A house brimming with history in its South Oxfordshire community is to get a new lease of life as part of T A Fisher’s latest redevelopment.
The Square House, in Stoke Row Road, Peppard Common, a four up, four down property was built in 1900, long before most in the area. It is to be refurbished and two further four bedroom detached homes will be built within the grounds.
For most of the last century the original house had a connection with the health profession which, apart from a brief spell in 1947, lasted until its sale to T A Fisher in 2014. A succession of doctors lived in the house and treated their patients in a surgery in a separate outbuilding.
So for 27 years, residents of Peppard Common had not only a surgery within their community but doctors living on site. A night bell for medical emergencies still exists next to the front door.
The Department for Health bought it in 1947, and from 1950 let it to the eminent psychiatrist Dr Gerald O’Gorman, the then new Medical Superintendent at Borocourt Hospital, who lived at the Square House with his family.
Exuberant and energetic Dr O’Gorman, who, during the war, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, working as a psychiatrist in a number of battle zones was a pioneer in the subject of what is now termed intellectual disability.
After he died in 1998, his wife Katie O’Gorman continued living at the house until two years ago when she decided to downsize, ending the family’s 64-year connection with it.
As well as its medical and community significance, the house is characterised by a number of quirky, historical features.
A railway carriage has survived in the garden since the 1920s. Its various uses have included a home for the manservant of the early owners of the house, storage space and a great place for the O’Gorman’s children to play in.
Yet, no-one living today can seem to explain how almost 100 years ago, it found its way to a house in rural Peppard Common, miles from any railway track.
Another feature of the garden is less obvious. Hidden beneath an outdoor slab is something known as a Chiltern Flask, an igloo-shaped underground chamber. Rainwater would be collected in it and, via a pump in the garden, could be re-used. Sustainability, Victorian-style.
T A Fisher is working hard to retain, as a conversation-piece for the house’s new occupants, a set of servant bells in the kitchen bearing the name ‘Callas, Sons & May’, a well known Reading business at the time. They would allow the past occupants of the upstairs rooms to ring for service.
One interesting aspect of the Square House can only be seen by venturing along the road where there is an almost identical home, facing the opposite direction, effectively ‘bookending’ a row of homes in Stoke Row Road!
When T A Fisher was approached, land consultant Jeremy Fisher knew of it straight away. He would frequently pass it when out running but had never previously known its significance.
He said under T A Fisher’s scheme, the Square House will be ‘stripped out and put back together again’. Much of the charm and history will remain while allowing mod cons usually associated with newly built homes.
Two further four bedroom detached homes will be built within the grounds in complimentary styles, both having large kitchen/dining/living areas which are popular with modern family living.
A new improved access for the three properties will be formed onto Stoke Row Road, intended to increase visibility and safety in and out of the development.
Work is expected to start in January 2017 with completion in the Autumn.
Archive of: 2016
A house brimming with history in its South Oxfordshire community is to get a new lease of life as part of T A Fisher’s latest redevelopment.
Reading based house builder T A Fisher has submitted plans to South Oxfordshire District Council for 30 new homes on land at Kennylands Road, Sonning Common. The site is allocated in the recently adopted Neighbourhood Plan (Son 5) which was overwhelmingly supported by residents at the referendum held in September.
The site lies on the western fringes of the village. It is adjacent to the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) but separated from adjoining farmland by a mature hedgerow and tree belt. The land is well located for village centre shops, Sonning Common Primary School and Chiltern Edge School.
Head of Land & Planning Julian Pacey commented: “The submission of this planning application is the culmination of extensive discussions over several years with the Sonning Common Parish Council Neighbourhood Plan Group. The scheme will deliver a range of bungalows and family houses including much needed low cost affordable homes.”
T A Fisher is a long established, locally based family business. In recent years the company has undertaken two schemes in the area – at Ilex Close Sonning Common and Butlers Yard Peppard Common.
Mr Pacey added: “We are naturally delighted to be undertaking a further small scheme in the village.”
Work is due to start next spring on nine T A Fisher homes in Shinfield.
Wokingham Borough Council recently granted Planning permission for the detached properties on a 1.18-acre plot known as Lane End House at the junction of Brookers Hill and the Shinfield Road.
