Two re­fur­bish­ments in six years have left this house twice-blessed, writes Har­riot Lane Fox

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Marketplac­e -

il­ley Place near Farn­ham in Sur­rey has been com­pletely re­fur­bished not once, but twice in the past six years. Richard and Vic­to­ria Church were on hol­i­day and only a few miles of car­pet short of mov­ing into their newly done-up home when a phone call came to tell them it had gone up in flames. They had to start all over again.

It had been in a state of com­plete dis­re­pair when they bought it. “The roof was a dis­as­ter; when it was rain­ing, you could have had a shower in any of the top rooms,” says Richard. “And there was noth­ing like cen­tral heat­ing.”

The pre­vi­ous own­ers had run a much-loved nurs­ery school in the bil­liard room. Rus­sell Hill of Lane Fox, who is han­dling the sale, was a pupil and re­mem­bers singing “this is the way we clean our teeth, clean our teeth, clean our teeth” in the freez­ing 1950s’ loo block built on the end of the house. The Churches re­placed that with an or­angery as part of their first, nine-month re­furb.

The sec­ond took a great deal longer, as they had to wres­tle with in­sur­ers and con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cials. Wil­ley Place is hardly your av­er­age fam­ily home. The old­est part dates from the 17th cen­tury, with a chunk added on ev­ery hun­dred years, so that it now spans 11,000sqft. It is also Grade II listed, de­spite Richard’s at­tempts to get it taken off the reg­is­ter.

“We didn’t think there was any­thing of par­tic­u­lar merit,” he says. “A lady from English Her­itage came along sim­ply to jus­tify why she wouldn’t delist it. She pointed out a fine ex­am­ple of a re­gency fire­place in the din­ing room, which was a copy we’d put in six weeks ear­lier.”

The lady wouldn’t be swayed and, rather than down­grad­ing Wil­ley Place, she added sev­eral more fea­tures to the list­ing, in­clud­ing the fake fire­place — what an en­dorse­ment for the man­u­fac­turer.

The rules were just as strict when it came to the re- re­furb. The blaze was con­tained in the tall mid­dle sec­tion of the house, so the fam­ily’s furniture, which was stored in the draw­ing room to the side (one of nine re­cep­tion rooms) was for­tu­nately un­dam­aged. But the flames took the walls back to bare brick. English Her­itage spec­i­fied ex­pen­sive lime plas­ter over all three floors. The ad­van­tage of hav­ing to make good and re­wire is that the Churches have been able to in­stall broad­band and a house­wide sound sys­tem, un­usual in a listed build­ing.

They have also gained a splen­did 24sqft bonus bath­room/dress­ing room for the mas­ter bed­room. There were two blocked-up win­dows high on the gar­den wall of the draw­ing room, which English Her­itage claimed were never in­tended to be used. Wrong again. Peel­ing back the firedam­aged ex­te­rior ren­der re­vealed proper brick win­dow lin­ings. The Churches were al­lowed to open them up, then lower the draw­ing room ceil­ing and put the void above it to good use.

The two-and-a-half-year build­ing project must have been ex­haust­ing but it seems to have whet­ted Richard and Vic­to­ria’s ap­petite. They and their three boys are mov­ing a mile down the road to an­other listed wreck. This one has a record­ing stu­dio in the gar­den which has been used by Sta­tus Quo and Rob­bie Wil­liams.

Wil­ley Place has six bed­rooms and four bath­rooms. There is also a three-bed­room an­nexe and a onebed­room staff flat. It is set in 10.9 acres (4.4 hectares) and has an or­na­men­tal kitchen gar­den, out­door swim­ming pool, hard ten­nis court and astro­turf cricket net. It is un­der of­fer, with a sale price of £2.85m through Lane Fox (01256 702892; www.lane­

Sec­ond time lucky: a fire ru­ined the first at­tempt to mod­ernise Wil­ley Place

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