The new ro­man­tics

The Waveney Val­ley home of por­trait artist Stu­art Pear­son Wright and wife, Polly

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: Tony Hall

Iam al­ways de­lighted when I come across wacky, un­usual or se­ri­ously eclec­tic homes. This one im­me­di­ately drew my at­ten­tion – a sub­stan­tial, tim­ber-framed, 17th cen­tury dairy barn, built within the walls of a 14th cen­tury ru­ined cas­tle, com­plete with gate­house and tower, all set within nearly three acres of pad­docks, trees, gar­dens and herb gar­dens in ru­ral Suf­folk. There are Vic­to­rian green­houses, and the re­mains of the orig­i­nal manor house can be found in the front pad­dock. Even be­fore I met the own­ers I thought they prob­a­bly came from the cre­ative side of life. This turned out to be cor­rect, but what I didn’t know was that the own­ers, ac­claimed por­trait artist Stu­art Pear­son Wright and his wife, Polly, have a pro­found love for the ro­mance of ru­ined build­ings.

“I think it’s the his­tory of the ru­ins,” ex­plains Polly, “the sense of what once was there. In your imag­i­na­tion, it’s a glimpse of what was, how it was, the peo­ple who lived there and the lives they per­haps led. All that his­tory, maybe for­got­ten. Their plans, their ro­mances, their fam­i­lies. It’s deeply fas­ci­nat­ing for cre­ative peo­ple like us, and it’s what at­tracted us to this unique lo­ca­tion, our first home in Suf­folk. We’ve al­ways loved vis­it­ing ru­ins, search­ing them out on our trav­els across the coun­try­side, so it’s no sur­prise we fell in love in­stantly with the cas­tle and barn.”

Apart from the won­der­ful nat­u­ral sur­round­ings and ro­man­tic set­ting, some­thing else clinched the deal. As part of the in­ter­nal lay­out, the barn also of­fered a very large stu­dio, which was es­sen­tial for Stu­art, whose well known work hangs in the The Na­tional Por­trait Gallery. Born in Northamp­ton and brought up in East­bourne, Stu­art had a love of art and paint­ing from a young age, some­thing his his­tory teacher and form tu­tor en­cour­aged. He went to Slade School of Fine Art and sold his en­tire de­gree ex­hi­bi­tion to col­lec­tors, many of whom sub­se­quently com­mis­sioned him to do por­traits.

It was a chance meet­ing with ac­tor John Hurt in Covent Gar­den that pre­sented Stu­art with an op­por­tu­nity to ask him if he would con­sider hav­ing his por­trait painted.

“That re­ally was a big step­ping stone,” says Stu­art. “He loved the paint­ing and the Na­tional Por­trait Gallery bought it and com­mis­sioned me to do some other fa­mous peo­ple, in­clud­ing J.K.Rowl­ing.” Por­traits of ac­tors Ti­mothy Spall and Christo­pher Lee, and Mike Leigh the film di­rec­tor fol­lowed, not

com­mis­sioned but pur­chased from an ex­hi­bi­tion the NPG hosted called Most Peo­ple are Other Peo­ple.

Stu­art also holds an ex­hi­bi­tion of his cur­rent work ev­ery two or three years at The Ri­fleMaker Gallery, in Beak Street, Lon­don. In 2018 he was due to ex­hibit at the Hum­ber Street Gallery in Hull and at the Heong Gallery at Down­ing Col­lege, Cam­bridge. He met Polly through a mu­si­cian friend’s gig in Lon­don. They got to­gether and lived in a con­verted fac­tory in Mile End, East Lon­don, but after hav­ing son Wul­fred, now six, they wanted to leave the city, for a more ru­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

“My par­ents were liv­ing at Somer­ley­ton,” adds Polly. “We used to come up at week­ends and liked the area, so started look­ing on the In­ter­net and, after a failed at­tempt at a house in Brooke (Nor­folk), we found here in Jan­uary 2014.

