Stepnell takes 'centre stage' following completion of historic costume workshop construction and restoration

Stepnell has recently completed the multi-million-pound redevelopment phase of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) Costume Workshop in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The renovation of the Grade II listed site, which required retention and heritage remedial works and was valued at more than £6 million, included the stockroom and costume cottage buildings that were originally constructed in 1850, and the scene dock building constructed in 1887.

Stepnell also worked to remodel the internal spaces to create a new reception area, costume workrooms, costume stockroom and prop workshop, as well as a costume fitting and exhibition area – which in the future will be open as part of public tours

Adrian Barnes, regional director at Stepnell, said: “This was an incredible project to work on and we’re so happy that we were able to play a part in preserving such an important era of British history. We have a wealth of experience in working on heritage projects, so we’re glad that we are able to add this to our growing portfolio of restoration schemes.”

In 2019, Stepnell also completed the restoration of Stratford-upon-Avon’s 16th century Falcon Hotel, which underwent a comprehensive internal refurbishment while preserving its historic front.

Adrian continued: “Although these projects are amazing to work on in terms of legacy and community value, logistically they can be incredibly challenging. While on site at the Costume Workshop, we had to work within the constraints of limited noise and vibration to ensure we didn’t disrupt local residents or damage the structure of neighbouring buildings, which also hold historic significance.

“Not only did we need to consider the preservation of the surrounding area, we also had to navigate operations with limited access and space as the site was surrounded by the RSC cottages and head office, and a small road leading to a local school.

“The issue of space was also heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. The team did a great job of implementing stringent health and safety precautions that allowed work to continue throughout both national lockdowns – something that we think was pivotal in the project’s success.”

Stephen Rebbeck, technical director and project lead at the Royal Shakespeare Company, said: “We are delighted to have worked with Stepnell on this challenging project to keep our world class Costume Workshop close to our theatres in the heart of historic Stratford- upon-Avon. The end result gives us a place to create the best facilities for our costume-making, as well as offering new training and apprenticeship opportunities and allowing visitors to experience our Costume Workshop for themselves in the future.

“We are enormously grateful to all our funders and donors for their support including crucial local support from the Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the National Lottery Heritage Fund”.

Stepnell worked closely with architects Aedas Arts Team to blend the Workshop’s traditional aesthetic with more contemporary elements to help boost its functionality so that staff can properly utilise the creative space. The build, which is now fit for purpose, serves both the women’s and men’s costume workrooms, a dye workroom, an armoury, and a millinery and a jewellery workroom.

Julian Middleton, executive director at Aedas Art Team, said: “Rather like a theatrical production, creating buildings to support the performing arts is a genuine team effort. Stepnell understood this from the very start and it was the cornerstone of their approach. The team worked collaboratively and proactively throughout the construction process as we tackled the challenges of working in and around important historic buildings. For us, they did a great job amidst the most extraordinarily challenging of times – with imagination, pragmatism and good grace.”

The 19th century, two-storey build spans across 1,644sqm and the RSC has now begun work to recommission the Costume Workshop and move the Company’s skilled costume makers into their new home, which will re-open when government restrictions are lifted and the RSC is able to re-open the Company’s theatres.

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