Relocation, relocation, relocation, but leaving is certainly no joke
Renovating a castle-style home was a challenge, but now it is a home fit for a king and queen. Heather Dixon reports.
MARK Taylor did not need a second look when he decided to buy the castle-style house he’d gone to see “on spec” in Elloughton near Hull.
“It was unlike anything I’d seen before,” said Mark. “Although the house was in great need of refurbishment and renovation, it had bags of character. I couldn’t resist it.”
While Mark was shaking hands on the £700,000 house his wife, Michelle, was beginning to wonder what was happening after a two-hour wait in the car.
“‘He had only gone to knock on the door and ask for a quick look round,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it when he finally came out and said he’d bought it. I thought he was joking.’
But when Michelle eventually saw the house that had captured Mark’s imagination she understood why he’d bought it on the spot.
The unusual 19th century property, with its imposing turrets and large grounds, was ripe for renovation and the couple relished the challenge. It was only when they started work on the house that they realised the project would be much bigger than either of them predicted.
“If we had known what we were taking on, we might have had second thoughts,” said Michelle. “But once you start something like this there’s no going back. In the end it took three times as long and three times our estimated budget to achieve what we wanted.”
Previous renovation work had stopped many years ago as the previous owners became elderly and it soon became clear that the elegant décor disguised some basic structural defects.
“The roof was cracking and leaking, the house was cold and damp and some of the floors and ceilings were unsafe,” said Mark. “Outside there were 35 foot conifers growing on the patio and the garden, though well kept, would be much easier to maintain if it were landscaped.”
Before the family could move in, the house had to be made safe for the children. This meant replacing most of the roof and unsafe ceilings, installing new electrics and putting in heating. Floors came up and new ones were laid, cracking plasterwork and cornices were repaired and the old bathrooms and kitchen were replaced with fittings which were in keeping with the beautiful Victorian house
But the problems did not end when the family moved in. “Each job led to five more and we were spending tends of thousands of pounds sorting out problems. It took two or three years to find and fix all the leaks and every time there was a leak it caused damage to floors or furniture. The money ran out several times,” said Michelle. “But we ploughed on and tried to see everything as a challenge. Mark enjoyed the renovation side while I kept my eye on the end result.”
Not everything turned out quite as they had planned, but every challenge was worked round to achieve the best results possible. This was certainly the case when their plans to knock through the kitchen area were thwarted by a reinforced concrete wall and they had to redesign the kitchen space.
“The builders couldn’t physically knock through the concrete. In the end it worked out really well, but we had to be prepared to compromise,” said Mark.
The couple chose a classical look for the décor and furnishings, combining modern pieces with antiques to create a home which is light, and comfortable.
Some of the main living rooms were panelled to reflect the property’s architectural grandeur, and larger scale furniture was chosen to complement the proportions of the rooms.
“You have to think big in a house where the ceilings are high and the rooms are spacious,” said Michelle. “Small furniture looks completely lost.”
It took Michelle and Mark six years to complete the renovation of their unusual home but, as a result, they have a house of extraordinary character and quality.
“There were times when we thought ‘never again’, but then we look at the end result and it’s easy to put all the pain, expense and hassle behind us,” said Mark. “We enjoy the whole process of taking a dilapidated house and giving it a new lease of life. It’s really satisfying – like polishing a pair of filthy shoes and making them shine.”
But fate has dealt another hand to Michelle and Mark who are in the process of moving to Australia, where Mark is setting up a new business.
“It’s a wrench to sell the house after we’ve invested so much in its renovation, but whoever takes it on will have a unique family home,” said Mark.
“The person who would love this house would have to embrace the high profile Castle as part of his life and take on the challenge of adding their own mark to its history. It really is an Englishman’s castle.”
The light, spacious entrance hall sets the scene for the whole house and includes an inlaid table that was found at the back of an antique shop. The snug, left, is part of an Lshaped open plan living area. The chair in the guest bedroom, right, was won in a charity raffle.
Refitting the bathroom, left, cost about £10,000. When builders tried to knock down a wall to the kitchen they found they couldn’t drill through the concrete, so units were redesigned to make the most of existing space, right, while the entire building has been restored to a condition that will make new owners proud.