Saturday, May 26, 2012

Home Is Where The Heart Is

Reading Di’s of Yonks blog, Wonderful Wednesday House of My Dreams click here inspired me to write this blog.  I am fixated with a passion to make a home.  Home is exceptionally important to me and it is where my heart is.  I consider myself fortunate to have lived in some of the houses that I have, which in my adult life totals 4, (if you discount rental properties over here in France while looking for our own home).

I started off in a semi-detached modern looking 1950’s house in Grantham, Lincolnshire with my first husband.  We lived there 7 years and tore it apart and put it back together again but it never really felt like home, plus it had the A1 very close by and all you could hear was traffic. 

We were both only in our twenties but once we bought a car, we would drive miles at the weekends looking for a county property to buy.  We eventually found our dream cottage at Hough on the Hill. The photograph below shows it back in the 1800's and was given to me when I lived in the village. It was a semi-detached cottage that belonged to the Brownlow Estates and they were selling it off after the lady who lived there for many years had passed away.

Bless her, how she managed to live in it defies belief as it was riddled with damp, and was not exactly kitted out for comfortable living.  It was however completely charming.  It was in brick and had the most adorable triangular windows on the top floor, a carved stone rose above the quintessentially English porch and to top it all twisted chimneys. It had a quarter of an acre of garden, a gorgeous brick outhouse and views over fields that were protected for their archaeological status.  I fell head over heals in love with that house and am still steady in my affection for it, despite some hard times that I had there.  Here are photographs of the porch with the stone rose and the wild garden prior to work commencing - oh so long ago....

My first marriage did not last long after moving there, just over a year and I found myself living there with so much work still to do, to make it a comfortable home and with huge debts, as I had bought out my husbands share. I could not contemplate leaving it!  Despite the lack of comfort, that house meant so much to me and was my safe harbour after long and often stressful days at work. 

The landscape around Hough is beautiful, it is one of Lincolnshire’s cliff edge villages and I adore the village itself.  It had a church with a Saxon tower, wonderful and diverse old properties, when I was there it also had a small post office and it had and still has the most amazing pub the Brownlow Arms.  If you find yourself in that part of Lincolnshire, do drop in for a visit. Brownlow Arms on facebook

It was one of those villages, where most people knew each other and often met one another in the pub.  We got snowed in one year (being on a hill) and what a fabulous time we all had at the pub.  People came in wellies, left them at the door and had the greatest time ever.

I met one of my all time dearest friends in Hough and we often reminisce about the great times we had there. 

I lived there on my own for 3 years and always felt completely at home.  Eventually, I met and married my husband and we continued to live there for another 3 years and together we completed its restoration.  After a wonderful holiday in France, we decided that we wanted a little more space and with much consideration and a certain amount of emotion, I put the cottage on the market.  It sold immediately and we then had the often-fraught time of trying to find a new home.  We thought we had but thankfully (I can say now) it all fell through at survey stage.  I can remember one Saturday we once again went into an Estate Agents in Grantham and we saw, what we thought was the most amazing place ever, at a price we could afford.  We got into the car and headed to the village of Swayfield to view the house and love is not a strong enough word to describe how we felt about this time worn but completely beautiful Elizabethan stone farmhouse called Castle Farm.  We immediately made an offer, which, was accepted, and we started packing to move into our new home.

I sobbed a river when we left Hough but our new home so amazed us and there was so much to do that very soon we settled in.  It was an honour and a privilege to live in that house.  It had 17th century panelling in the sitting room, stone fireplaces, a baluster turned oak staircase and completely mind blowing and fabulous Elizabethan plaster work frieze.   The frieze depicted Adam & Eve and Abraham in the process of sacrificing his son but it shows the goat and an angel holding his sword and it has the words Abraham His Fayth.  It was completely stunning and an absolute delight to live with. The gardens were about ¾ of an acre and full of interesting and varied plants, shrubs trees etc.  There was also a paddock of 1 acre.  On top of that there was a vast amount of work to do!  The property was Grade 11* listed, so every step of the way we needed to consult with English Heritage and the councils historical surveyor.  He ended up being of great help to us as he recognised that we only wanted to do what was right for the property and with the correct materials. We were very lucky with him because when he was on holiday we had another person and she was a horror!

