A F MANWARING & SON - POTTON BUILD PARTNERS FOR 25 YEARS
2015 was a very special year for Alan Manwaring and son Matt, not only were they building their 33rd Potton home for clients in Kent, but they celebrated a working relationship with us that has spanned over 25 years.
Alan Manwaring, now aged 73, is still a major force in the family business and can turn his hand to anything connected with house building, from plumbing and carpentry work to floor laying and day to day project planning.
Alan was working in London in the mid-eighties, carrying out mostly commercial building work, when one day the site manager showed him a copy of a Potton timber frame house brochure he had picked up at an Ideal Home Exhibition.
He was immediately taken by the idea of building his own home and set about building in a village not far from Maidstone in Kent. Alan and his wife Marion loved the idea of building a new house that could look old and matured externally and would feature an inglenook fireplace, post and beams and cottage style doors. So in 1985 they decided to build the Comberton design from Potton’s Heritage range which they knew would sit comfortably with the style of the other houses in the area.
Like father, like son
At this time young Matt, aged 15, enjoyed being involved with assisting his dad to build their new home and helped in any way he could. Little did either of them think at the time that they would be working together as partners almost 30 years on, or that the family business would have built 46 individual houses throughout the Kent and Sussex area.
Following the completion of their own home, Alan and Matt went on to build a Gransden in Cranbrook, Kent. The following year Alan was contacted by Potton to see if he would consider building a house for some prospective clients in Tunbridge Wells, this seemed like the perfect opportunity for him to become involved in building individual homes and would allow him to use his skills and experience as well as doing something he had come to really enjoy.
Between times Alan would continue to carry out commercial work, mostly in the local farming community, where he had gained a good reputation for workmanship and quality and where he had made many long term friends for who he still carries out work for today.
Beauty in bungalows
Two of their early clients were Allison and Ross Browning. Through local knowledge and connections in the farming community, they had located a 28 acre site which had outline planning approved for a dwelling with an agricultural tie. This would suit them perfectly as it was located in the central part of Kent not far from Tunbridge Wells and ideal for Apple growing.
The couple visited the Potton Show Centre where they decided that they would like to build a bungalow with dormer windows. They had planned the internal layout themselves making some changes to the standard Claybrook design to suit their busy lifestyle. Unfortunately the planning authority would not allow them to incorporate dormer windows so planning was granted for a single storey bungalow. Alan and his team started work on the site in May 2000 and the job went like clockwork meaning the couple were able to move in during August of the same year.
“We normally quote a twelve to twenty week build period for clients” says Alan. ”Mind you” says Matt “we once built a 1000 square foot Hatley from start to finish in 8 weeks!“
Allison and Ross love their bungalow and it is now part of their successful fruit farm business where they grow apples for some of the major supermarkets in the country.
“We already knew of Alan through his work on our previous farm, and for the work he did for us on restoring an old barn, we have continued to use him over the years on different projects, he has an absolute wealth of experience and knowledge and we have become firm friends over the years”
Setting high standards
Another fine example of the standard of workmanship the Manwaring’s produce is the Caxton Cottage built for Rose and Alan Hornby.
This was built on their fruit farm in Kent between December 1993 and March 1994.
The couple were actually living in London at the time and had seen the Potton Gransden at the Ideal Home Exhibition in 1982, they were so impressed by the Potton designs that they knew they would build at some point on a piece of land owned by Alan’s father in Kent.
Some years later, in fact during 1992 the couple visited the brand new Potton Show Centre at St Neots where they fell in love with the Caxton design. It took 5 years to finally get planning permission on the site. Alan was working as a postman and looking after the fruit orchard at the same time, the couple were determined to build their Caxton and lived in a mobile home throughout the build.
5 years later the Manwaring’s were back on site again building an extension which would become a utility area leading off of the Caxton kitchen.
During 2002/3 the couple decided that they wanted to build a double garage next to the house and had no hesitation in calling for Alan and Matt to carry out the job for them.
“In fact” says Rose “we would never consider going any further with extra jobs with anyone else but Alan and Matt, they are totally reliable, their work is just fantastic, their subcontractors are all superb and we are in fact still using them for jobs now”
Alan is now retired and Rose, who now works as a hospital volunteer, love their home and country garden in the Kent countryside “do you know” says Rose “everyone who visits us here compliments us on how nice our old cottage looks, and it’s all thanks to Alan and Matt”
In more recent times Alan and Matt have built in many areas of Kent and Sussex including one of the Heritage Abbotsley designs on a large plot near Hastings.
However one of the more challenging sites was the existing garden of a house owned by Ian and Mary Rutherford in Sussex. “To simply unload the Potton package was a feat in itself, the machine that brought the roof trusses on to the site was expertly maneuvered between the existing house and the garage without touching or damaging either, it then had to wind its way down a narrow access until it reached the site of the new bungalow” says Ian
Ian and Mary who are in their early 70s wanted to build a bungalow in their own garden where they could retire to and still accommodate some of their family and the 10 grandchildren, “our idea is to incorporate a number of small bedrooms for the children when they stay, provide me with a small study and give us a living/ kitchen area with bi-fold doors leading out to the patio where we would spend most of our time.”
The couple had visited the Potton Show Centre and worked up their own design which would then be translated to suit the Potton construction.
