DECK THE halls

Jackie and Mener Tsit­sis’ beau­ti­fully re­stored pe­riod house is the per­fect set­ting for a tra­di­tional fam­ily Christ­mas


Lov­ingly re­stored, this Ge­or­gian manor in the New For­est is won­der­fully grand but warmly invit­ing

With the fires lit and the fairy lights twin­kling, Jackie and Mener Tsit­sis’ 18th-cen­tury house comes into its own dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son. ‘It is made for large gath­er­ings,’ says Jackie. ‘On Christ­mas day, we walk in the for­est and come back to a late lunch with fam­ily and friends. We then sit around the fire play­ing games – it’s a re­laxed, so­cia­ble time.’

Jackie and Mener, who have three chil­dren – Gre­gory, 24, Anna, 21, and Ge­orge, 18 – are Lon­don-based, but their love af­fair with the New For­est be­gan in 1999 when they bought a beach hut in Mude­ford. ‘We then pro­gressed to a cot­tage and after that, a six-bed­room house,’ says Jackie. The fam­ily used to pass this place reg­u­larly, and so when Mener, a prop­erty de­vel­oper, spot­ted that it was for sale, his cu­rios­ity was piqued. ‘I don’t think we went to view it with any in­ten­tion to buy,’ says Jackie. ‘But it sim­ply took our breath away.’

The house had once be­longed to Lady Emma Bing­ham whose hus­band, Sir Ge­orge Rid­out Bing­ham, was Napoleon’s gaoler. Lady Emma bought it after her hus­band’s death and she lived there from around 1840 un­til she died in 1870. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, the build­ing was req­ui­si­tioned for the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces, and it was an RAF pi­lot who bought the prop­erty after the war.

By the time Jackie and Mener bought the house, it needed at­ten­tion. ‘It had been di­vided into flats and many of the orig­i­nal fea­tures had been ripped out,’ says Jackie. By a stroke of luck, the pair found a Twen­ties post­card of the prop­erty on ebay, and this pro­vided a ref­er­ence for miss­ing de­tails such as the win­dows and the rail­ings at the front of the house. They also ob­tained sale doc­u­ments from 1920, which in­cluded floor plans. ‘ We wanted to re­in­state the rooms but also bring the build­ing into the 21st cen­tury,’ says Jackie.

While Mener man­aged the restora­tion, Jackie sourced fur­nish­ings, choos­ing an aes­thetic that is in­for­mal yet be­fits the grandeur of the spa­ces. ‘We brought pieces from our pre­vi­ous home but when we moved them here, they seemed to dis­ap­pear,’ she says. ‘I re­alised that fur­ni­ture needed to be scaled up in or­der to hold its own in the rooms.’

At this time of year, three Christ­mas trees grace the manor house. ‘There is noth­ing quite like walk­ing into the dou­ble-height hall when it is all decked out for Christ­mas and the fire is roar­ing,’ says Jackie, who adds, ‘I feel an im­mense sense of pride that we have brought this house back to life so that it can be en­joyed again.’

dec­o­rat­ing tip‘ I wanted to cre­ate a sense that the in­te­ri­ors have evolved over time, so I mixed de­signer and high-street pieces with an­tiques’

SIT­TING ROOM The cou­ple sourced the an­tique fire­place to fit the pe­riod of the house. An­tique fire­place, price on re­quest, The Fire­place Shop. Try Dunelm’s Ver­bier grey faux fur cush­ion, £14

BATH­ROOM The roll-top bath was po­si­tioned to en­joy the views across the park­land. try the As­to­nian ri­m­ini bath, £1,199.91, As­ton Matthews

GUEST BED­ROOM A plush vel­vet head­board lends a lux­u­ri­ous feel. For a sim­i­lar seat, look at the Ital­ian vin­tage leather brown bench, £607.60, turn­bull & thomas. the house, as well as the coach house and cot­tage in the grounds, is avail­able to rent, heath­field­house­res­i­

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