Can you imagine our premises as a teashop, a family home, a gym or a boathouse? Well other people clearly could – and did. In fact by the time we purchased it, The Old Pump House had changed hands on many occasions since being vacated by the water company many years before. Each new owner had brought a new idea to the table. But, it has to be said, none of those ideas ever amounted to more than yet another set of architectural drawings – all of which are still lying about somewhere today.
The fact of the matter is that when we did purchase the pump house, in 1990, it had been left pretty much untouched since its working days. But don’t imagine for one moment that upon our first viewing we encountered a pristine monument of former waterside industrial glory. Rather we discovered a derelict, deserted building, knee-deep, and, in places, head high in brambles, briars and blackberry bushes.
At the time, the partnership was all but committed to buying another (far more practical) property in Old Stratford, but you know the way these things are – there was just something about The Old Pump House. As a premises it had potential, it had character, it had a real sense of history – and most importantly it had a great big ‘For Sale’ sign out front!
Now, the sign may have said ‘For Sale’ but the reticence of the owners during the ensuing process certainly gave an altogether different impression. In fact the estate agents seemed determined to put every possible obstacle in our path in order to prevent a change of ownership. For example, when our architect needed to do some exploratory drillings prior to us making an offer, we obviously called the agents to get their permission. They passed us on to a company of accountants, who passed us on to someone else, and someone else, until we were eventually told to ask the agents! So we asked the agents again, but the person we needed to talk to was either sick, on holiday, in a meeting, or stuck in traffic – you get the picture. Eventually we just went ahead and did our drillings without any real permission. Our enthusiasm in determining the soil type upon which the building stood did result, however, in a substantial heap of loose earth being freshly piled up inside the building. So it was probably a good thing that the results were positive and that we made an offer. Otherwise it might have been a little tricky trying to think up an excuse for the existing owners as to why it looked as if an old WWII bomb had just gone off inside their property. (Actually that would have been quite a good excuse, come to think of it!)
Anyway, all that is ancient history as they say. At the end of the day, the sale was agreed and we set about restoring the building as sensitively as we could and of course landscaping the lawns and the car park. The results were just as we had imagined… the place was, in a word, ‘perfect!’ (moving in April 1991)
For anyone accustomed to driving past the pump house in its current guise, it’s quite surprising to see just how small it was when we initially bought it. The entire premises, at that time, consisted of what is today the central core of a much larger building. The first of two sympathetic extensions was added about five years after (roughly 1995) we moved in. Gradual company growth, and the potential for more meant that our working space, which had become increasingly sardine-like, could now be expanded without us having to move from our riverside home – one of the many advantages of creating office space in the countryside.
Another five years of growth later (roughly 2000), and the process was repeated. A second extension was added, reflecting the style, shape and distinctive character of the first. And, in doing so, granting the entire building a pleasing sense of symmetry.
That’s the way The Old Pump House stands today. And that’s the way it’s likely to continue standing for some time. There’s a planning rule that links optimum office space to required car park size – and it seems we’re at the limit. So barring our development of a multi-storey car park (don’t worry Stony Stratford residents, we’re only joking!) we won’t be getting any bigger or adding any further extensions anytime soon.