Berkeleys is an English country house in Bray with a rich history but has been well adapted for modern living. Owners Jim and Lyn Williams share the stories the property holds for them
became Tudor House and the main part, Berkeleys, was named after the incumbent vicar in the 1700s. The grain store and the coach house became two further independent properties.”
Charles and Nan Birney previously lived in Berkeleys, bringing up their family here and enjoying the river. Nan Birney wrote Bray Today and Yesterday, which was published in 1973 and edited and republished in 1998. “It is a very comprehensive account of the history of Bray from the earliest settlement to the end of the 1900s,” says Lyn.
“When we bought it, it was a big project to take on. Although we loved it, it took us a year to decide whether to buy it or not, as it needed considerable investment of time and a big budget to realise the tremendous potential of an old vicarage in this location. And we weren’t buying it for commercial reasons – we wanted to create a home where our family could grow up.”
In the end, they went with their hearts and bought it. “We moved into Berkeleys in June 1997 and immediately got cracking on a programme of work, restoring some parts and extending others. This is a repeat of earlier Victorian history, where the Reverend Austen-Leigh expanded the vicarage to accommodate his family.
“We replaced the roof and built a double garage, as well as the driveway, and we added a two-storey extension to one side of the house. We added in new windows and uncovered an original arch window, which we kept, so you can now see through it into the new kitchen from the dining room, and we cleared out the large cellar.”
The property retains many period features and its refurbishment has been done with taste and sympathy. The accommodation now extends over three floors. The lower ground floor consists of bedroom, en suite bathroom, kitchen and sitting room. And the ground floor has a spacious entrance hall leading on to a delightful sitting room, cosy dining room with a woodburning stove and study, each with their own stunning views down to the river.
“I love the serene, natural light that floods through the windows. The reception rooms have high ceilings and lots of light – this is something we insisted upon when refurbishing and extending the house,” adds Lyn. Walking from the reception hall through the breakfast room, with Lyn’s beloved Aga, you come to the double aspect kitchen, which has all the mod-cons, including a
range cooker and ceramic hobs. The conservatory’s doors lead out onto the terrace and riverside garden. “This is one of our favourite places to sit and relax looking down the garden to the river and passing boats.
It is beautiful all year round,” says Lyn.
The first floor is accessed via the oak staircase. “We put this in,” says Lyn. “And the galleried landing.” The master bedroom has an en suite with a lovely balcony overlooking the river. “We have bespoke sycamore fitted wardrobes and dressing table in here, which I love,” says Lyn. Another double bedroom with en suite overlooks the garden and river with a single bedroom next door. Two further double bedrooms overlook the front of the house.
“We really brought the house out of the 19th and into the 21st century, yet retained the old features, while adding the Aga, the woodburners, reclaimed doors and floors. And we had all new bathrooms fitted, with steam cabinets and Jacuzzi baths,” Lyn says.
“We designed the interiors ourselves. We like simple decor with light colours and plain walls. We have porcelain tiles in the kitchen and bathroom, and the rest of the house has woooden floors, which are in-keeping with the look and feel of the property.
“The large table in the dining room was made by Craig Brown, who got his degree in design using our table and chairs that he’d created as his showpiece. He also made our bespoke Tiger’s Eye oak kitchen cabinets and the sycamore bedroom furniture. He went on to design and make furniture for Sophie Dahl and Jamie Cullum. I love the fact this furniture is all handmade and unique to us and I shall miss it when we leave,” says Lyn.
“After more than 20 years as a family home, it is sadly now time for us to move on and hand over the property to someone else. We have loved living in Bray. Of course, it is renowned for internationally acclaimed restaurants, including the Waterside Inn and the Fat Duck, but we also enjoy going to Caldesis, or for lunch at Boulters Lock, which we access via the river on a boat. We can slip through the churchyard for a drink at the Hind’s Head or
The Crown. The Old Butchers shop and Pop Up Wine Bar in Cookham is a treat, and there’s also a lovely little dress shop on Cookham High Street called Vicki Bond. During lockdown, we’ve discovered Pizza Dreams near Cookham Station for takeaways. In Maidenhead, Bakedd artisan bakery and café makes wonderful cakes and scones as well as bread and does a good cup of coffee. And it’s so easy to get to London from here. You can’t beat a day out at Cliveden and we are spoilt for dog walks along the river or on the heath.
“Now our three children and four grandchildren are grown up, it’s just the two of us living here most of the time, and it’s a lot to look after at our age. But it’s been a wonderful house; perfect for entertaining and a happy family home.”
Berkeleys is on the market at £3.5m with UK Sotheby’s International Realty. sothebysrealty.co.uk
The modern bathroom
ABOVE: The contemporary styled family room
ABOVE: Modern kitchen BELOW: The conservatory is a sunny spot