I have finally managed to add another page to my Header, so you can find all previous parts of the story up there. Part 8 will be added to the list before the end of the day.
Mr Yeeeeeoooo was anxious to continue, so once the lunchtime repast was eaten, they resumed the reading of the building & contents condition survey.
“With a thorough and sensitive restoration programme, this fascinating and beautiful building could cleverly combine the old with a few new features and become a wonderful family home or small hotel. Occupying a central position, as it does, within its own land while enjoying views across surrounding pasture and woodland, is a major selling point. If you choose to go down that road.
The high ceilings, oak panelling, exposed timbers and beams, oak flooring in a number of rooms, the panelled internal doors some with silver door furniture, all add a special character to the place. Beautiful fireplaces feature throughout the house.
The principal interconnecting reception rooms we considered this morning. The drawing, dining and sitting rooms, could provide an elegant suite of rooms for formal entertaining, conferences or small weddings. The first floor bedrooms and those in the attics, were also covered and suggestions made for their updating.
The first and main concern is to replace the floor and ceiling from the bedroom above the oratory. If finances stretch to the task, I suggest reinstating the cornice plasterwork and ceiling roses, although simple in design, what I saw from the undamaged areas of the cornice and pieces from the roses in the detritus on the floor, it would be well worth the trouble and expense and add value and ambiance to the room. An experienced stuccadore, is the person to undertake the interior plasterwork. I will add contact details for the man I suggest, to the ‘who and where’ list. Try to take some photos of patterning, before you clear the broken plaster from the room, or better still, ask the stuccadore to come and look at the room before you move anything. He will have ideas for the best way to proceed and how much it will cost.
“There was also a spiral staircase behind a door on the first floor next to the bedroom with the hole in the floor. The stairway leads up to the clock & bell tower. The steps show the wear from years of footfall, with the need for the clock to be manually wound. The regular climb had been replaced by mechanisation, I would guess about twenty five years ago. A thorough service to keep things ticking over, would be in order.” Said our newly witty Mr Yeeeeeoooo.
I suggest a tasteful ground floor extension along the back of the house for a large modern bespoke fitted industrial kitchen, an adjoining private breakfast/dining/family room and a large utility room if you are going to hold conferences or open the house as a small hotel. You would also need a private family and staff area. I have prepared a simple sketch of what I have in mind. I included a couple of en suite bedrooms suitable for wheelchair usage with access to the main hall from the wide area under the curved staircase, there is plenty of space and it would not take from the hall. I can prepare working plans or suggest another architect if you so wish.
The back door, looks worse than it is. Purely superficial weather damage, that can be restored to good order with sanding, several coats of clear wood preservative and oil. Never use varnish because the sun catches it at that point, you can see it has bleached and parched the wood. Once restored, a regular oiling should bring up the patina. If you decide to go down the road of the extension I suggested incorporating the back door and fanlight. The present yard immediately outside would allow for the conversion and leave a turning circle suitable for deliveries to the kitchen.
Beside the little kitchen office or ‘Butler’s Pantry’, is a stairs leading down to the extensive cellarage where there are three wine cellars with double bins, an electrics room, boiler room, and a couple of storage rooms. I take it you have found your way round, down there. If you wish to run an hotel, then perhaps you should think of tiling and shelving the storage rooms, making a good place to store food and extras, not needed for everyday use. A door to the exterior for deliveries of goods would be simple enough to add.
“What did you think of the wine in the cellar? Some jolly good drinking down there. At least one rack is as rare as hen’s teeth! It would be worth having them valued. I have suggested an expert on the ‘who and where’ list”.
Alice & Morgan remained silent, neither were connoisseurs of wine.
The plumbing and electrics throughout the house, should be done before the existing floor in the kitchen is replaced, or after any extension is added. Rewiring throughout, for electric sockets that include phone and internet access are considered the norm these days.
To completely revamp the house, I suggest updating the central heating, a new larger boiler would be an essential, if adding the extension, en suites and converting the attic rooms into bedrooms. Fire & burglar alarms would be required by law.
“The approach up the long drive culminating in a large gravel area is ideal for a parking area to the front of the house. There is space on that side of the house, suitable for conversion to another overflow car park. It would need a smooth level area with ramp access to the main house, suitable for wheelchairs. The details of requirements are on the ‘who and where’ list.
The beautiful gardens and grounds provide a wonderful setting, lying principally to the south and west of the house with sweeping level lawns partially bounded by a wide variety of specimen trees and herbaceous borders planted with seasonal shrubs, annuals and perennials, a fully enclosed kitchen garden with automated irrigation system, soft fruit cages and an orchard planted with varieties of pear, plum, apple, and cherry. A restored greenhouse and potting shed benefit from the original ventilation and irrigation systems. With all these updated and working, a Chef of good calibre would jump at the chance to work here.
The majority of the land beyond the garden is down to permanent pasture, a managed herd, could provide the house with all the dairy needs. There is an area of woodland under-planted with spring bulbs and an arable field.
If that was not your wish, then the land is ripe for converting to a superb outdoor recreational facility to include a heated swimming pool, all-weather tennis courts, bowling & putting greens, with automated irrigation system, and a golf driving range.
