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Hampshire Life - - Inside -

Two his­toric houses for the price of one

Not one, but two his­toric prop­er­ties; EMMA CAULTON vis­its a Ge­or­gian house and se­cret 17th cen­tury cot­tage in a walled gar­den

“We feel this house in our bones,” say David and Teresa Sin­clair. We are stand­ing in what is con­sid­ered one of the finest rooms in Titch­field. That’s no mean feat in an his­toric vil­lage that dates back to the 6th cen­tury and is stuffed with listed build­ings. The room is cer­tainly grand. Imag­ine the set­ting for a ball­room scene in a Jane Austen novel. This is clas­sic Ge­or­gian: large and light with an Ital­ian Car­rara mar­ble fire­place topped by an or­nate mir­ror and a pair of wide, nearly full-height sash win­dows adorned by elab­o­rate ar­chi­traves of reed­ing and lion’s head roundels with orig­i­nal work­ing shut­ters.

The room faces south-west with views over lawned gar­dens and when the sash win­dows are raised right up Teresa re­marks how the room feels as though it is out­side. She adds: “When the sun comes round and in through the win­dows the room is ablaze!”

Even on an over­cast day the qual­ity of light is ex­tra­or­di­nary. The ceil­ing is high. Very high. High enough for a chandelier. For Teresa and David all that airi­ness, light and wall space makes this room per­fect to show­case, gallery-style, their col­lec­tion of mod­ern art – strik­ing orig­i­nals and prints mostly by con­tem­po­rary artists of re­pute.

“We are not afraid to mix mod­ern and an­tique and I don’t think you should be!” com­ments David.

This is The Ge­or­gian House, so called as it was built around 1810 to 1820 - the el­e­gant Ge­or­gian wing of a much older Ja­cobean prop­erty, St Mar­garet’s Pri­ory.

The Sin­clairs bought the house 14 years ago. At the time they had been look­ing for a house in Titch­field for about five years. Teresa re­calls: “Noth­ing was suit­able. Even though we lived just out­side Titch­field and David worked in Titch­field, we had no idea this house was here; it’s so tucked away. When we came round the house, we thought ‘wow’! We fell in love with it im­me­di­ately. It was ev­ery­thing

we had wanted.”

That was be­fore they dis­cov­ered the ex­quis­ite wood­work around the win­dows which had been hid­den by heavy cur­tains. Teresa re­mem­bers: “When we moved in the first thing we did was take the cur­tains down; it was very ex­cit­ing to re­veal this orig­i­nal de­tail­ing.”

With the shut­ters in work­ing con­di­tion, there was no need to re­place the cur­tains – hence the prin­ci­pal re­cep­tion room re­ally does have the feel of a gallery. Walls have been painted in Far­row & Ball Strong White - a colour that shifts per­pet­u­ally from cream to pale grey-green and cloud blue de­pend­ing on the light.

The next project was the plumb­ing and the re­moval of “eye­sore” wa­ter pipes run­ning along the skirt­ing boards and through the elab­o­rate cor­nic­ing.

They found a tra­di­tional fifth­gen­er­a­tion crafts­man plas­terer spe­cial­is­ing in restora­tion

(Paris Mould­ings) in nearby Stub­bing­ton. David smiles: “The pipework has dis­ap­peared and the ren­o­va­tion work is per­fect – this is prob­a­bly the most pleas­ing of all the things we did.”

The goal was al­ways to keep this Grade II listed prop­erty as it was; or rather a bet­ter ver­sion of what it was. These are not mod­ern looka­like cast iron ra­di­a­tors, but the gen­uine ar­ti­cle, re­fur­bished, sand­blasted and re­coated (“the heat from them is amaz­ing!”). Old lino has been lifted and pitch pine floors have been re­stored or re­paired with re­claimed boards. The kitchen/ break­fast room is tra­di­tional with a farm­house ta­ble and Aga, while the for­mal front door opens onto a wel­com­ing re­cep­tion hall with old boards, views over the court­yard rose gar­den, comfy sofa, desk and turn­ing stair­case lined with made-to-mea­sure book­shelves, de­signed by David.

