The Forge & Fern

A recent success for the CMS Group, construction of The Forge & Fern is now complete and being utilised to great effect. Taking a year from start to finish, we are thrilled to have been part of this project on Staple Hill, Bristol.

Historically a blacksmith’s, the property was adapted into a cider house, and later the Red Lion pub. We were invited on board to renovate the old pub into a brand-new venue with a contemporary extension, whilst maintaining the history and fabric of the original pub.

Newly named The Forge & Fern, the venue has been transformed into a large family-friendly venue that serves high quality food and drink. Since opening in July 2022, it has become hugely popular and is now widely used as a community space, establishing itself as a new and exciting destination on the outskirts of Bristol.

Ian Gething, Conservation Officer at South Gloucestershire Council, said, “The Forge and Fern at Staple Hill is a great example of a sympathetic refurbishment, adaptation and extension of a locally important heritage asset which brings added value and character to the High Street through its combination of traditional materials, good modern design and the clever use of the living wall to add vertical, year-round visual interest and distinctiveness to the High Street elevation.

“Through a process of constructive discussion and negotiation between South Gloucestershire Council’s Planning and Conservation Teams and CMS Architects, the proposals for the site evolved over the course of 3 years to culminate in a scheme that respects the character of the original Victorian public house, makes a positive contribution to local distinctiveness and that ensures a viable future for this locally important historic building.”

The venue has a strong focus on the environment and sustainability, which, of course, are essential to the future of construction. In addition to its verdant living wall improving biodiversity, beehives situated on the roof provide honey for the restaurant and a herb garden offers fresh ingredients to add flavour to dishes on the menu.

The planning process for this project took a while, with some challenges along the way. Part of the works included improving access to the cellar, which required construction of significant underpinning groundworks to the original pub building. The finished result is as hoped, with the pub even featuring a glass floor providing a view into the cellar which contains a gin distillery.

The Forge & Fern is slightly larger than its predecessor and features an open kitchen. Our team worked closely with the venue’s chef, as the kitchen design and layout were largely based on the food being prepared and how the chefs like to work. Establishing how everything needed to be laid out was important to ensure efficiency and ease of use.

The external garden has been maintained as it was prior to construction, and a new seating area created out the front of the venue. Ensuring accessibility to all, there is a slope for wheelchair use.

Also encompassed within the project was construction of rental accommodation above the pub and a block of seven flats adjacent to it. Our challenge was to get as much accommodation as possible on the site for the client, balancing this requirement with those of the planners and conservation officers. All involved are pleased with the outcome, bringing our work on this project to a close.

It was a pleasure to be invited to work on this project and see it through to completion. The end result is a high-quality food venue already proving popular, barely recognisable from its previous days as the old Red Lion pub.

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