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Butlers Retreat

Epping Forest, Essex

Butlers Retreat Exisiting

Sector: Conservation, Hotels and leisure
Project value: 520,000
Project stage: Complete

The City of London owns and manages Epping Forest over which it was given stewardship by Act of Parliament in the late 19th century. It includes various buildings most notably the Grade II* Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge, a Tudor hunt standing in the former royal hunting ground  grounds and specifically referred to in the 1878 Epping Forest Act. As part of the Council’s ‘Branching Out ‘initiative, it was proposed to improve the visitor experience to the lodge and its environs.

The practice was appointed to prepare a Conservation Plan for the group of buildings comprising the lodge itself, a former coach house adjoining the Royal Forest Hotel and the last 'retreat' building in the forest - a traditional refreshment house which was originally built as a timber barn in the Victorian period.

The Conservation Plan formed the basis of an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the scheme which comprised the conversion of the coach house to an interpretation centre and the upgrading of the refreshment facilities in the building known as Butler's Retreat, originally built as for the tenants of the hunting lodge, and from an early time in use as a teahouse for visitors to the forest and a shelter for school parties. The bid was successful and secured funding for the project.

Butlers retreat was in a poor condition and part of it had been converted to a residential flat. Gibberd obtained planning and listed building consent for the change of use back to a restaurant, including the reversal of unsympathetic alterations in order to return the building to beneficial use. The scheme created new café facilities over two levels with the kitchen upgraded to meet modern catering standards. Access and facilities for the disabled were improved and the interior structure of the original barn revealed.