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  • Writer's pictureNigel Wakeham

Renovating a Victorian Terraced House

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

Renovating a Victorian Terraced House
Renovating a Victorian Terraced House

Renovating a Victorian Terraced House

Following our decision to sell our French house and move back (very reluctantly) to UK, we needed to find a suitable house to buy there. Our younger daughter lives and works in London and we decided that we needed to find a house within striking distance of London so that we could see her fairly regularly.

Anywhere in London itself was beyond our reach because of the very high house prices and this also applied to the area to the west of London. In the autumn of 2019, we therefore made a trip back to UK to look to the east of London in the counties around the Thames estuary. We started in Essex on the north coast of the Thames estuary and worked our way around the estuary to Rochester and the Medway towns in Kent and at last settled on a small market town in Kent.

We returned to France and because of the Covid outbreak that started in early 2020 we were unable to return to UK to do any house hunting. This was left therefore to our younger daughter who made a lot of trips looking for a suitable house and we eventually decided upon a small, Victorian, 3-storey, terraced cottage.

The house is situated in one of several streets of houses that were built for railway workers when the railway arrived in the middle of the 19th century. Our house was built in 1860, coincidentally the same year that our house in France was built. It could not however be more different from the French house in that it is very small with, when we purchased it, a one-room cellar, two rooms and a kitchen on the ground floor and two bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor. The house had not had any work done to it for a very long time and required complete renovation including new plumbing, heating and electrical systems.

The house is very narrow (about 3.8 metres internally) and the rooms are small. Entrance is from the street up 3 steps and directly into the front living room (the planners refused to allow me to build a lobby to protect the front entrance!). What was the dining room has been converted into a utility room with a WC, wash-basin, shower and space for a washing machine. The new kitchen is where the old kitchen was, but the floor has been raised to that of the utility room and what was an open space next to the old kitchen has been roofed (with a large rooflight) and now forms a passage through to an extension at the rear of the house. The depth of the extension was limited by the planners to 4 metres, the height was also limited and the planners insisted on a sloping roof. The extension houses a dining room, one step down from the main house with double doors opening onto a terrace and the small garden. The terrace has a pergola over it with creepers growing up it which will eventually provide shade to the terrace and the garden elevation of the dining room. There was an existing inspection chamber outside the kitchen (at the head of the soil drain serving our house and the adjoining houses) and rather than having an internal inspection chamber, I left a small service well between the extension and the kitchen which provides some natural light and ventilation to the kitchen and cross-ventilation (which we have needed recently) to the dining room.

The cellar has been renovated and turned into my office. On the first floor the two bedrooms remain basically as they were but the bathroom has been completely renovated and the floor has been raised to the level of the bedrooms which has also necessitated raising the ceiling. The roof space has been fully insulated and is used for storage with access by a loft ladder.

All external walls have been insulated and all the doors and windows have been replaced, the latter with double-glazed units. The party walls have also been sound insulated as they are only one brick thick (in fact in the bathroom, the party wall is only half a brick thick!). The floors to the kitchen and utility rooms are finished with quarry tiles and all of the other floors are finished with bamboo flooring.

As I have said, the house is small, as are the rooms, but it gives us the accommodation that we need at our stage in life and it works very well for us. The only real problem is that the staircase is very steep but we are getting used to it!

Sketch plans of the house are attached as are photos of the house before and after renovation.

Floor Plans




Architecture in Developing Countries: A Resource

The design and construction of appropriate, low-cost buildings for education and health in rural areas of the developing world.

Nigel Wakeham is an architect who lived for 23 years in Southern and West Africa and the SW Pacific working on education, health and other projects. He has since worked for over 20 years as a consultant for national governments and agencies such as the World Bank, DFID, ADB and AfDB on the implementation of the construction components of education and health projects in many countries in the developing world.​

​The objective of this website will be to provide the benefit of more than 45 years of experience of working in developing countries to architects and other construction professionals involved in the design and construction of appropriate, low-cost buildings for education and health. It will provide reference material from the projects that Nigel has worked on and technical information on the design, construction and maintenance of educational and health facilities and other relevant topics and these will be added to from time to time.

I am happy to be contacted by anyone requiring further information on any of the projects or resources referred to in this website or by anyone wishing to discuss work possibilities.



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