Cheshire is a county rich in architectural styles, from Norman and Roman buildings to fine examples of classical Georgian mansions and notable Victorian houses.
While there’s certainly no shortage of inspiration from the past here, the wide range of architects in Cheshire today also embraces innovative, contemporary design, so there’s sure to be a practice to suit you. If you’re looking for an architect for your project, this article will help with your search and hopefully provide some exciting ideas to think about.
Before choosing an architect, speak to several firms with experience in projects like yours. Check their reviews and examine examples of their recent projects. Speak to their former clients, if possible, to see whether they would recommend them.
In this article, we look at Cheshire’s history and architecture, and its plans for development, before featuring amazing projects by five of our favourite architects in Cheshire to inspire you.
Cheshire’s history and architecture
The county’s history goes back to the Stone Age and Iron Age; later, the Romans occupied Cheshire for 400 years, after which it was invaded by the Welsh and the Danes. The Norman Conquest brought further turmoil and the county was caught up in the English Civil War in 1642. The industrial revolution brought great change as farmworkers left for the factories in Manchester and Lancashire, and the 18th and 19th centuries saw the advent of the railways and canals.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Northwich, Middlewich, and Nantwich became prosperous from rock salt mining, while textile manufacturing drove industry in towns such as Congleton and Macclesfield. Cheshire’s importance as an industrial area grew as Manchester expanded into northeast Cheshire and Wirral was incorporated into the port of Liverpool. In the 19th century, Crewe developed as a railway centre and the chemical industry also developed in Cheshire.
Many of Cheshire’s finest country houses were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Palladian-style Tabley House and early 18th century Tatton Park, both at Knutsford, along with Lyme Park at Disley which dates from the late 16th century and has Elizabethan features along with Palladian and Baroque elements.
The city of Chester is famous for its Roman walls, its black and white timber buildings, and The Rows, a unique covered walkway of buildings at street level with an upper layer, thought to be the only example of medieval street design in the world and containing many listed buildings.
Another north west landmark is Port Sunlight on the Wirral, created by William Hesketh Lever to house his soap factory workers. This early example of urban planning contains around 900 houses and civic buildings, nearly all Grade II listed, designed by many different architects resulting in a wide range of styles, with influences including the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris, and Flemish design. Each house is unique, and features include half-timbered sections, carved woodwork, and ornamental plaster.
In terms of building materials, brick is most frequently used in Cheshire, with stone added for decoration. Sandstone is found locally and features in many buildings, particularly block-built cottages, and farmhouses.
The combination of historic industrial centres, vibrant market towns, and listed buildings creates a high-quality environment, making Cheshire a sought-after place to live in the north west of England.
The challenge is to conserve what’s good in the county and retain its character while ensuring that communities remain sustainable. Cheshire is rich in mineral resources; salt and sand extraction provide many jobs as does the chemical industry. Its strengths also lie in advanced manufacturing, the automotive and aerospace industries, financial and professional services. ICT, software, and the creative industries are underrepresented and could offer opportunities for growth. There are two planning authorities in Cheshire: Cheshire East and Cheshire West & Chester.
Sustainable jobs-led growth is the priority of the Local Plan strategy 2010-2030, which wants new development to address economic, social, and environmental needs. The area was hit by recession and building rates fell in the late noughties to less than half what was achieved earlier in the decade. The Local Plan aims for a realistic amount of development to ensure economic growth. There are housing needs across the whole plan area: towns in the Green Belt have been constrained for many years and this issue is under review. A revised Strategic Green Gap policy is proposed between Crewe and Nantwich to ensure they don’t join up, while leaving scope for further development.
The Local Plan proposes housing and employment development in several places and site sizes to provide opportunities; new development land must be found while minimizing environmental impact. The aim is to deliver at least 36,000 new homes and around 31,000 new jobs by 2030: a pro-growth policy based on forecasts for the population to grow by around 58,1000: there are currently 398,800 residents. The focus is on providing the right homes in the right places at affordable prices, along with developing brownfield sites where possible to minimise the use of greenfield areas, the Strategic Green Gap, open countryside, or Green Belt sites.
There’s a town centre-first policy to support urban areas and deter out-of-town development, and new development must be supported with the proper infrastructure. Housing development should be in new sustainable urban villages and towns rather than being dispersed as this undermines market towns and smaller villages.
