Found on a pretty pedestrian street in Bath, lined with thriving independent shops, is this spectacular Grade II-listed building, comprising a shop, a three-bedroom home and a separate two-bedroom mews house, unfolding over 4,700 sq ft. The commercial space is currently the residence of the locally loved interiors studio Berdoulat, set in the Georgian part of Margaret’s Buildings, built in 1768 and designed by John Wood the Elder. Former stables behind, built in the 1840s, have been converted into a three-bedroom home, and beyond that, a converted pub constructed c.1800 is now a separate two-bedroom house. With an incredible history and a plethora of original details, the building underwent extensive restoration by Berdoulat, who honoured it through the exhaustive work they carried out, based on in-depth research into its rich history.
We’ve written about life here in more depth.
Setting the Scene
The year 1890 saw the uniting of the three separate buildings. The work to connect them was overseen by three eccentric Victorians (a restaurateur, a high-end grocer and a wine merchant), who had joined forces to create Cater, Stoffell and Fortt, a firm that became known as ‘The Fortnums of the West’. No expense was spared when fitting out their flagship store, which became the home of the famous Bath Oliver Biscuit, and where foie gras and Bolinger were sold to high society living in the grand neighbouring houses of the Royal Crescent and Circus. When they merged the three buildings, they also removed ceilings and walls in what is now the main retail space to create the galleried double-height open-plan space, filled with incredible mahogany, marble and mirror-backed counters with gold-leaf lettering, which are still there today.
The commercial space, which is fully licensed (on and off licence), serves as a popular shop, café and events space. There is also a pavement license in place, enabling the use of the area outside for seating. This is not the first of Berdoulat’s incredible restorations, nor will it be the last. For more information, see the History section and our Almanac piece.
The Grand Tour
The building, which spans some 30 meters front-to-back, has two access points; the grand shop front on Margaret’s Buildings and a separate entrance on the parallel Circus Place. The shop has soaring ceiling heights and remarkable original 19th-century fittings, which have been carefully restored, including an original c.1850 wine display unit. Above is a galleried area, while below, on the lower-ground floor, the original kitchen has been renovated with a light touch, preserving the building’s fine historic qualities. Arched vaults underneath the street are used as storage and a cellar, and the whole level retains many original features, including fantastic Welsh pennant flooring, a range, and stone wine bins. There is also a WC here.
The original mahogany door, preserved and cleverly converted into a fire door, opens from the ground floor of the shop into the residential part of the building, which is also joined to the shop from the galleried area above. The room is crowned by a lantern, introduced by the current owners, meaning it is bathed in light throughout the day. The main kitchen comprises an Esse range and a wonderful Berdoulat-designed sink dresser. Opposite, behind a smart glazed screen with historic glass, is a useful pantry area, providing extensive storage as well as space for a concealed dishwasher. It has been painted in ‘London Brown’ gloss by Edward Bulmer.
The living room, demarcated by a change in floor level, has another wall of glazing, a screen which concertinas across so that the room and the courtyard beyond become one space. A warming wood-burning stove sits on one side of the room with a stone fireplace surround. Narrow-painted floorboards are found underfoot.
On the first floor, a galleried balcony echoes the retail space and wraps around the kitchen below. Lined with bookcases, it makes for a brilliant perch to read or work. Four niches are located on one of the walls, perfect for the display of art or ceramics. A door opens from here onto a raised courtyard, a magical space complete with an outdoor enamelled bath. On this level, there is also a wonderfully characterful circus-themed bedroom. It has a vaulted ceiling punctuated by conservation skylights and internal sash windows overlooking the gallery beyond.
Above, on the second floor, are two further bedrooms, the biggest of which has the potential (and the plumbing) for an en suite. The second has been painted an enveloping ‘Berdoulat Green’, a bespoke colour created in collaboration with Farrow and Ball, a colour match of the original Georgian green found in this part of the house.
The mews house is home to an open-plan kitchen and living space. There are two bedrooms above, one with views out over the rear of the Circus, the other overlooking the charming courtyard. The latter has an open fireplace, whilst both have en suite shower rooms.
The Great Outdoors
The courtyard garden has been reinstated where there had always been one prior to the 1890 amalgamation of the three buildings. It is a lovely area, perfect for barbecues in the summer, and scented by a well-established evergreen jasmine, which grows up the wall. The raised terrace above also provides space for sunbathing, and outdoor hot baths, to be enjoyed even in the winter months.
Out and About
Bath is well served by outstanding retailers and restaurants, focusing on independent provisors. Margaret’s Buildings itself, one of the most popular streets in Bath, is home to a plethora of independent shops and cafés, including Bath Old Books, 8 Holland Street and GROG.
Elsewhere, Colonna and Small’s, Beckford Bottle Shop, Café Lucca, Corkage, Landrace Bakery, and the weekly Farmer’s Market are of particular note, while the Olive Tree restaurant, Bath’s Michelin-starred establishment, is conveniently located at the northern end of nearby Russell Street. The city’s cultural distractions are plentiful, with brilliant theatres and galleries; the Holburne Museum, the Fashion Museum and The Edge arts centre all hold world-class exhibitions.
The green space of the aforementioned Royal Crescent and Circus is less than a minute away, while nearby Royal Victoria Park provides a further and fantastic green expanse and is home to the revered Botanical Gardens. The National Trust Skyline Walk to the east of the town centre offers exceptional views through six miles of local meadows and ancient woodlands. For further adventures in nature, the Cotswold Way lies directly to the north of Bath, and numerous walks and hikes are available in the greater surrounding Somerset countryside.
The area is renowned for the quality of its independent and state schooling and includes St Stephens’ Primary School, King Edward’s and Prior Park College. Royal High, Royal High Junior School, Kingswood School and Kingswood Preparatory School.
Transport links are excellent, with Bath Spa train station at the southern edge of the city centre – around a 15-minute walk from Russell Street – providing a direct line to London Paddington in under 80 minutes. The M4 motorway lies north of the city and is quickly reachable by car in just 15 minutes, while Bristol airport is less than 20 miles away, or 35 minutes drive.
Council Tax Band: C
The original shop, Cater, Stoffell and Fortt, would have had visitors likely armed with a shopping list, who would sit and have a coffee at the counter whilst an attendant in a white coat would rush off to the storerooms at the rear and mix up a prescription, or fetch the Earl grey. Indeed, during the shop’s restoration, the owners found some wonderful paraphernalia under floorboards and behind fittings, including receipts, shopping lists, advertising material, and even an unused glass vile with a needle and silk thread for sewing up wounds. The three owners were real retail pioneers and supposedly did unusual things like pumping scented steam into their shops to entice people to buy things.
The current owners run an interior design practice, Berdoulat, which specialises in ancient buildings. This unique property, the result of a meticulous four-year project, epitomises their passion for careful, accurate period restoration work – their Heritage Statement submitted as part of their listed buildings planning application was 180 pages long. Research into the building’s history was extremely thorough. In the basement is an ‘honours board’ – a hand-painted list of everyone who has kept shop, what they sold and their dates.
Bath was recently included in Time Magazine’s edition: “The World’s Greatest Places of 2021” and is the only city in Britain to achieve Unesco World Heritage status, which continues to be vehemently protected. Uniquely situated in a hollow in the hills, the surrounding Somerset countryside makes an incredible backdrop for the city.
Founded in the 1st century AD by the Romans, who famously used the natural hot springs as a thermal spa, it became an important centre for the wool industry in the Middle Ages. In the 18th century, under George III, it developed into an elegant city with neoclassical Palladian buildings.
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