A fine house once stood on the site converted to office use some time ago and most recently occupied IFIS (formerly the International Food Information Service). The offices were demolished following IFIS move to Arborfield and will be replaced by the scheme of attractive three and four-bedroom family homes.
The new houses, carefully designed to reflect the character of the village, will benefit from easy access to all the local services & amenities and recently the improved transport links to Reading and the M4.
T A Fisher managing director John Fisher said: “These homes will reflect their traditional surroundings but at the same time benefit from modern construction techniques and energy saving features. These homes offer good quality design with generous outdoor space on a relatively small non-estate scheme that will complement the immediate neighbourhood and wider Shinfield village.”
Reading-based house builder T A Fisher has submitted plans to South Oxfordshire District Council to build 65 dwellings in Woodcote.
The proposal comprises 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom houses, bungalows and apartments with a small number of 4-bedroom houses.
The 8.5 acre site lies on the southern fringes of the village behind existing properties in Bridle Path and Goring Road. Access to the site will be from Bridle Path.
Head of Land and Planning Julian Pacey said: “Our site is well related to the village amenities and is screened from open countryside to the south by a strong tree belt. It will deliver a wide range of principally smaller-sized dwellings, 40% of which will be affordable homes. It will also include bungalows for those who may wish to downsize. There will be landscaped buffers to the boundaries, ecological enhancements and it will deliver a package of financial contributions towards improvements to local community facilities such as education, healthcare and the village hall.”
T A Fisher is a family-run business that has been established for over 100 years. The company has undertaken several housing developments in the locality and specialises in smaller-scale, individually-designed properties to meet local market demands. Sites developed in recent years include schemes in Woodcote, Peppard Common, Sonning Common and Pangbourne.
The latest T A Fisher houses to go on the market illustrate the ever increasing aspirations of home owners.
Expectations of buyers have been steadily increasing over recent years and the Rosedene development on Finchampstead Road, Wokingham has a host of hi-spec features which match the quality of the houses.
These touches are immediately evident in both of these two five-bedroom detached homes. Each of the ground floor benefits from underfloor heating; the kitchens, bathrooms and WCs all have porcelain floor tiles and the kitchen has a host of further characteristics. Alongside the full-size American fridge-freezer is the wine fridge and, on the island unit you will find both a pop-up extractor fan and pop-up electrical sockets. The double oven comes with a warming draw and, to the rear of the kitchen/family area, bi-fold doors lead to the landscaped garden.
In the living room a log burner provides both heat and acts as a decorative feature. Oak stairs take you to the five bedrooms, two of them en suite, plus the main bathroom. The master bedroom’s en suite has two wash basins. Each bathroom has a chrome ladder heated towel rail.
While Rosedene is a hi-spec development, the demand for additional quality touches represent a trend becoming more commonplace throughout the range of homes T A Fisher provides from studio apartments to detached houses.
Managing director John Fisher said: “Over the years we have been building, it has become clear that people’s aspirations have increased. We have met this demand by providing features which are not only the most up-to-date but are of a high quality.
“The features and finishes we provide are constantly evolving with the requirements of the modern home owners and our task is to make sure we give them the kind of quality they demand.”
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Two significant T A Fisher apartments schemes have been completed as we turn our attention to the launch of one of our more exclusive developments.
A total of 21 apartments, five at Fisher Court, our former offices in Mortimer, and 16 at Guildgate House in Crowthorne High Street, a former office building, now converted into apartments, are all sold. “The most interesting statistic is that a great many of our buyers are either first-time buyers or more mature purchasers. This marks a shift in the market since many developments have been characterised with ‘buy-to-let’ sales” says Steve Davies, Development Director.
Now work at Rosedene, two detached homes in Finchampstead Road, Wokingham, has just been completed with launch due on Saturday, July 2.
The two five-bedroom homes close to Sand Martin’s Golf Club, were a social media hit when our agent Richard Worth first publicised them, attracting more traffic to its website than any previous social media message.
Both houses have large areas for entertaining, two en suite bedrooms and separate bathrooms and could suit young professionals on the way up, families or older people who want good facilities for visitors.
Five further schemes are in the immediate pipeline including Phase ll of Berrybrook in Caversham where our sign has just gone up on Lower Henley Road.
