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