Magic Word Media

New lease of life for historic Suffolk/Essex border pub

The Marlborough Head Inn, Dedham
The Marlborough Head Inn, Dedham

A charming 15th Century pub has been given a much-needed refurbishment to create beautiful guest accommodation – that is stylish yet sympathetic to its Grade II* listed status.

The Marlborough Head public house in Dedham, Essex, is steeped in history, but was in dire need of attention when acquired by entrepreneur Tom West.

Having worked with Suffolk-based NJ Architects before, he approached the team to help him navigate the process of refurbishing such a historic and character-filled building.

The first phase of work has focused on the upstairs guest accommodation, as well as modernising the pub’s kitchen.

Tom said: “Our relationship with NJ Architects has been invaluable in this project.

“Being a Grade II* listed building meant we needed the team’s knowledge to help us go through all the regulations, to explore what materials we could, or couldn’t use.

“Their knowledge and experience with this kind of special property made the whole process much easier.”

Tom West

In terms of the guest accommodation, the challenge lay in making the space work better for the needs of modern-day hotel guests. 

“The rooms upstairs were our initial priority as they hadn’t been touched for years,” said Tom. 

“The ceilings were falling down, and the carpets hadn’t been replaced in 30 or 40 years.

“We started with three rooms, and we now have five – but in terms of major work, we only moved one wall.

“What we needed help with up there was drainage issues, working out how we could replace macerator toilets with proper ones, and creating an en-suite for each room, as well as improving sound insulation and fire-proofing.

“We now have five beautiful king-sized double bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms, and we are delighted with the results.”

Other work so far has been on improving the kitchen – which was carried out during Covid restrictions when the pub was unable to welcome guests. Further work is set to take place in the next two years, including refurbishing the welcome area.

“We have designed the Marlborough Head to have all the things a good pub should – seating areas that feel part of the action, intimate spaces for private conversations,” said Tom.

“It’s important to us to reuse or find old materials to work with, as that has a big effect on the character of a space.

“The layout needs to work, and to flow in a way that makes sense for our team who work there, and for our customers to enjoy.

“The team at NJ Architects understood the importance of all of these factors and did a fantastic job understanding exactly what I wanted.”

Senior Architect Stephen Jeffrey, who worked on the project, said refurbishing buildings such as the Marlborough Head presented unique challenges when balancing listed buildings regulations and the demands of a modern hospitality space.

“The works were designed to preserve the building’s special character and appearance and provide considerable improvement and enhancement to other more modern parts of the building that were vacant or underused,” he said.

“The result is a welcoming space for guests which retains the historic elements of the building.”

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