“At Potton we met with one of their self-build experts who recommend that we talk to Manwaring Construction as they had built many homes in the area. We then went to see one of their client’s houses that was under construction down near Rye and were very impressed by the standard of workmanship and by the comments from the clients themselves” said Ian “we had no hesitation in appointing Alan and Matt to build our new home!”
The couples build project started on October 1st 2014 and was completed by February 2015 complete with Air source heat pump, underfloor heating and more recently a superbly finished driveway right up to the front door.
“Manwaring Construction were absolutely brilliant from day 1, it has been a smooth continuous process, we have been amazed and very impressed at the pace and continuity from both them and their labour force. They are a very helpful and amiable team, at one time there were 11 tradesmen on site and Mary served them tea 3 times a day"! “They were so nice” said Mary!
“We found it really valuable for us to be able to visit one of Alan and Matt’s existing clients’ homes so much so that we have since been able to show potential clients around ours”
Alan & Matt Manwaring with Potton customers Jeff & Lorraine King
Carole and Simon Murphy are both in their mid-40s, they have two children and were already living in Kent when they spotted a plot for sale in a village that they knew and liked. They had been considering self building their own home for around a year and a half and were bitterly disappointed to learn from the Estate Agents that the plot had already been sold, that was in late 2012. Then completely out of the blue early in 2013 the plot came back on the market again so Simon made an offer which was initially turned down by the agents, but after much negotiating the price for the plot with outline planning permission was agreed at £265,000.
The couple had firm ideas about the design they wanted and were happy to base the external appearance on the local houses but wanted to make it very clean and contemporary, almost minimalist internally.
After much research on the internet to find the right package home supplier, the couple narrowed it down to just two, Potton and another fairly local company. Their first step was to visit the Potton self-build Centre at St Neots where they met with one of the team who impressed them with his knowledge and his understanding about what they were trying to achieve.
Building on a bespoke design
Their initial thoughts after seeing the Wickhambrook were that they would like to build a barn. However they knew realistically that they would never get planning permission to build one on the site they were purchasing, so with the help of Potton, developed their own design.
“We made numerous changes following our initial design, we moved the position of the staircase a number of times, we wanted a fitness room and relocated that a few times before finally coming up with a design we were comfortable with and one that would suit our lifestyle” says Simon
“I think we got to revision H with Potton who then put us in touch with Alan and Matt, we were immediately impressed by their experience and track record and with planning finally approved we decided they would be our appointed builder. We had quite a few specific requirements and wanted to included things like underfloor heating on both the ground floor and the first floor, an air source heat pump that would power the heating and would later be used to heat an outdoor swimming pool” said Simon. “I also wanted to incorporate an integrated lighting system throughout the house and a network system for current and future use, this seemed something that Alan and Matt were well equipped to do and had some great specialist contractors”
Construction of the new house started in March 2014, the family, having sold their existing home, were renting a small cottage just a few miles away so when Simon was working away Carole would research and locate products for their new home, discuss them with Alan and Matt and oversee some of the work. The whole project was completed by the end of August 2014 with Matt going back later to finish the landscaping and driveway.
“Being a consultant myself with a certain experience in project management I knew that building could be stressful, it is more about the things that you don’t know than the things you do. Through their experience in building with Potton, Alan and Matt were able to offer guidance, advice and calming support through the whole project, we are very happy and proud of the end result”
Potton projects in the pipeline
Alan and Matt currently have 4 Potton projects in the pipeline, they also have their two nephews as part of the on-site team and the subcontractors they work with are the same ones that they have used since day one. They are all extremely experienced people who care about their work standards whatever the project.
The clients who go to them are, in the main, from word of mouth and local reputation or as a Potton Build partner, they can offer foundation work as well as complete turnkey build contracts.
“We chose Manwaring Construction because they have all the right credentials, experience, skills, excellent subcontractors and most of all for their support and guidance. When feeling slightly stressed at getting our mobile home onto the site Alan put his hand on my shoulder and said don’t worry Sara we will get you through all of this, which was just so reassuring” a quote from Tim and Sara Nelson, who are currently 10 weeks into their build (August 2015)
Faultless throughout the process
Lorraine & Jeff King (pictured above top with Alan and Matt) purchased the land in 2010 with a bungalow already on it, the people who owned it previously had used it as a holiday home. The whole plot was overgrown with trees and shrubs a great many had to be removed.
The original idea was to completely renovate the existing building and add an extension, but on looking at the possibilities and the costs to bring the bungalow up to today’s insulation standards, that idea was abandoned in favour of a new build.
Once the planning was granted, Potton put them in touch with Alan Manwaring. The major part of the initial work on site once the old bungalow had been removed was to prepare a plateau where in fact the new home could be sited. This ground works and the removal of a number of non-indigenous trees was carried out by Matt Manwaring, Alan’s son who had to move tons of soil from the site in order to get the right levels “we had 13 lorry loads of soil out of here” said Jeff "and now when you look at the finished house you would never believe it had looked any different “
"The Manwaring team were just faultless throughout the whole build process, we finally moved in December 2012 and celebrated the first Christmas in our new home, and when we experienced a teething problem with our electrics on Christmas morning Alan was over like a flash to resolve the problem for us, we couldn’t ask anyone for more!"
Many Congratulations on 25 years of successful build projects with Potton!