A beau­ti­ful Swan

A for­mer pub in Wang­ford is now a cosy colour­ful vil­lage home

EADT Suffolk - - Inside - Words and images by Tony Hall

FROM a seat at the din­ing ta­ble of Re­becca Jacques’ Wang­ford cot­tage, the view over­look­ing the parish church is quintessen­tially English. Built in the 1800s, the cot­tage was one of two vil­lage pubs, but was closed in the 1920s, be­cause, ru­mour has it, the lo­cal landowner’s mother was re­li­gious. On Sun­days she would at­tend the church and, on com­ing out af­ter the ser­vice, would see es­tate work­ers as­sem­bled in the pub across the road, some­thing she de­tested on a Sun­day. It is said she brought pres­sure on the mag­is­trates and when the pub’s li­cence came up for re­newal it was re­fused.

“What brought me here,” says Re­becca, or Bec to her friends, “was my mum, Liz, who has a small cot­tage just down the road. It was the old cob­bler’s shop and she bought it 18 years ago, when she re­tired, af­ter sell­ing her florist shop in Bed­ford­shire. She loved the vil­lage and had pre­vi­ously lived in the Malt­house in Elms Lane, with her late hus­band, Colin.”

Bec was born in Ket­ter­ing and brought up in Sharn­brook, Bed­ford­shire. When she left school, she started a small plant nurs­ery on land owned by her fa­ther. The busi­ness flour­ished for over 30 years and, al­though her love of plants and gar­den­ing has never di­min­ished, in 2014 she made the de­ci­sion to sell. She had built the busi­ness on top qual­ity plants, which was labTour in­ten­sive, and com­pet­ing with large chain stores sell­ing mass pro­duced plants cheaply was dif­fi­cult.

“My hus­band, Daniel, and I had al­ready made the mon­u­men­tal de­ci­sion to pull out, but af­ter the sale in 2015, he died very sud­denly. He went out one morn­ing to the gym and never re­turned. It’s tak­ing a long time to ad­just, but we bought this cot­tage in 2009, and it now acts as a bolt hole for me, a sanc­tu­ary, a place were we had many happy times.” Bec has al­ways been in­ter­ested in col­lect­ing old things.

“You could say I am a ter­ri­ble hoarder, as I am hap­pi­est go­ing to the auc­tion houses and fre­quently to car boot sales. Here in Suf­folk, I love the one held at Kess­ing­land and only last week found some in­ter­est­ing items. You just never know what you may un­earth. Things such as this din­ing ta­ble, the pew bench and the chairs are all lo­cal finds.

“I love Cor­nu­copia in South­wold, now in the old Red Cross shop, where there are sev­eral deal­ers all with great things.” So, find­ing the lovely for­mer pub has been fan­tas­tic for Bec, who has thor­oughly en­joyed find­ing fur­ni­ture and arte­facts to fill it.

“I think, when built, it just had the two front rooms – the din­ing room and next door my liv­ing room, with the bed­rooms above. There was a well in the gar­den, and it is known that the baker, who was next door, used to draw wa­ter for his bread mak­ing.

‘I think, when built, it just had the two front rooms – the din­ing room and next door my liv­ing room, with the bed­rooms above’

“Later on the back area was added, where the kitchen, util­ity and down­stairs cloak­room are now, with the ad­di­tional bed­rooms up­stairs. My favourite room is the liv­ing room, which comes into its own in win­ter, with the log burner, the beams and comfy seat­ing, so cosy, and that won­der­ful church view. As this road is a cul-de-sac, there is lit­tle traf­fic, so it’s very peace­ful. I think my favourite item, al­though it’s hard to choose, is the pic­ture in the hall and the Aspinalls enamel sign.” Bec’s love of plants has en­cour­aged her to start creat­ing a proper cot­tage gar­den.

‘My favourite room is the liv­ing room, which comes into its own in win­ter, with the log burner, the beams and comfy seat­ing, so cosy, and that won­der­ful church view’

“I now have a Har­ley Botanics green­house where I will grow plants from seeds – I love peren­ni­als, any­thing with dark leaves, and au­ric­u­lars. I like go­ing to Woot­tens Nurs­ery at Wen­has­ton, about five miles away. A life­time love of hor­ti­cul­ture, cou­pled with my hobby of an­tiques, has given me an idea. I hope to start a small shop com­bin­ing the two, in Sharn­brook. Com­ing here to the cot­tage has been a sal­va­tion. It’s just so lovely to get away, to have time out and to re­lax.”

Bec loves Wang­ford, with its ex­cel­lent vil­lage shop, good bus ser­vice, its pop­u­lar pub with good food and great quiz night. She also likes to ex­plore, go­ing to the Bell at Wal­ber­swick for a spe­cial­ity, the Suf­folk Smokie, and has a special place for a walk at Cove­hithe, al­though, she says, she’s spoilt with coun­try­side and coast.

“Cove­hithe is mag­i­cal and, as you know, the sea is erod­ing the coast there each year and is get­ting closer and closer to the church. I find go­ing there so special.” An­other favourite out­ing is to Or­ford, a one-hour trip on the Re­gard­less, a tra­di­tional river boat, maybe a pub lunch at the Jolly Sailors, fol­lowed by a visit to the cas­tle and pop­ping into Pump House Bak­ery for some bread to take home.

“This place is so im­por­tant to me, help­ing build a new life, with fam­ily close by in a vil­lage I love. Rather like Mum, I can see my­self here way into the fu­ture, as it has so much to of­fer.”

The homely kitchen and din­ing room (pre­vi­ous pages) where Bec in­dulges her love of ‘found’ ob­jects. Be­low, this coun­try bed­room has a view of the church

The tra­di­tional style fam­ily bath­room. Right, the mel­low ex­te­rior of Swan House

Above, Bec and Lizzie, with Otto. Left, Bec’s favourite room, the warm and invit­ing liv­ing room. Above, later ad­di­tions to the for­mer pub and a glimpse of the Har­ley Botanics green­house.

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