Construction News

Tue June 02 2020

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Iceberg specialist moves into heritage space

22 May London-based contractor Knowles Construction is targeting the heritage market, reckoning that it has spied a gap in the market.

A Knowles craftsman at work
A Knowles craftsman at work

Knowles Heritage is the new division of the £25m turnover Knowles group, which has to date been best known for its iceberg basement extensions for wealthy London homeowners.

Taking advantage of the demise of Oxford-based heritage building specialist Symm, which fell into administration in February, Knowles has recruited former Symm contracts manager Hugh Bickerton as operations director of Knowles Heritage and Symm’s former chief executive Aidan Mortimer as business development and historic building advisor.

Knowles Heritage will focus on the country market with an emphasis on grand new-build residential projects and country house restoration, as well as commercial schemes in the hospitality sector.  

Managing director Robin Knowles explained: “In 2018 we sensed an increase in appetite for projects in the home counties with clients looking for the same benefits of substructure development as they do in London. We also saw that the skills we have in delivering complex, demanding structural contracts were transferable major building projects. 

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“As principal contractor, Knowles is on site from the outset; planning and starting the enabling works, moving to the construction phase, which often does include excavation of the substructure as well as superstructure works, and then continuing with either the shell and core works, or proceeding to full fit-out including the coordination of all the specialist and finishing trades.”

Of his new operations manager, Robin Knowles said: “Hugh has a well-established track record in working on high-end residential projects, holds strong relationships with design professionals, owns a large network of tried and tested subcontractors and suppliers and has an in-depth knowledge of local construction conditions in the Cotswolds and Home Counties. Hugh’s knowledge and professionalism enables us to build on the highly regarded and expert work we are known for in London, and I look forward to working him and to creating opportunities for Knowles Heritage.”

Knowles Heritage operations director Hugh Bickerton said: “The creation of Knowles Heritage fills a huge gap in the market, I am very much looking forward to working with past colleagues, professionals and clients. I’m excited about the future opportunities that lie ahead.”

Aidan Mortimer will be supporting Knowles Heritage to promote and develop the business and as a historic building advisor. He started his career in the building industry more than four decades ago, initially setting up his own business specialising in historic building restoration, before joining Symm, where he rose to become chief executive.  He said: “Having managed a wide range of contracts including major refurbishment projects for Oxford colleges, large private residential schemes and a series of construction projects for the chef Raymond Blanc at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, I am very much looking forward to sharing my experience and knowledge with Robin, Hugh and the team at Knowles Heritage.”

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