The per­fect ar­range­ment

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Rural & Remote -

Chris Mid­dle­ton vis­its the house of a florist who cre­ated dis­plays fit for the Queen

There’s some­thing al­most re­gal about the ap­proach to the Old Vicarage, tucked away on more than 10 acres of man­i­cured lawns and groomed hedges, in the heart of the Es­sex coun­try­side. In the land­scaped grounds of the seven-bed­room Vic­to­rian prop­erty you’ll also find a swimming pool, cob­bled court­yards and a gar­den house – all per­fectly placed – and cu­ri­ously, a snow­drop tree, which was a gift from Prince Charles.

The in­te­rior is as metic­u­lously de­signed. The walls are not painted in stan­dard, duck-egg blue, but sub­tle shades of ochre, sand­stone and other warm­ing colours, with splashes of flo­ral soft fur­nish­ings. It’s tra­di­tional with­out be­ing chintzy.

This is the house that, un­til his death last year, be­longed to Michael Goulding OBE, who sup­plied flow­ers for Num­ber 10, start­ing with Harold Macmil­lan through to John Ma­jor, and the Wind­sors on many a royal oc­ca­sion. Un­sur­pris­ingly, at­ten­tion to de­tail in both the home and the gar­den came nat­u­rally to the royal florist.

For 40 years, he was a judge at the Chelsea Flower Show, as well as the Hamp­ton Court and Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety shows; his last as­sign­ment for the monarch, be­fore re­tir­ing, was to dec­o­rate the Queen’s pri­vate rooms at Wind­sor Cas­tle, as part of the cel­e­bra­tions for the Queen Mother’s 100th birth­day. Goulding also cre­ated the mag­nif­i­cent dis­plays at West­min­ster Cathe­dral for the 1977 Royal Ju­bilee cel­e­bra­tions; his ar­range­ments were 8ft tall and 4ft wide, for which he was awarded the OBE for ser­vices to flo­ral life. Far from be­ing a re­gal perk, Goulding’s work in­volved him in count­less early dawn starts. “On many a morn­ing, he would get up at 3am, in or­der to get to Covent Gar­den Mar­ket on time,” says his part­ner Michael Coates, who still lives in the con­verted vicarage. He was a per­fec­tion­ist. It was only af­ter three years of con­stant ren­o­va­tion, that they opened their gar­dens up for the Na­tional Gar­dens Scheme, and at­tracted 4,000 vis­i­tors in a sin­gle af­ter­noon,

Goulding and Coates bought the house for £670,000 in 1999, when it was in a state of some di­lap­i­da­tion.

The pair ploughed £1 mil­lion into the house and the prop­erty is now worth £1.5 mil­lion.

“There were buck­ets col­lect­ing wa­ter, there was no in­su­la­tion and the roof had to come off,” says Coates.

Although Goulding him­self is gone, he is sur­vived by a pair of enor­mous six-year-old deer­hounds, Angus and An­nie, who are as docile as they are large, but can man­age speeds of 45mph when run­ning at full tilt around the im­mac­u­late lawns, tended to by off-duty fire­men.

The big­gest at­trac­tion of the house is that from any win­dow, you can look out over un­du­lat­ing coun­try­side as far as the hori­zon.

The red-brick prop­erty, built in 1870 has eight bed­rooms, vast amounts of en­ter­tain­ing space, and a ba­ro­nially stocked wine cel­lar.

De­spite its al­most 5,400 sq ft the ask­ing price of the house is roughly equiv­a­lent to that of a three-bed­room, semi-de­tached in sub­ur­ban Lon­don.

Flo­ral: the sit­ting room, above, and the Queen, left

Royal ap­proval: im­mac­u­late gar­dens, top; Michael Coates and his deer­hounds, above

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