After some years of advising others on how to handle work on old buildings through my role at the SPAB, I’m thrilled to be taking on a major project of my own – updating, altering and repairing a 15th-century, grade-I-listed house, later part of an inn, at Saffron Walden in Essex.
The property is remarkable for the decorative render, or ‘pargeting’, that adorns its front walls, especially two large, folkish figures over the carriageway. There are also reputed links with Oliver Cromwell to investigate.
I spotted an advert by chance in a local newspaper. The agent, Cheffins (www.cheffins.co.uk), received great interest so the sale went to ‘best and final offer’, with the suspense of seeing how my sealed bid fared against others. Apparently, a friend’s tip to include a one-sided resume justifying my interest in the building helped greatly.
Now my challenge is to sympathetically return what are presently two cottages back into a single dwelling to provide myself with a home fit for the 21st century. To give you an idea of the scale of my task, there are only outside toilets and one cottage even lacks electricity. It’s a project that will keep me busy for the foreseeable future.