 'Be Lean', 'Be Clean' and 'Be Green' approach:


Be Lean - Reduce Energy Requirements

  • Better than best fabric standards for new build developments

  • Upgrading fabric standards to the existing buildings; roof insulation, replacement windows, insulation to walls

Be Clean - Provide Energy Efficiency

  • A new site wide Biomass biomass plant - low carbon heating to replace existing LPG, electric and oil heating systems

  • All buildings to be designed to be 'ASHP ready' to provide long term flexibility as the national grid moves towards zero carbon.


Be Green - Provide Zero Carbon Energy

  • A ground mounted PV array to generate on-site zero carbon electricity.

Water Efficiency

  • A (now disussed) well is located in the grounds and the intention is to re-instate the well in the form of a new borehole to extract ground water to serve all the buildings, reducing the mains water consumption considerably.

BTP were delighted to present the Sustainable Design elements which will be considered for the site at the unveiling of the masterplan.