Hollaway Studio, the award-winning London and Kent-based practice, has used sympathetic and considered design to transform the restaurant of the newly opened Grade II listed Boys Hall in Ashford, Kent.
The 17th-century Jacobean Manor building, which was previously a dated wedding venue and then shared accommodation, has been remodelled as a design-led hotel steeped in history and nestled in the countryside just minutes from Ashford International Station, itself only 35 minutes from London. Hollaway Studio’s designs for the new 70-seat restaurant adopt many of the traditional methods that would have been used when Boys Hall was originally built in 1616 while achieving a contemporary outcome that suits the needs of its guests.
Bought just before the Covid-19 pandemic by husband and wife team, Bradley and Kristie Lomas, Boys Hall has undergone months of painstaking restoration to transform into a beautiful restaurant with rooms set within 3 acres of grounds located on the southern edge of the North Downs in Kent – ‘the garden of England’. In creating the ‘getaway destination of their dreams’, the duo have painstakingly returned the 400-year-old house to its former glory with the help of family, friends and a variety of local specialists. Bradley was the former operations director of East London Pub Co, and Kristie is the founder of Drink, Shop & Do as well as Keystone Crescent members club in London’s King’s Cross.
Listed due to its historic significance, Boys Hall had previously had an unsightly plastic conservatory with a swimming pool to the rear of the building that was completely out of character. The owners were granted permission to knock it down and build the new restaurant in its place. Working closely with them, Hollaway Studio was inspired by heritage in construction – incorporating the skills and methodology of 17th-century building with modern materials and technologies. Subtle references to the existing architecture and more consistency in form have helped to bring back and amplify some of the character that had been previously obscured by the earlier extension. The new restaurant was built in the same pegged framed way, without the use of screws or other modern fasteners, and in red brick to ensure that it was sympathetic to the rich detail and complex design of the main historic aesthetic building.
Housed in a substantial new exposed beamed dining room, constructed with local oak cut and shaped to size onsite by a local carpenter, the restaurant is filled with light thanks to glass walls on both sides, allowing guests to enjoy the views over the stunning landscaped gardens and terraces as well as reducing the visual mass of the building. Above a large double rooflight allows natural light onto the large oak trusses while also breaking down the roof mass and granting views out from the courtyard garden to the walled garden behind. Inside, an impressive open fireplace, built by master craftsman Richard Bishop, echoes the traditional features and rich internal atmospheres consistent with the spaces in the existing listed building.
Alex Richards, Partner at Hollaway Studio says of this approach in their design, “The restaurant at Boys Hall is a great example of how architecture can act as a positive intervention in transforming a building. In using traditional methods alongside modern technology we have been able to create a totally new addition to a 400-year-old building that in no way detracts from its history and listed status. Boys Hall deserves celebrating and it is wonderful to know that it has been revitalised for the future.”
The second phase of the project is currently in planning for which Hollaway Studio has designed a garden bar in the walled garden and lodges around the lake. Continuing their innovative approach to transforming historic properties while maintaining their original character and charm, Hollaway Studio will again use heritage building methods.
As Kristie Lomas says of Boys Hall, “We have loved every minute of restoring this timeless and beautiful period property. We cannot wait to see life back in the venue with people being able to enjoy themselves whether they choose a cup of tea in one of the reception rooms or a Gin & Tonic out on the lawns admiring the gardens. Located in the heart of Kent we are very lucky to have some incredible producers and suppliers work with us. It’s been such a privilege to be able to combine our background and love of home comforts and become a part of the rich history of this house, which we immediately fell in love with. It’s been the privilege of a lifetime to combine our backgrounds and love of home comforts and become a part of the rich history of this house and its stunning, evolving gardens. We want our guests to feel at home and for everyone who stays in the first year, a tree will be planted in the gardens.”
Comprising seven ensuite bedrooms (with three more to follow later in 2023), two cosy reception rooms, private dining rooms, plus the 70-seat restaurant and its very own wood-clad pub, Boys Hall has been sensitively transformed into a destination venue that offers a unique and memorable experience for guests and the public alike.
Project Boys Hall
Location Ashford, Kent
Type of Project Hospitality