A mitre fine renovation job
GOOD LIFE: A former retirement home for bishops was a costly renovation project but its problems were blessings in disguise. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Jonathan Gawthorpe
LTHOUGH it has been a home for well over 100 years, Ruth and Rob Penty are thrilled to be the first owners to occupy their Victorian property. It was built by the Church of England in 1894 to house retired bishops before being bought by Rob’s forebears in the early 1920s and then let.
“Rob inherited it from his father. It was part of the family farm and although it’s an old house it’s nice to think we’re the first owners to live here. That feels quite special,” says Ruth.
The couple, who have four children, were keen to move to the property, which has a prime position overlooking the pretty village of Bolton Percy, near Tadcaster.
It was bigger with more land and simply needed modernisation, or so they thought.
After taking up the floorboards, they realised that the water table was just an inch below. Digging down and filling in to create solid foundations cost them £35,000 and blew their budget. They were also faced with an unexpected £15,000 bill for new drainage and another £5,000 to repair the tall chimneys.
“It was a big shock though we were relieved that the house was still standing,” says Ruth. “It also meant that we were able to put in underfloor heating on the ground floor and that has been fantastic because it has made a very cold house much warmer and more economical to heat.
They also insulated the walls and their energy efficiency measures have paid off, reducing the £400 a month they were spending on oil. The underpinning also opened up the opportunity of creating an annexe using bricks from the old outbuildings.
“The idea was to use it as a holiday let to create an income to help us sustain what we really want, which is the ‘Good Life’,” says Ruth, who has made a start by buying six short horn cattle and rescuing some battery hens. Rob, an IT expert, also farms 200 acres of arable land.
Although newly-built, the holiday accommodation, which has two en-suite bedrooms and a large open plan living space, is full of reclaimed items, including old quarry tiles and a sign from the back of a 1920s Penty’s grain trailer. It is aimed at families with children and so all the surfaces are wipe clean.
“It means you can relax and not worry about them wrecking anything. Everything in here is cleanable or replaceable. It’s why I bought leather sofas and wipeable tablecloths and I painted the bottom of the bedroom walls magnolia so I can easily repaint them,” says Ruth.
Their own home is also family friendly with a large kitchen/dining room with separate pantry that Ruth and Rob fashioned from two reception rooms and a corridor.