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A Dickens of a job for York Handmade

The award-winning York Handmade Brick Company has played a significant role in a £1 million restoration project with a strong connection to Charles Dickens.

York Handmade have been working in conjunction with York Conservation Trust to renovate 69-71 Micklegate in the city.

The building was once the office of 19th century railway engineer John Birkinshaw, whose clerk Richard Chicken was a famous eccentric regarded by many, including respected York historian Hugh Murray, as the inspiration for Mr Micawber.

Mr Micawber, one of Dickens’ most memorable creations, is a leading character in his classic novel David Copperfield. Richard Chicken worked with Dickens’ brother Alfred in the railway engineer’s office.

Alun Nixon of York Handmade Brick commented: “It was both a pleasure and an honour to work on such a prestigious project with York Conservation Trust. York is a city brimming with history, but it was still a fascinating surprise to discover this Dickens connection.

“We provided the Conservation Trust with £20,000 worth of our popular Old Clamp Blend bricks to build Trinity Cottage, together with a boundary wall, at the rear of 69-71 Micklegate. The building is now completed and is a holiday let, managed by Wheelwrights, whose offices are in 69-71 Micklegate itself.”

Guy Armitage, managing director of York Handmade, added: “This has been our second recent high-profile collaboration with the Conservation Trust, following the acclaimed restoration of 14 Lendal, now occupied by the House of Trembling Madness,”

The Trust bought the Grade II* listed building – a Georgian remodelling of an earlier late-medieval timber-framed building – in 2013. In 2014 it announced plans for a major £1 million renovation of the building, but the redevelopment was held up by the need for listed building consents.

Now work on 69-71 Micklegate has been completed. The main building comprises two ground floor shops, with three apartments above and Trinity Cottage at the rear, where a modern extension has been demolished.

Guy Bowyer, architect with the York Conservation Trust, commented: “York Conservation Trust were very happy with the quality of bricks and service received by York

Handmade. We are lucky to have such a good local resource for high-quality handmade bricks and we are happy to keep working together in the future.”

York Handmade has a long and proud history of working on important projects in the city. Apart from 69-71Micklegate and 14 Lendal, other significant commissions include York Art Gallery, York Racecourse and De Grey Court for the University of York St John.”