Cheshire West and Chester
This is one of the most affluent areas in the north west, with strong links to north Wales and Merseyside and a population of over 329,000. Chester is the largest settlement with over 81,000 residents. Its unique heritage assets include Roman remains, the city walls, and medieval rows. The Local Plan runs to 2030 and its vision is for development to reflect the character of local areas and to conserve and enhance natural and historical environments and assets. House prices are high here compared to the wider north west, and as local jobs aren’t particularly highly paid, many residents choose to live in this desirable area but commute out for higher salaries.
The Local Plan aims to see new housing and employment opportunities in sustainable and accessible locations to attract investment and retain local jobs and skills. High-quality homes are needed alongside opportunities for healthier lifestyles, sports, and recreation. Chester is to develop as an employment location and tourist destination, retaining its character. Consideration is being given to targeted Green Belt release around Chester due to the need for sustainable development.
Why hire an architect?
While not every project needs an architect, their skill and experience can result in a better outcome, financially and practically. Architectural designers can often create the best use of space and make savings when it comes to decisions about materials. An architect may be engaged for just part of a project, for instance creating initial drawings or construction plans, or they can take on the entire design process, providing full architectural services including submitting a planning application to obtain planning permission, creating construction drawings, dealing with the planning officer in the local area and monitoring the construction phase including managing all the trades involved.
Choosing an architect with experience in your type of project means that they will know which planning applications will be needed by the local authority and suitable builders to use. Your project may need a bat survey or an ecology survey, and an architect will be aware of what level of biodiversity net gain will be required by a planning officer.
Stunning projects by five amazing architects in Cheshire
Jay Ashall Partnership
This beautiful project in Knutsford involved demolishing an existing building and creating a new arts and crafts style house. The materials used include render stone and grey timber windows. Inside, there’s a fantastic contemporary open-plan space and bespoke features such as a media wall and a helical staircase. Founded in 1989, the Jay Ashall partnership is a firm of chartered architects in Holmes Chapel that undertakes home renovation projects of varying size and complexity from start to finish, including extensions, remodelling, and eco homes. Its work ranges from traditional to innovative contemporary homes, as well as restoring listed buildings, always with a focus on sustainable design.
PLAN Architect Studio
This amazing contemporary brick extension in Hale transformed a leaky conservatory and outbuilding into a flowing, combined kitchen-dining-family room with a lantern roof light. The outbuilding was turned into an insulated utility and shower room. Plan Architect Studio is a small-scale practice in Byley, Middlewich, offering bespoke architectural services for planning and construction. Providing an excellent service, it specialises in renovating character properties, extensions, and remodelling work, along with new-build projects.
We love how this great scheme in Hale transformed an existing building and filled the kitchen with light. Working on projects in Cheshire and south Manchester, Matz Architecture of Altrincham specialises in extensions, whole house remodelling, and bespoke new build homes. Practice owner Gavin Matz has over 28 years of experience working for top design practices designing high-net-worth properties in the UK and the Channel Islands. In 2020 the firm was awarded Best Small House Extension (Northwest England) for a project in Hale.
City Architectural Ltd
A dated existing farmhouse and two semi-derelict barns were renovated and converted in this stunning scheme in Wales. The result is three amazing houses that retain their original characteristics while offering contemporary living. Chester-based City Architectural Ltd offers a full range of architectural services, and specialises in residential design, taking projects from start to finish. They give advice on feasibility, conduct surveys, obtain planning permission and building regulations approval as well as oversee construction and deal with building contracts. Their work includes new housing projects, large scale projects, extensions, loft conversions, and barn conversions.
This impressive project involved restoring and extending a 1960s bungalow in Sandbach which had a dormer extension and single-storey rear extension. These additions were removed and replaced with a large new dormer extension spanning the length of the house, providing three bedrooms and two bathrooms. A further two-storey extension was added to the front of the house featuring a dramatic glazed gable, and a new rear extension with a roof lantern, creating a large open-plan family living space. Gorgeous oak doors and stairs were installed to create a rich, luxurious look. The original unattractive brick was covered in rendered façade and a slate roof replaced the original concrete tiles. Hough Architecture is a RIBA chartered practice in Sandbach that offers excellent service and can deal with large scale projects, home renovation and loft conversion schemes.
If you’ve been inspired by these projects and think that your scheme would benefit from an architect’s expert eye, we advise contacting three architects in Cheshire with experience in projects like yours. Arrange to meet and prepare questions beforehand which you can put to each one. 24housing’s article 10 things to ask your architect may be useful here. An initial consultation is usually free and gives you the chance to explain your scheme fully and clarify your aims. Comparing the answers will put you in the best position to decide which are the best architectural designers to help create your dream home.