The grand style con­tin­ues up­stairs. On the first floor the gal­leried land­ing is large enough for a piano and there are two well-pro­por­tioned dou­ble bed­rooms, again with high ceil­ings, sash win­dows and work­ing shut­ters. The mas­ter bed­room par­tic­u­larly im­presses, fea­tur­ing orig­i­nal pan­elling, or­nate plas­ter­work and cast-iron fire­place. If some pieces of fur­ni­ture, such as the dress­ing ta­ble, look com­fort­ably at home it is be­cause they are a le­gacy from the pre­vi­ous owner. Teresa ex­plains: “The pieces were es­pe­cially made for the room, so we have kept them; they’re very (fash­ion­ably) retro.”

David and Theresa have turned the sec­ond bed­room into a spa­cious study with his and her desks and a sofa. On this floor there’s also a shower room and a bath­room with pitch pine boards, at­trac­tive cast iron fire­place with old Delft tiles and a lovely pan­elled cup­board. Stairs go up to a sec­ond floor with two more gen­er­ously sized dou­ble bed­rooms which Teresa fondly re­calls be­ing filled with happy teens.

All the bed­rooms face south­west and have gar­den views. Those gar­dens are as spe­cial as the house: se­cret walled gar­dens ap­proach­ing three-quar­ters of an acre with striped lawn, borders spilling over with flow­ers, rose gar­den and a sweep of grav­elled

drive. A path me­an­ders through wild wood­land with ma­ture trees which is car­peted with cro­cuses and blue­bells in spring. In sum­mer a wis­te­ria with spec­tac­u­lar white pen­dants clam­ber­ing over a cor­ner of the house fills the air with scent.

Ex­tras in­clude a large cedar shed with dou­ble doors hid­den among the trees and a cel­lar with bar­rel ceil­ing reached from the rose gar­den. But the most ex­tra­or­di­nary ‘ex­tra’ is an en­chant­ing brick and tim­ber-framed cot­tage among the herba­ceous borders. David de­scribes it as: “A sweet-look­ing build­ing. It looks like a smile - with two eyes and a mouth.”

Built in 1640, the cot­tage is called the Coach House although its orig­i­nal pur­pose re­mains a mys­tery – how­ever an ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­rian has com­mented that the use of bricks were a sign of wealth at the time. When the Sin­clairs bought the house, this cot­tage was fall­ing down, but they re­stored it as guest ac­com­mo­da­tion in 2009 and re­ceived a Fare­ham So­ci­ety Restora­tion Award for their ef­forts.

They re­paired and re­stored the ex­te­rior with hand­made bricks and re­designed a sim­ple gar­dener’s lean-to as a hall­way and bath­room with lime­stone floor­ing. The mix of old and new con­tin­ues with a new stair­case hand­made by a lo­cal car­pen­ter, old gnarly ex­posed beams in the bed­room and re­claimed floor­boards in the sit­ting room hid­ing the orig­i­nal cob­ble­stones un­der­neath. The re­cy­cled wall sconces were sourced via eBay from a Glas­gow pub while the old front door was found nearby in Emsworth. The re­sult is charm­ing.

As we stand on the lawn, look­ing back at the cot­tage among the flower beds and the house with its strik­ing mod­il­lion cor­nice and castel­lated para­pet, Teresa and David re­flect: “We have lived life to the full here. Mov­ing will be a wrench.”


ABOVE RIGHT: The prin­ci­pal re­cep­tion room is a favourite with its orig­i­nal plas­ter­work, grand mar­ble fire­place and the well used cast-iron and brass grate.Mix­ing old style and mod­ern art in the tra­di­tional kitchen-break­fast room with art­work and Aga adding bright colourThe re­cep­tion hall with old boards and made-to-mea­sure book­shelves; the low ra­di­a­tor, which fits per­fectly un­der the sash win­dow, was moved from an up­per floor

LEFT: Old and new tim­bers are mixed to­gether in the bed­room in the eaves of the 17th cen­tury Coach HouseRIGHT: The fam­ily bath­room has pitch pine boards, pan­elled cup­board and fire­place with old delft tiles, which were pos­si­bly brought to Titch­field by Dutch en­gi­neers work­ing on the Titch­field ‘canal’ in the 17th cen­turyBE­LOW RIGHT: The mas­ter bed­room fea­tures im­pres­sive pan­elling and paster­work, high ceil­ings, cast iron fire­place and fur­ni­ture spe­cially made for the roomBE­LOW LEFT: The ‘in­for­mal’ en­trance from the rose gar­denBOT­TOM LEFT: An en­chant­ing 17th cen­tury tim­ber-framed cot­tage hid­den in the walled gar­dens

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