The six, three- and four- bedroom homes, accessible via nearby Ruskin Close, are due for completion in September 2017.
Development director Steve Davies said: “Although these schemes are all residential, they illustrate a very diverse range – from studio apartments to large family houses. Our local knowledge enables us to understand a broad spectrum of the market.”
Liam Stacey is the latest new recruit to the construction department at T A Fisher.
Liam, who had experience with a regional developer before going travelling, will help meet the growing demands on the department as further sites are acquired.
Liam will complement the team that includes Phil Nash and Guy Deakin, who joined earlier in the year as trainee surveyor/buyer and senior surveyor respectively.
Phil is training to be a surveyor and will be on day release at Reading College from September.
Guy comes to us with a wealth of experience from other housing developers.
Alex Chapman, Commercial Manager said it is likely the department will be running more sites by the end of the year which currently include:
• A mixed-use scheme consisting of apartments and retail units at Farnborough
• Housing developments at Binfield Heath near Henley on Thames; Blue Prior Church Crookham, Fleet and a second phase at Berrybrook, Lower Henley Road, Caversham.
By autumn the list should also include a scheme at Peppard Common comprising three new houses and the remodelling of an existing house.
Alex Chapman said: “We are expanding but not in a ‘boom and bust’ way. We are quite sensible in how we go about it. We are taking on staff and that is a positive move as we grow the department.”
T A Fisher was awarded the Outstanding Contribution award at last night’s Thames Valley Property Awards at Ascot Racecourse.
The award, the final one of the evening, was for a special contribution to the Thames Valley. T A Fisher managing director John Fisher was presented the trophy by category sponsor McKay Securities. The event host was former England cricket captain David Gower.
The T A Fisher story
Thomas Alfred Fisher was an entrepreneur who could spot business opportunities. Now 120 years and three more generations on, the firm he launched is excelling in finding them. T A Fisher, a signwriting business when it launched from Mr Fisher’s Cholmeley Road in Reading home in 1895, is now the area’s longest established housebuilder and developer, its longevity built around its agility and an eye for spotting trends.
Building and development became increasingly important as his sons Harry and Victor got involved. In the 1960s Mr Fisher’s grandson Keith brought central heating to small homes and helped carve the name into the Thames Valley’s housebuilding heritage.
In the mid-1980s, Keith Fisher’s son John joined and took the firm into new areas it continues to succeed in today, starting with commercial property development, a direction which proved successful very quickly.
John Fisher, who became Managing Director in 1990, said: “The housing market crashed in the late 1980s/early 1990s but the commercial development world continued for a period after and enabled us to continue developing.”
Since then that diversification has broadened further and the ability to be creative and niche in finding answers to often challenging or restricted sites has become a differentiator few major developers can match. Reacting to the economy is one of many ways T A Fisher demonstrates its ability to adapt.
Mr Fisher said: “We are a multi-faceted development company. Blue Prior at Fleet is a good example. It was a token business park and looked like another B1 office scheme but the market had significantly changed and we took it in a different direction.
“It has offices but it will soon have an assisted-living home, a thriving children’s day nursery and we have just commenced a residential phase. It’s a classic example of how to resolve a development conundrum.
“We are a bit more nimble, a bit more flexible. We continue to broaden the platform as we have a reasonable understanding of different use classes. For example we don’t necessarily develop nursing homes but we have sufficient knowledge of the market activity and viability to know whether it is going to work or not.”
One small development in Reading in the 1990s was the start of one division of the company which dominates the market in the Thames Valley. A small number of serviced apartments were developed in a former office above a trendy wine bar. The concept was rare then but demand was rising.
Mr Fisher said: “We decided to spin off a separate portfolio, targeting the growing number of IT companies settling in Reading. Oracle and Microsoft were typically bringing contract workers to Reading but with nowhere to stay short term but the Post House (in Whitley) or the French Horn (in Sonning).”
A separate division, House of Fisher now not only operates nearly 200 apartments, mainly in apart-hotels developed by the group, but provides the 24-hour services that support them.
