A ROOM WITH A BREW
A 16th-century home in Kent offers the chance to take a love of ale to the next level, says Fred Redwood
Forget its association with beardie men in cardigans. Proper real ale made in microbreweries is definitely back in fashion. According to the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) the number of breweries doubled in the decade up to September 2012. In the 12 months prior to that, another 158 new breweries had opened up. Anyone wanting to jump on the brewing bandwagon should meet Denise Hadfield, 56, who is selling Marston Hall, in Martin, near Deal, Kent – a 16th-century house which comes with its own fully working microbrewery. Denise and her husband, Gordon Jolliffe, 59, came to own this fivebedroom house in 2000. The story of their days there has the surreal ring of a saloon bar yarn. The previous owner of the house was Merrick Saffery Johnson, a maths teacher in Lewisham, London, who came to Martin on the weekends to brew his own ale in his brewhouse. “He was extremely eccentric,” says Denise, who has lived in Martin since 1984. “At Christmas and Easter he’d go to church in a bowler hat and spats, carrying a cane. But brewing was his great love. Many times he’d meet people in the pub, The Lantern, and invite them back for a last drink. You’d see them emerging shakily at breakfast.” Denise and Gordon had outgrown their little cottage and Merrick was rattling around in Marston Hall opposite, so they simply swapped homes, with the couple adding £40,000 to the deal. At the time, they quite fancied running the microbrewery themselves. They invited around the owner of Gadds’ Ramsgate Brewery, a large local concern, and he assured them that all the equipment – including the two giant coppers and the donkey wheel, used for pumping water from a well – were in perfect working order. To comply with modern regulations, all that needed to be done was a spot of tiling on the walls, ceiling and floor. Sadly, however, the couple never got around to brewing as they were too busy restoring Marston Hall itself. Marble fireplaces that Merrick had covered in gloss paint had to be stripped down; the leaking roof mended; the Aga hadn’t been serviced since the Fifties; rotten windows had to be replaced; cornices had to be uncovered and the walls, which were decorated in a vile green, with flowered wallpaper, needed serious attention. The biggest surprise, however, was found in the cellar where Merrick had laid out rows of iron bedsteads. It transpired he had been concerned a nuclear attack was imminent. This was his family’s bunker. Merrick Johnson died in 2004, aged 77. To the last he raised smiles. When he suffered a stroke in his latter years he would ride a tricycle around the village, causing mayhem among the traffic as he tried to pedal with his other, good leg. His home, which had been in his family since the Thirties, is now carefully restored, with well-proportioned rooms, dado rails, open fireplaces and sash windows. Denise and Gordon have now put the house on the market to move on to another project. Together with its brewhouse and microbrewery, in 1.3 acres of grounds, it is for sale at £845,000 with Bright and Bright (01304 374071; brightandbright.co.uk). “The brewhouse measures 18ft by 20ft – it’s quite a substantial operation, not just a few bottles,” says selling agent Nigel Colebrook. “It could be used as a hobby, but I think there is definite commercial potential.” David Porter, from PBC Brewery Installations, says: “For homebrewing, all you need is space, commitment and good advice, and you’re on your way. Microbrewing really concentrates on quality over mass-production.” The initial brewing process takes up to seven hours. “Once you have the extract fermenting it’s about five days, so about a week minimum before it’s a finished product.” What would Merrick think of someone taking over his beloved microbrewery? “Merrick was a beer fanatic who’d be up all night cleaning his brewing equipment before heading off to Lewisham to teach a few hours later,” says Denise. “He’d be delighted to know someone was keeping the brewery going.” Old House, Ipplepen, Devon, is next to the Wellington Inn and has the village “lock-up” in its garden (the structure is Grade II listed). Back in the day, drunken revellers would be put up for the night until they sobered up, among other petty felons. The house is an attached Grade II listed property with four bedrooms and three reception rooms. Included in the sale is a heavy metal ball of a type that was fastened to a prisoner’s leg which was dug up in the garden by a previous owner. It is for sale with Marchand Petit (01803 847979; marchandpetit.co.uk) for £425,000.