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Dunster Castle Watermill Tea Room

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Dunster Castle Watermill Tea Room

Situated within the grounds of the Dunster Estate directly adjacent to the river Avill, the Watermill tea room building provided refreshments for visitors to the Castle and surrounding areas. It was however a rather small space internally and therefore struggled with demand in the busier parts of the season. Planning permission was therefore sought to add a contemporary extension to the river side of the café by B2 Architects and was granted in 2019. Corbel were appointed to undertake this challenging project and started in earnest in the November of 2019.

Other than the usual complexities of an adaptation to a historic building we were faced with near impossible access down a route that barely fitted a large works van, limited parking, an active guesthouse adjacent to the build, may neighbouring properties and a fast flowing river within meters of buildings footprint. Whilst extremely difficult these problems were overcome through very careful planning, communication, management and most importantly through the support of our regular team.

In terms of the build the hardest part as is common was getting the project out of the ground. A series of piles were driven which were then encased in a concrete ring beam and ground floor slab. New drainage was then installed that had to work and marry into the existing pump station and adjacent B&B guesthouse. Following the complex groundworks works then started to the external walls which were formed using an internal block cavity construction finished with either a random rubble Taunton red stone or larch cladding, both of which worked well with the original café building. Internal floors were of engineered joists as was the new exposed glu-lam roof structure, which was finished in new Welsh slate and lead. Major bat mitigation works were required in joining to the existing café roof due to the large colony that inhabited the space between slates and rafters. With the building now sited the fit our began which was a combination of high end restaurant finishes and industrial kitchen space for the new facility. M&E systems were renewed throughout the whole building and large widows created both stunning views across the valley and allowed floods of natural light into the new space.

This project was a very challenging one, for many reasons, we endured a global pandemic, near impossible access, a river and one of the largest bat colonies you will find, but the results are stunning and we are proud of them. Ultimately what was a successful but small dark space is now transformed to a wonderful building that can cater for an additional 50 covers, this in turn provides additional revenue for the Estate which goes on to help with its perpetual maintenance.


Project duration; 13 months on site with a 6 month hiatus due to the Covid pandemic.

Architect; Benjamin and Beachamp Architects.

Client; The Dunster castle Estate, National Trust.

Contract value; £950,000

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