We spent 10 years there and it was a journey of discovery with regard to the restoration of a property such as Castle Farm.  I left my job and did a course in decorative painting and used my skills to enhance our own property.  I also set up a small business doing projects for other homeowners.  We found a very wise and experienced person to do the woodwork that was required and he did an amazing job of oak panelling the dining room to reflect the 17th century panelling in the sitting room.  However, we left it in its natural state and only applied wax to protect it. That however, this was after we had removed a 1970's ceiling height monstrous stone fireplace and replaced it with a hand carved stone fire surround to reflect the other two already in the property, limeplastered the walls and dug up the floor to fit flagstones

We did things like repair the roof, replace all the sanitary fittings, lay flagstones on the ground floor, re point the stonework, replace a damaged mullion, replace doors, restore tiled floors and remodelled the kitchen.  I also spent about 2 weeks stencilling a harlequin design onto the guest bedroom.  I painted in F&B's string and then used a glaze coloured lightly with a gold tone, boy was it a labour of love.  I think that it is just possible to make it out in this photograph - sorry for the quality.

In the kitchen, I panelled and painted the existing units, which were of very high quality but dated and we then had someone make further units to bring it into a cohesive and workable arrangement. The wooden table was my great grandmothers and I would not part with it for the world.

I also cleaned all the beams that were painted black, striped sanded and waxed the floor and patched and repaired the lime plaster walls, finally painting in limewash and over painting with coloured limewash to achieve the look in this bedroom below.  This was the most sensitive bedroom to do, due to the frieze.  I purchased two cheap units at £5 each and applied a paint finish to them and used them as bedside tables.  I also painted the bed and the wardrobe in this room.

We then had the garden to sort out and the hedges were layered and shrubbery was pruned and the lawn was worked on and a gravel drive way was laid and gates fitted.  We also had to fence and add a new gate to the paddock.   We sometimes questioned our sanity about taking on such a huge project and there were tears and frustration along the way but I have to say that if I had the same energy, I would do it all again without question.  The house embraced you and for all its age and history, it never felt cold or strange just warm and welcoming.

However, we had had this long cherished dream of moving to France and we had kept it in the front of our minds for years and so eventually we sold our wonderful old home and moved to France where we are still in the process of trying to complete our home over here but that is a story on its own. 

If I was to grade my homes, my favourite village would be Hough on the Hill, my favourite house would be Castle Farm but my favourite location France!

I have been self indulgent in telling you about my homes and for that I apologise but I enjoyed doing it and I hope that maybe you will enjoy reading it.

Sorry for the photographs but they are copies of real photographs, as I did not have a digital camera back then.

Have a wonderful weekend.


  1. Hello Janette:
    Well, we have been fascinated to read of all your houses and the huge amount of effort and energy, not to say money, that you have lovingly given to each of them to create a home. And, you certainly did succeed with each of them which, even from the rather blurry pictures we can see were absolutely transformed by you.

    However,we are certain that the best is yet to come. For, as they say, location is everything and at last you find yourselves in the place you really do wish to be.

  2. Thank you very much. The only problem now being engery levels, if only we were 20 years younger again!

  3. Evening Janette,
    Firstly, I am honoured by your mention!

    What wonderful properties you have lived in. The effort put ino making them your home is evident. We too have lived in wrecks whilst refurbishing, it's no picnic! I am filled with admiration.

    Ahhh to be 20 years younger. We feel the same. We could achieve so much more if the years would fade away.

    We have just finished watching the Eurovision song contest. Three hours of our lives gone forever. I don't know why we fall for it but watch every year. Someone has to!


  4. Didn't watch it as we were early to bed and early(ish) to rise. Off to Millau today and if things work out down to the Med to visit a couple of huge vide greniers/brocantes. Have a great Sunday xxx