Its 100 King’s Road development in Reading, its flagship apart-hotel complete with 24-hour gym, where House of Fisher turned a redundant office building into a dynamic home for the area’s transient contract workers, illustrates the firm’s knack of carving out innovative solutions.
House of Fisher sits alongside T A Fisher’s housebuilding, investment, mixed use, conversions and land acquisition divisions in a business which carved its own niche in the property world while keeping specifications and quality a high priority.
Mr Fisher added: “We are lowly geared (financially) and we know the area really well. We are prepared to take a risk and take on different propositions. It doesn’t have to just be pure housing or pure commercial.
“Our specialism is the Thames Valley. We are difficult to pigeonhole but that’s our strength.”
Buyers at all levels are becoming increasingly aspirational about their homes, driving developers to raise standards.
T A Fisher managing director John Fisher believes the growing demands to have quality materials, finishes and fittings are raising the bar at all levels of the market and high spec is now standard.
Fitted bathrooms with quality cabinetry, modern tiling and high-spec fitted kitchens are becoming the norm at every price level in T A Fisher properties as we respond to modern day demands.
John Fisher said: “People’s expectations are a lot higher. Even if you take studios, they have down-lighters, fully-fitted kitchens, very attractive bathrooms and we ensure the whole property makes a statement about quality. That said there is a real difference in buying new build and buying new build from us.”
On larger properties nowadays, porcelain floors on ground floor and bathrooms are common, underfloor heating is becoming standard and, in an increasing number of properties, USB wall sockets are installed.
John Fisher added: “Every specification now is pretty aspirational. We ‘spec up’ not down.”
That question of quality was raised by deputy leader of Reading Borough Council, Cllr Tony Page in November at the Reading Economic Forum when he called some of the larger scale office conversions ‘the slums of the future’.
Mr Fisher says those issues could potentially arise on many large flatted schemes which are often driven by cost and programme with a fast exit and optimal return. That approach may well leave the wrong legacy. Buyers, particularly owner-occupiers or investors, are better served by buying from a developer with a reputation to protect.
He added: “If people are buying a home and they do their research and buy from a reputable developer, a builder with a track record who knows what they are doing, that’s a way of avoiding trouble in the future.”
The same principle of quality applies to T A Fisher’s commercial developments, illustrated last year by the E-Centre in Bracknell which has attracted some key occupiers since it was acquired and upgraded by T A Fisher. It has led to the revival of the Easthampstead Road area which was becoming run down.
John Fisher added: “We retro fitted the development so as to provide smart impressive facilities which are being very well received in the marketplace.”
E-Centre is located next to Beneficial House – the new T A Fisher mixed-use scheme anchored by Gym Group and House of Fisher serviced apartments.
Three completions on TA Fisher properties took place in the run up to the introduction of additional stamp duty for buy-to-let investors.
The rush of demand was driven by landlords wishing to complete before Chancellor George Osborne’s new three per cent levy on homes not intended to be the buyer’s main residence, came into force on April 1.
TA Fisher celebrated the first completion at Fisher Court in Mortimer, the company’s previous home which has been converted into five apartments, all now reserved, and two apartments at Guildgate House in Crowthorne.
Appropriately the first completed deal at Fisher Court was an apartment in what was once the accounts department. Exactly 29 years and three months after TA Fisher took ownership of the building, its first residential owner picked up their keys.
And the new occupiers will have one advantage TA Fisher never had. Mortimer will be a short train ride from the proposed station at Green Park where 7,000 people are currently employed and where many more will be in future.
Guildgate House is now almost three quarters reserved with 11 of the 16 apartments spoken for. But as at Fisher Court, although the Chancellor’s stamp duty levy prompted investors to complete, they are by no means the main kind of purchasers.
The first completion at Guildgate House was by a lady looking for somewhere with more of a village feel than her previous home at Kennet Island in Reading and other owner-occupiers are attracted by Crowthorne’s appealing mix of shops and services without city centre hustle.
Managing director John Fisher said TA Fisher’s speciality of building smaller developments of higher quality homes tends to appeal more to owner occupiers while large scale investors tend to flock in their numbers to blocks in city centres.
He said: “We are getting a broad cross section of buyers, not just investors, it’s owner occupiers as well.”
To arrange a viewing at Guildgate House contact Romans on 01344 753110