“To be hon­est we re­ally wanted a Ge­or­gian prop­erty or a manor house. We found one but it was too big. The idea was high ceil­ings, good pro­por­tions but as soon as we spot­ted this, which is a barn, with low ceil­ings and lots of beams, which we have now white washed to make it lighter, we were smit­ten.

“Al­though it was the ex­act op­po­site of what we were look­ing for and on ar­rival the grounds and trees were over­grown – a real chain­saw mas­sacre job – be­ing to­tal ro­man­tics, the ru­ins, the set­ting and the his­tory plus, of course, the stu­dio to­tally won us over im­me­di­ately.”

Polly is no stranger to ru­ral life. She was born and lived in Up­ton, near Acle in Nor­folk, un­til her father, whose job was in the oil in­dus­try, moved the fam­ily to Sin­ga­pore. Like Stu­art, Polly was cre­ative from early year, with a love of mu­sic, so she went on to study a clas­si­cal mu­sic course at Gold­smiths Col­lege. She fo­cused on the clar­inet, which she had played since age 12, but also now plays pi­ano and or­gan. She has formed her own band, The Tiger’s Bride, writ­ing and record­ing mu­sic, as well as get­ting in­volved with live the­atre at venues such as Hox­ton Mu­sic Hall, as well as at The Moscow Fes­ti­val, en­twin­ing Rus­sian bal­leri­nas with folk mu­sic.

“When we moved in,” re­calls Polly, “it was a case of what to do first, so we got stuck in with the paint­ing and the gar­dens, which are full of wildlife.

“I used to go to Gazes auc­tion ev­ery week to find fur­ni­ture and arte­facts, plus items from Matthew Higham and The Bell Jar (now closed). The whole thing is an on­go­ing project, in­clud­ing sourc­ing 18th cen­tury floor­ing from a re­dun­dant build­ing. I love an­tiques, grand pieces, the patina and the his­tory. Stu­art with his vast ex­pe­ri­ence of colour

knew just what to do. Hav­ing lime­washed all the beams in­side we in­tend to do the same out­side, like a house in Laven­ham.

“We love the double height hall, our favourite room, and I love the built in seat in the kitchen, which was dead space. We’ve re­ally set­tled in now and en­joy the sur­round­ing area, which is un­spoiled. We love go­ing to The Locks Inn, at Gelde­ston, which is lit by can­dle­light, and we get wood fired piz­zas from Suf­folk Stone House in Bun­gay.

“Be­sides walks around the ru­ins and lo­cal lanes, Out­ney Com­mon with the dog along the tow path is very peace­ful. Fur­ther afield, there’s the beach and Gun Hill at South­wold, and the chil­dren love go­ing to Bewil­der­wood, fol­lowed by a pic­nic at Sal­house Broad and a trip in our five-seater ca­noe.”

Polly says she and Stu­art know they have done en­tirely the right thing with this move and are cre­at­ing a very spe­cial house in an amaz­ing lo­ca­tion. So much so they’ve de­cided to of­fer it for film lo­ca­tions through East Coast Pro­duc­tions in Nor­wich, so oth­ers can see it and en­joy it. Keep your eyes out for it next time you go to a ro­man­tic movie . . .

This lo­ca­tion (ref: smc-351) is avail­able for film shoots. Con­tact East Coast Pro­duc­tions, Nor­wich T: 01603 728978 east­coast pro­duc­

The Tiger’s Bride thetigers­bride­mu­

Stu­art Pear­son Wright, por­trait painter stu­art­pear­son­

TOP RIGHT: Polly and Stu­art

RIGHT: The gar­den room and en­trance hall

ABOVE: The green­house at Stu­art and Polly Pear­son-Wright’s home in the Waveney Val­ley

ABOVE RIGHT:A cosy, colour­ful liv­ing roomRIGHT: The homely kitchen

ABOVE LEFT:The ro­man­tic set­ting among the ru­ins cap­tured Polly and Stu­art im­me­di­ately

ABOVE: The master bed­room

BE­LOW: Wul­fred’s room

RIGHT: Stu­art’s stu­dio

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