DB3 Studio

Bidding farewell to Monk Fryston Coach House

The move of DB3 Architecture Headquarters to the heart of Leeds City Centre is imminent and is a new chapter for us, for what has arguably been a transformational time for all.

To mark this, we sat down with our now Chairman,  Alistair Hamilton, who joined the firm in 1989 – the year we moved to Monk Fryston Coach House – to discover some of the key milestones in the past three decades there.

Alistair joined the practice just before the move to Monk Fryston and remembers how the building made a lasting impression on him, but never expected to still be there over 30 years later, never mind the fact that he has gone on to become the main shareholder in the business.

Bringing a Listed Building Back to Life

Bringing a Listed Building Back to Life

In May 1989, when I joined ‘Dewjoc ‘ (as the firm was known back then),  we were trading from two town houses in Selby, which proved tricky at times when trying to carry hand-drawn drawings from one building to the other on rainy days!

By then, the impressive renovation works were almost complete for the Coach House – a listed 18th Century building on the Monk Fryston Hall Estate that was part of the estate of the Duke of Norfolk.  Then practice head, Mike O’Connor had approached the Duke to propose a project to bring the derelict building back to life in return for a 10 year lease. Dewjoc in turn were appointed Architects for the scheme and in September 1989 occupied the Monk Fryston Coach House, near Leeds, for the first time. The scheme won praise, including awards for sensitive renovation.

Incidentally, coinciding with the move was our investment into CAD technology. Our DB3 colleague Ian Dye, a young technologist at the time, trained up in this new technology that ran via Dos commands, as it was the pre-Windows days and as they say, the rest is history!

The Transforming Nineties

The Transforming Nineties

The 1992 recession hit all businesses hard, including Dewjoc to the point that after suffering many redundancies, the closure of the Leeds branch was considered. Instead however, it prompted a demerger from Dewjoc and the formation of Darnton Elgee Architects, with Mike O’Connor, Dennis Powell and Martin Hill leading as Partners. Peter Alanson and I were invited to join the Partnership in 1997, following the retirement of Mike O’Connor and soon after we opened a Bristol studio to service Somerfield supermarket stores and the delivery of regional projects for Marks & Spencer in the Southwest region.

The 21st Century Acquisitions

The 21st Century Acquisitions

By 2008 subsequent retirements put me in the driving seat when we incorporated the business and merged with Essex Goodman & Suggitt to establish a London office and a name change to Darnton EGS Ltd.

A smaller acquisition of Leeds based practice TSA Architects in 2012 and a larger acquisition of B3 Architects in 2015, truly established us as a National practice with studios all around the UK. The name was changed again to Darnton B3 Ltd to reflect that acquisition.

Twenty-Twenty Surprises

Twenty-Twenty Surprises

In April 2020 Nathan McNamara re-joined the firm at the most challenging time with the outbreak of the pandemic, however this has spurred us on – as Joint Managing Directors – to adapt the firm to changing times.  We have also further strengthened the Leeds team with the appointment of Tom Hill as studio Director and some key Associate appointments. Nathan has now taken on the role of MD, with me acting as Chairman.

Along with the new look management team, I have to say I am incredibly proud of the efforts of everyone involved in DB3 in embracing the direction of travel, helping with the rebrand which has gone alongside that and in making the business work effectively for our clients through such a challenging year.

2020 also saw the launch of Home & Maker, our new online Architects and Home Designer service for homeowners.

In 2020 alone we completed a number of high profile projects including acting as M&E designers for the historic Buxton Spa and Crescents, the iconic Llys Cadwyn development in South Wales, the immersing London Adidas stores and adrenaline rushing Roar gym – incredible considering all the Covid-19 challenges the world is facing!

Moving On

Moving On

In 2020 we bid farewell to our Loughborough studio and are now making our mark in Birmingham city centre – we are also hoping to move our Manchester studio to its city’s heart soon. This all being part of a strategic drive to position ourselves in all leading UK business centres under the direction of the new team.

It is also time for us to part company with our beloved studio in Monk Fryston – I for one will sadly miss this beautiful building which has served the business so well these past 31 years. I know that some of the older members of staff will be equally sad, but at the same time we have to be excited about the fact we are (at long last) able to rightly call ourselves a Leeds practice and aim to become more integrated with the thriving design and construction community in this great city.

So – spare a thought for the Coach House, but do look us up and come and see us at our fantastic new premises located at 10 South Parade, Leeds, LS1 5QS.

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Date Published: 20 April 2021
Tags: Alistair Hamilton, Conservation, Darnton Elgee Architects, DarntonB3, History, Leeds, Managing Director, Monk Fryston, Monk Fryston Coach House

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