Over­com­ing ad­ver­sity has saved land­mark for an­other 200 years

The trans­for­ma­tion of an im­por­tant Whitby prop­erty is a triumph over eco­nomic and per­sonal mis­for­tune. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - FRONT PAGE -

“OVER time, over bud­get and over the top,” is how Whitby’s best-known prop­erty per­son­al­ity Ed­ward Astin de­scribes his lat­est project.

The restora­tion and trans­for­ma­tion of White­hall, a land­mark Georgian house, has taken the best part of four years, cost a small for­tune and cer­tainly looks five-star fab­u­lous.

But Ed­ward, who owns Astin’s es­tate agency and Whitby Hol­i­day Cot­tages, might add “over-wrought, over tired and over worked” to his de­scrip­tion of the marathon makeover.

He and his wife El­iz­a­beth are just over the fin­ish­ing line but they got there against con­sid­er­able odds, in­clud­ing the bank­ing cri­sis and a near-fa­tal car ac­ci­dent. Ed­ward has dropped from 15 stone to 12-and a-half on the sub­se­quent diet of stress and slog.

“It has been in­cred­i­bly hard work but there’s an enor­mous sense of achieve­ment,” he says.

It all be­gan when White­hall started fall­ing down, al­most on top of El­iz­a­beth’s par­ents John and Sheila Hem­son. A para­pet col­lapsed leav­ing a gap­ing hole inches from their bed and so af­ter swear­ing they would never leave their home, they were forced to take the prac­ti­cal ap­proach and move to a bun­ga­low.

The Hem­sons ren­o­vated the prop­erty in 1987 but struc­tural prob­lems and years of wind, rain and sea air took their toll. Sell­ing up wasn’t sim­ple as it was part-owned by El­iz­a­beth, whose own home had been built in its grounds.

“White­hall was too big for a sin­gle dwelling and so its fu­ture use was com­mer­cial, but we didn’t want to see it go to some­one else as our home is on the same site. We de­cided to keep it and con­vert it into hol­i­day apart­ments even though that was an ex­pen­sive, high-risk strat­egy,” says Ed­ward.

The only way to help fi­nance the restora­tion and con­ver­sion was to build four town houses in the grounds and, for­tu­nately, plan­ners agreed. They were keen to see a sus­tain­able new life for grade two listed White­hall, which is an im­por­tant part of Whitby’s his­tory. Built in 1790, above White­hall ship­yard, it was the Turn­bull ship­ping dy­nasty’s home from 1850 and faces di­rectly down the har­bour mouth. The Turn­bulls left in 1918, by which time the busi­ness had moved to London as the River Esk was not wide or deep enough when steam re­placed sail. It later be­came a school and John, who had been head­teacher, and Sheila, who was deputy head, con­verted it back into a home. But its lat­est in­car­na­tion her­alds a re­turn to grandeur and should guar­an­tee its longevity.

The house has been stripped back and mod­ernised while retaining the Georgian fa­cade and fea­tures. It has been ex­tended up and down, with base­ment and at­tic con­ver­sions and now has six lux­u­ri­ous apart­ments over four floors boast­ing some of the best views in Whitby.

The Astin fam­ily is rightly proud of it, not least be­cause it rep­re­sents triumph over ad­ver­sity. Ed­ward and El­iz­a­beth were pre­pared to jug­gle the project with their day jobs and par­ent­ing the six chil­dren they have be­tween them: Xavier, 20, Is­abelle, 18, Har­riet, 17, twins James and Ge­orge, 15, and Saskia, 13, but they didn’t ex­pect to be hit by two dev­as­tat­ing broad­sides.

First the credit crunch and then, in Oc­to­ber 2008, just as the foun­da­tions for the town houses went down, Ed­ward, 58, had a se­ri­ous car crash and the scheme was put on hold while he fought for his life.

“It was hor­rific. I broke my back and shat­tered my leg and that was it: I couldn’t do any­thing for six months. We had to sell the town houses off plan los­ing profit and White­hall sat there go­ing to rack and ruin.

“I had some re­ally low mo­ments but Liz came into her own and was in­cred­i­bly strong and I knew I had to get bet­ter and carry on be­cause it would’ve been heart­break­ing to sell to some­one else.”

His lo­cal bank man­ager ral­lied round, the town houses were com­pleted and work on White­hall be­gan in June 2010. Builder Ja­son Draper of Si­terite was a great sup­port, es­pe­cially as the dire state of the big house was un­cov­ered.

The old ship’s tim­bers hold­ing up the struc­ture weren’t big enough, the joists were un­der­sized, water and rot had wrecked the fab­ric of the build­ing and load bear­ing walls were on the point of col­lapse.

“The only good thing about it was that it took Ed­ward’s mind off the ac­ci­dent,” says El­iz­a­beth, who spent hours sourc­ing prod­ucts for the prop­erty.

Keen to stay true to its Georgian roots, the cou­ple re-in­stated au­then­tic chim­ney pots and the por­tico. Win­dows were re­stored and orig­i­nal fire­places re­tained. The dé­cor is a stun­ning mix of pe­riod and con­tem­po­rary style.

“I’ve en­joyed do­ing the final bits and pieces, although we were here till one o’clock the other night hang­ing pic­tures,” says Ed­ward, whose bud­get was pushed from £350,000 to £500,000. “Each of the apart­ments cost £25,000 to fur­nish, which was twice as much as I ex­pected, but this is more than a com­mer­cial ven­ture. We aim to keep it in the fam­ily and we may live in one of the apart­ments when we are older.”

Neigh­bours are thrilled with the new-look prop­erty, which has been put for­ward for an Lo­cal Au­thor­ity Build­ing Con­trol Ex­cel­lence Award.

“The builder reck­ons it will be our legacy as what we’ve done will see it right for an­other 200 years,” says Ed­ward. “I like to think it’s tes­ta­ment to the ‘never say die’ at­ti­tude of one fam­ily who turned an im­pos­si­ble dream from a vir­tual nightmare into stun­ning re­al­ity.”


White­hall was crum­bling but a long restora­tion pro­gramme has trans­formed the grade two listed house and en­sured its fu­ture de­spite a near fa­tal car crash and an eco­nomic crash along with nu­mer­ous con­struc­tion woes since work be­gan. On the steps are Sheila and John Hem­son and Ed­ward and El­iz­a­beth Astin.

The house was taken back to a shell, cen­tre, thanks to rot and in­sub­stan­tial joists and tim­bers. The in­te­rior now a stun­ning mix of pe­riod and con­tem­po­rary fur­ni­ture, left and right.



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