The building was built in 1805 as a congregational church. Due to a dwindling congregation at the united reformed church the decision was made to join up with the thriving Woodbridge Baptist church. Due to this dwindling congregation before the two churches joined the building had been rather neglected. While in a usable condition it was rather tired and tatty in appearance. The layout of the building had evolved over the years as various extensions were added, this left a awkward arrangement resulting in lack of flexibility, poor connection of spaces and difficult bottle necks. The facilities were also very inadequate for current use with only three toilets and a tiny kitchen which restricted the use of the building.
As the building is listed any work had to be sensitive to the original building, maintaining its key features and character. This has had significant influence over the design process informing the location and form of the extension.
The church is formed of many members from the local community and it serves the local community with its variety of activities. The members of the church have been heavily involved in the project from the beginning. They provided the original design brief and have had input into all key design decisions. This is a project that has been initiated by the community for the community.
All of the historic parts of the building have been retained with a relatively modern apse demolished to make way for the extension. Nearly all of the pews on the ground floor have been removed; however these were not original to the building. The pulpit has been retained in a slightly modified from to provide increased flexibility of the space. The organ which was located in the apse has also been removed however this was also not original to the building but was a significant historic instrument in its own right; it was given to a local charity who maintain and use the organ.
The refurbishment and extension work at the church have been designed to significantly improve the flexibility and adaptability of the building. The extension has significantly improved the connection of spaces by providing an entrance foyer linking the sanctuary with the rear hall brining kitchen and toilet facilities to the heart of the building making them easily accessible. Two sliding folding screens have been introduced to provide greater flexibility and connection of the smaller spaces.
The extension provides three new small meeting rooms at first floor level which are accessed from the new entrance foyer and the sanctuary gallery. These rooms can all be used independently from any of other spaces if needed allowing several meeting to take place at the same time.
At ground floor level a new fully equipped catering kitchen and toilets are accessed off a common entrance space, forming a gathering space for Sunday services and other large events.
The materials of the extension have been selected to be in keeping with the existing building with a more contemporary form. The internal spaces of the extension have been designed to make the most of the available space while providing interest and large amounts of natural lighting this has been supplemented by flexible artificial lighting that enables a variety of moods to be created particularly in the meeting rooms.
The project has included substantial upgrading of the services provision with improved heating, lighting, power and audio visual systems. These are now more than adequate to cater for current needs.
A full historical analysis of the existing building was carried out before design work started. this provide a detailed understanding of the historic development of the building highlighting the key historic features and elements that needed to be retained. In addition some archaeological work was undertaken within the grave yard before the main construction works began.
The extension has been carefully detailed and highly insulated to provide a high thermal performance minimising energy consumption.
The historic nature of the existing building has made improving its environmental credentials a challenge however we have carried out a considerable amount of work to improve the thermal performance. All of the roofs and floors to the existing building have been thermally upgraded to a high level, the external walls to the side rooms have also been dry lined to provide improved thermal performance. All of the windows in the sanctuary have been secondary glazed with a very slender framed glazing system to minimise the visual impact.