January 26, 2019 6 min read
THE OLD FOX, COALEY, COTSWOLDS
A Project by The Fine Wooden Article Company
Situated on the edge of the Cotswolds, The Old Fox is a free house steeped in a 300 year history and was recently purchased by Ellie Sainty in 2017. Ellie, an experienced publican of some years who also owns The Old Spot Inn at Dursley, is a firm believer that a village pub is centre to the community and if run well has far reaching benefits to all.
Testament to this is the work she achieved with The Badger in Eastington, Gloucestershire. Over a seven year period, and with some initial investment and development work, Eastington has seen benefits and begun to thrive again, largely due to the community linking and the joined up camaraderie, with The Badger at its heart.
The Fox and Hounds, as previously named, being the only remaining pub in the quintessential Cotswold community and village setting of Coaley, was closed and looking for a new owner to take charge. With Ellie’s mantra firmly in place and time served as a successful business model, she has stepped up, done the right thing and taken responsibility for The Fox and Hounds and its future, renaming the establishment The Old Fox and adding this to her portfolio of pubs which includes the Old Badger and The Old Spot. Having secured the ownership and local planning consent for complete renovation, Ellie set about bringing together the right team to realise her vision. For this a team of skilled building and structural trades was required plus a well heeled creative designer maker operation for the interior design aspects of the project and also the design, make and installation of the main feature - the bar.
Team and Design Planning
Builders were employed to undertake the structural changes to the building and premises as well as the extensions. Ellie’s vision included fundamentally changing the interior layout with the removal of supporting partition walls, the adding of a whole new porch and entrance, also the addition of an extension to house the kitchens and food prep. In turn this would create a superior open plan space, in direct contrast to the previous confused set of rooms and skittle alley.
With the vision in place and signed off with planners, Ellie turned her attention to the all-important bar and the interior design. She presented her brief to The Fine Wooden Article Company (TFWACo) and with various meetings both on site at the pub and at the TFWACo’s workshop premises, the beginnings of a plan was forged. TFWACo and Ellie have a longstanding relationship with interior design works and projects having been carried out on the other establishments previously.
A design, build and install process is something TFWACo excels in. The strong ethos of material sustainability, sensitivity to clients’ tastes and expectations, coupled with its strong links to the arboriculture community and the forestry commission, made it the go to operation for this project, bringing design expertise, amazing ‘own produced’ timbers and materials for the build and a professionalism, meaning TFWACo would deliver on time and on budget.
TFWACo has always engaged with the time-consuming and skilful dark art of preparing timber from the tree standing in the ground to the finished article being wholly fit for purpose, made using such time-served crafting skills forged over many many years, derived from the timber ship building and yacht design experience the founder Peter Meredith has built over the last 25 years as a shipwright and naval architect. With some confidence TFWACo stepped forward to fulfil the task at hand and the design process began.
The crux of the design with the client process quickly turned to the material to be used for the bar top as this would be the centre piece to the project as a whole. Previous extensive studies of other bars, pubs and restaurants was drawn upon which concluded that timber was to be the material of choice for surfaces as it was in keeping with the rural setting of the establishment and the clients’ tastes as to what a pub should look and feel like, setting the right ambience coupled with the superior material qualities aged English Oak has over other timber species.
What ensued was a process of material sampling focussing initially on the bar top timber and then the bar frontal; it was felt that with this process completed and decisions made some of the other material choices would fall into place naturally. TFWACo and Ellie’s team agreed that English Oak with provenance was the material of choice for the bar top and to be crafted from substantial slabs at a finished thickness of 60mm with a hand crafted, natural edged profile.
The carcass work was to be fabricated from steel and finished with a high grade exterior quality powder coated to resist the corrosive nature of alcohol and the punishment that a busy bar would receive on a daily basis. On top of this the brief clearly spelled out the desire for the bar to last for many, many years to come.
Choosing The Bar Frontal Material
After much sampling of different timbers and surface finishing effects the decision was made to use a contemporary double beaded T&G profiled vertical cladding of varying board widths with substantial, solid timber 8”x 8” pilasters at the corners. These would be made from best grade Douglas Fir finished with an ancient Japanese ‘Shou Sugi Ban’ scorch burning and wire brushing process to the bare timber to extenuate the grain figuring and bring a warming tactile texture to the bar frontal, and then painted. The end result for the bar frontal material and its testing has proved to be a triumph. Blending contemporary textures and colours with the refined figuring of finely aged English Oak. All the materials used for the bar have been fabricated by hand by TFWACo.
With the sampling completed and the preliminary working drawings signed off, TFWACo set about the steel carcass fabrication. TFWACo took the decision to make the top level skeleton framework initially and bring this to site, offering the full size footprint to the space. This was a good idea as some fundamental changes to the design were made at this point. Everybody agreed that going to the lengths of doing this was hugely beneficial, allowing client changes to be made while still remaining within budget and time of the project.
Final working drawings were produced and signed off with the client. Due to the time and patience required for timber, TFWACo carries a large stockholding of indigenous English hardwoods at various stages of the drying process. The oak used for The Old Fox project, felled and milled some three years prior, was selected and loaded to the kiln to finish the timber and get the moisture content down to sub 11% where it could be considered joinery grade and suitable for an interior application. This final drying process is a delicate one and has to be closely managed to avoid excessive wastage with the material as if this process is rushed there are tendencies for the oak to split, shake, crack, warp and cup, rendering it not fit for purpose. This is especially the case with such thick sectioned and wide boards over four metres in length.
The Finished Result In All Its Splendour
18 weeks in the kiln achieved some great results.
With the carcass made, the skilful task of machining and fabricating the bar top could begin in earnest. At every stage of the process and with each hurdle being successfully handled by TFWACo, the bar really started to take shape. Regular client consultations saw the ‘build stage’ at TFWACo workshops develop and flow though in a timely on-budget manner, with client expectations being met and exceeded along the way. Then came the day of reckoning as the project moved into the installation stage, with the burning question on everybody’s mind as to the accuracy of fit, functionality of the design encompassing all aspects of ergonomic shape and feel.
A complement of other free-standing tables and furniture was also part of the brief which were then made and delivered, in keeping with the pub’s identity and feel and maintaining The Old Fox brand identity in all instances. The barrel table with the logo engraved is a feature piece, the top being made from the old bar top from the The Fox and Hounds days.
The whole process from felling the tree to mill to drying the timber to design process to fabrication to installation has been executed with precision and attention to detail throughout with TFWACo’s client at the fore of all thinking and communications. It is this tenacity that TFWACo is all about and adopts the same approach to any article it may make from the simplest of house signs or tree swing seats or dining room table commissions, to a complete pub restaurant design build and install project.
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