A 200-year-old building gets the Grand Designs treatment

Best on the Box highlight for Wednesday, October 6th…

Grand Designs

Kevin McCloud follows more ambitious self-building projects. Most of us would shudder at the thought of transforming a crumbling, structurally unsound ruin into a home, especially doing it yourself and on an extremely tight budget.

Yet adventurous, super-optimistic young Cumbrian couple Rob and Ruth have fallen in love with such a building: a 200-year-old former blacking mill that’s also been made a scheduled ancient monument by Historic England. They’ve bought the site for £110,000, and their bold vision includes conserving as much of the original structure as possible.

They plan to slot in an entirely new timber-clad, sharp-edged modern building within the walls, giving the impression that it’s peeping out from the original craggy mill ruins. They hope to complete this epic, complicated restoration and new-build hybrid in 18 months, with just £250,000.

But Rob and Ruth’s optimism is tested to the limit straight away when Historic England tell them the mill is too dangerous to repair. Suddenly pitched into plan B, Rob and Ruth painstakingly re-build the ancient mill buildings around their new timber-framed structure.

They’re short of money, trying to do as much as they can themselves and facing a series of setbacks, and the project drags inexorably on. In the end the question remains… once the build’s finished, what will be left of the ruin’s original atmospheric magic?

Grand Designs, Channel 4, 9 pm

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