Probate was finally completed. Alice & Morgan met with the bank manager, the account was updated and changed over to both of their names. He supplied them with up to date statements. They now had the clearance to begin work on the estate. The bank manager repeated the suggestion made by the solicitor, to have the partnership confirmed within the law and on paper. He also urged them to update their wills.
Another visit to the solicitor was organised.
The insulation was updated on the home and workshop houses, fire and intruder alarms fitted and the insurance updated. It was now time to put them on the market.
The stable houses were updated and decorated. Beds were ordered and other furniture was expected to be delivered before the end of the week. The day had been spent in town shopping for statement pieces, bed linen, and some nick knacks for Lovell’s room.
“Lovell, you have shiny object syndrome.” teased Morgan, as he counted off all the trinkets she had picked for her room. “Your room will be fit for a princess!”
Lovell smiled. A new bed for Crumbs was first on her list and even that had a glitzy look. Never mind that Crumbs always looked like she had been pulled through a hedge backways. Even five minutes after grooming her coat was a wild mass of tangles. Lovell knew exactly where this new bed would be placed: right under the window of her bedroom, with a water dish to go in the corner.
It was good to see the excitement and sparkle in Lovell’s eyes. This move would be good for her. Morgan had high hopes of teaching her some task, so that she could play her part in the enterprise and earn a few bob, to give her a feeling of independence and spending money to boot.
It was now a toss up between ‘Clock Tower House’ & ‘Hour House’ as the permanent name for Thudder house. The clock had the once over and ‘the Convent Bell’ could be heard clearly within and without the building. It had a musical tone that was easy on the ear.
The waiting weeks before the probate was completed, were spent in thinking, planning and quizzing Mr Yeeeeeoooo on how best to tackle the various ideas they came up with. They had grown fond of the tea drinker, and he them, he proved his worth when it came to cataloguing the library books, the art work, furniture and silver. He knew who to contact about the cleaning and storing of all the objects while work was carried on to the main building.
They had decided to retain his services to oversee a sensitive restoration programme of the house, he had the experience with old properties and was well able to suggest cost-effective and well-designed solutions to any problems the survey had shown up so far. He had come to love the old place and almost nurtured it like a child. He had contacts in every field of the work required. They also asked him to design and prepare the plans for the extension to the back of the house. He gave them a choice of two. After time for thought and consultation, a third set was prepared amalgamating the features they liked from the previous two.
The plan for this new extension was tasteful. A door under the curved stairway in the hall, would lead to a long hallway between the new and the old parts of the house. Immediately behind the doorway was a toilet block for use by patrons to the main lower level of the house. A modern bespoke fitted industrial kitchen and a large utility room (it would be necessary if we were going to hold conferences or open the house as a small hotel) was at the end, behind the oratory and close to the stairs to the cellar. It also led to changing rooms, lockers and wash rooms for staff.
A private kitchen/dining/family room for private family use was next the internal wall of the kitchen and behind the door from the hall It had French doors that would open to the walled garden at the back. Four en-suite double bedrooms, completed the rooms on the other half of the extension. The two end bedrooms were suitable for wheelchair usage with access to the car park from a doorway at that side of the house. They entered the main hall from the wide area under the curved staircase, with plenty of space, it would not take from the hall.
Eight double bedrooms and four single, all en-suite, would give them small hotel status. If they included bedrooms in the extension at the back of the house then the two stable houses could be added to the list as self catering or suitable for staff or family use.
Thus it was decided to turn the place into a small hotel and conference centre. The drawing, dining and sitting rooms, would provide an elegant suite of rooms for formal entertaining, conferences or small weddings.They decided that all six bedrooms on the first floor, the two on the attic level would be converted into en suites. The four storage rooms up there would become single bedrooms, each with a compact en-suite shower room.
A coffee shop in The Oratory, somehow seemed the right move to make and the name would not change. The stuccadore came and looked at the room before anything was moved. He made drawings of the designs on the remains of ceiling plaster. He delicately chipped away part of the stud wall, allowing them access to the original leaded window at the front of the house. The Victorian oak door with leaded stained glass panel will be reinstated to its former home at the oratory. This time it would be set into the long outside wall, at the opposite end to the lancet windows, as the main entrance to the coffee shop. The remaining stud wall in front of the window needed to be removed to open up the room to the original design. The internal door where they first entered the room, could be changed to swing doors that led to the new kitchen.
Over a cup of tea, one morning, Mr Yates reminded them that these days a house on three floors plus cellar, would need to have the internal doors re-hung as fire doors in keeping with current regulations. That was a job for further down the line, firstly they needed to decide on any internal alterations such as en-suites and converting the attic rooms into bedrooms, then once the planning permission was confirmed, to begin the foundations for the extension.
Plumbers and electricians could begin at the same time as the builders, switching to each area of the house when needed. The en-suites in the bedrooms would keep them busy for several weeks. Rewiring throughout the building for electric sockets that include phone and internet access was best done while the rooms were empty and before any decorating was carried out. Updating the central heating, adding a new larger boiler would be an essential, when adding an extension, en suites and converting the attic rooms into bedrooms. Fire & burglar alarms would be required by law, the wiring would go in while the electricians were about, but the connections would not happen at this point.
They met with Carolyn Ashby, an interior designer, who had been highly recommended and she seemed to fall in love with the house on sight. Seeing the green leather wing back armchair with detailed brass studding in the library, she suggested a large settee to match for the other end of the room. The C shaped window seat cushions in every room at the front of the house were very badly faded and threadbare, eaten by many years of unfiltered sunshine, so needed to be replaced with matching drapes. She had books of swatches and a sketch pad where she constantly added ideas and drawings, colours that blended, not jarred leaving the onlooker to enjoy the natural charm of the place.
Alice wanted the lazy-looking half sofa, half arm-chair, that lived by the fireplace in the library, to be given a new lease of life without losing the comfortable feel it had. She was not sure whether she wanted it moved to the extension or left in the library where it somehow belonged.Carolyn suggested having a replica made so there would be one in each end of the house.
The secret room she saw as a particular delight. In neutral colours with added features in Wedgewood blue.
Carolyn had a theme for every room, including each of the bedrooms It would add a touch of class to name each room, in her experience clients seemed to prefer that to numbers. She adored the oratory and was bubbling with ideas of how to furnish it. The pews were perfect and she had come across refectory tables the week before, so would put a holding note on them.
They were sitting at the table in the library when Carolyn noticed the old monastery painting hanging over the fireplace. Jumping up she said “This will have to go, it is not right for this room”. She tried to remove the painting, but it was proving difficult.
Morgan walked over to assist her. As he moved set his hands on the frame, he heard a faint click. The right hand side seemed to project forward like a door. “Not another secret Room?” he said. “Mind you this door is very high, so it must be a compartment”.
Alice was too stunned to move or speak. She thought she knew every inch and secret of the house at this stage. She did not. The dull painting, was camouflage for a safe. Morgan’s fingers must have triggered the catch. Inside was a box. It was old and inlayed with an intricate pattern in ivory, a replica of the one found in the bedroom half hidden under the floorboard, so many months ago. The initials were the same: This box belonged to Andrei Shuyski. Alice thought she saw a tremble in Morgan’s hands as be carried it gently over to the table and handed it to her. It was heavier than the last one. Was this the stock of gemstones given to Sidney’s grandfather for safe keeping, while the other one they found, Andrei’s loose change so to speak? The day was ageing and Alice was ready for home, so she asked Morgan to take the box with them to open after dinner that evening, when they were fed and relaxed.
Parts 1 – 9 can be found on the page of the same name in the header above.