“Hmmm!” Thought Alice. “Morgan’s early thoughts from the day we walked the grounds long months ago, were not so fanciful after all. What was it he suggested? I remember now. He imagined the grounds to have excellent recreational facilities: A heated Swimming pool, tennis court, croquet or bowls lawn, with a golf driving range over near the boundary. Closer to the terrace a Putting green, would add interest for the folk enjoying morning coffee or sipping afternoon tea from the fine china they found in the butler’s pantry”.
“Inside the house, it’s calm charming, quiet and functional. But there was something else here too, something priceless. With the benefit of some TLC the house could provide a well loved warm & comfortable atmosphere.
If walls could speak, I imagine they would tell stories of family dinners, quiet evenings and big celebrations, children growing up, a generation of lives lived under this roof.
Since I need to check out those 3 leaded stained glass lancet windows and come back to you about their condition, I suggest we finish for today. I can talk you through the out buildings at that stage. It will give you time to look at the list of what needs to be done, and the cost involved. I’ll deal with any queries you have at our next meeting. I am becoming stiff after the fall and all the sitting. A long soak in my bath is what I need, followed by a large Brandy. I will give you a call early next week, when all is sorted.”
Morgan went to the kitchen to put the kettle on while the surveyor gathered up his mound of papers. He was back in the library as the briefcase was closed. “I’ll carry that out to the car for you. You have done more than enough for today. Are you sure you are comfortable with driving home?”
“Yes. At this hour of the afternoon, the traffic is light. I’ll be soaking in suds by the time the evening build-up starts, but I will accept your offer to carry the bag and bundle of files to the car.” Turning to Alice, he said “Mrs Slythe, I will be in touch on Monday or Tuesday at the latest. Thank you for lunch.” With that he walked slowly with Morgan to the car.
Alice looked at her watch and realised they had time for a quick coffee before heading to the Solicitor. At least he was no more than ten minutes away, as the crow flies. As she entered the kitchen, the kettle was reaching the boil. “That Morgan, is a step ahead of me again” said Alice, producing a packet of biscuits and making the coffee.
“Well, Mrs Slythe, What do you think Sidney would say about you now?” asked Morgan.
“What do you mean, Morgan?”
“His little Alice, with a man falling at her feet. Through a ceiling!”
For a minute, Alice looked horrified. Then she saw the laughter in Morgan’s eyes. He was such a tease, so she could not be cross with him.
They were driving home after a very long day…
“You know when we entered the solicitor’s office, I thought the man behind the large heavy deck was straight out of the Old Testament. You should have warned me. If Mr Wexler was not related to Moses, he was surely a cousin to Methuselah! That voice must have been trained to frighten horses.” Morgan added “Old Moses reminded me of the late Roger de Montfort!”
Alice laughed out loud. releasing the tension of the day.
“That news from the solicitor is better than a poke in the eye with a charcoal stick isn’t it?” Said Morgan.
“Yes. It is indeed. Once we have studied the ‘who and where’ list, we can plan a course of work and be ready to start once probate comes through.
They had arrived at the solicitor’s office five minutes before time and were invited to sit in the waiting room. As the clock on the mantel struck the hour, they were ushered into the solicitor’s office.
Again they were presented with copies of the business of the day. The result of meetings with the bank. A suggestion for Alice to meet with the bank at a later stage, she would need to change the account over to her name. He also had the sum due for the old bank notes, it was actually more than he had anticipated. There were up to date statements. Alas, none of that money could be touched until probate was complete. She should not really begin work on the big house until all was signed on the dotted line.
He had also, at Alice’s request and some nudging from Morgan, had the other houses valued. By the sound of it they would be in a healthy situation to carry out the renovations and allow Thudder House to pay for itself in the future.
“Now is the time to plan.” He said, before asking a question. “Did you come across any paperwork about Insurance? All three houses need to be well insulated, have fire and intruder alarms and be insured.”
“Mrs, Slythe, Mr Troy, I will keep you informed on the progress of probate. If you are to be partners in this venture, I suggest you have a legal note to that effect and have both names added to the bank account. Perhaps, if not already done, your Wills should be updated. Circumstances are very different now. I can prepare wills for each of you, if it is your wish.”
With that they bid him farewell and headed for the car.
“If we did decide to run a coffee shop, open to the public, the oratory is a really interesting space, situated as it is, at the end of the building and running the full depth of the house, with its own front door. The door that old Mr Yeeeeeoooo found, could be reinstated further along the wall from the lancet windows. The bay window at the front is still there and boarded up for some reason on the inside It would be a shame not to return it to glory like the others along the front of the building. I am sure it would have a window seat like all the others. Then the pews with small refectory tables, would work with some bright cushions to soften the effect. It would not take much to redo the terrace at the side of the house, after all it leads to a large lawn framed by blossom trees.” Morgan said in a hushed voice.
“It all depends on what YOU want? Do you want coffee enlightenment, where a coffee evangelist will impart the secrets of their passion, the gospel according to the apostles of coffee or a franchise for CostalotaMegabucks? Somehow, I do not imagine you going with the last one.”
“Morgan, at this stage my head is buzzing. Good buzzing. I may not know what I do want, but I certainly know what I do not want. CostalotaMegabucks is certainly not how I see us going forward. If we do go with an oratory coffee experience, then the painting of an old monastery that hangs over the Library fireplace, might be suitable in there.”