A 16th-cen­tury home in Kent of­fers the chance to take a love of ale to the next level, says Fred Red­wood

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Front Page -

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.

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