My Latest Book Project

Don’t you just love it when a project comes together!!

This is the cover of my latest book, a project that has been in the works for well over a year.
It is the inspiration behind one of my Facebook pages  The Big House ‘Instagrammed’ and is the reason behind many of my wonderful adventures around the country.

I wanted to find a way of compiling all my favourite country house visits in one form and the result is this book – a chunky size of almost 200 pages.

Created purely for fun, it is a mixture of photographs and history.

I have dedicated this book to the most wonderful little person I know: my goddaughter.

bhi cover

The Big House ‘Instagrammed’ The Front Cover

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Poltimore: A house Protected by Scaffolding

Just outside Exeter sits a house, a house that presently is shrouded by scaffolding.  This is a house  that, over the past hundred years , has had to evolve and change with the  times; from a family home to a school  and then  used as a hospital, before being left empty to face the elements and dereliction.

Poltimore House first came to my attention in the early 2000’s, when it was featured in a TV series  called Restoration. This was a show which featured all sorts of buildings in need, which the public could vote on, the winner receiving a cash prize towards the restoration of the building.  Although  I was intrigued by the story of Poltimore, I must admit I did vote for Mavisbank house, a rather lovely 18th century Palladian villa not far from Edinburgh.

Almost 15 years later, I was hunting Ebay, scrolling through the 100s if not 1000s of country house postcards, I came across a name I recognized.  It was a postcard of Poltimore at its most beautiful taken in the early 1900’s, prior to the ballroom wing being added.  I purchased it immediately.  This purchase was then followed by the book ‘A Devon House, The story of Poltimore’,  and from this and subsequent  research online I discovered that there was to be a open house and gardens event the following month.  I put  the date in my diary and three weeks later I was there.

Driving up the winding country road towards Poltimore, I caught glimpses of the large scaffold structure that incased the house. Driving closer I was filled with wonder, what was the house like? How much of the facade would I get to see? Despite my increasing proximity the house was hardly visible to me, concealing its secrets.

After paying the entrance fee I made my way to the front door. Walking into the entrance hall, I was presented with a room that encapsulates everything I love about period buildings. Generous proportions, pillars, symmetry, decorative plasterwork and of course the Grand staircase.  I could see past the peeling paint, the crumbling plasterwork and the scaffolding around the stairs to the history and wealth that lay beneath.

I made my way from room to room.  Stopping in the Rococo Room  I paused. There was no doubt that I was in a room that could be described by only one word ‘magnificent’.  Lying on the floor  I  began to take some photos of the detailed plaster work ceiling.

Although at first I had regarded the scaffolding surrounding the building as rather an eye sore, I now could understand the vital importance of it.  Continuing around the house, I came to the operating theater, a remnant from its days as a hospital and a feature  none of the country houses I have visited have ever had before. At the center of the house is a courtyard, clearance of this area had been undertaken some years pervious,  it is from this open space that the Tudor remnants  of the building are most visible. The tower  for the rear staircase is an interesting feature, a stark contrast from the corner of the courtyard.

Exiting the house I spent some time wandering around the garden. The avenues were in full leaf and were a pleasure to walk down.  The silence was golden and Poltimore had done its job, despite its lack of furniture, art and a solid roof, it impressed me,  its state of dereliction gave me an insight into the houses history and its construction as fallen masonry, cracked plaster and peeling wallpaper revealed the fabric of the building.   Poltimore is a house that deserves to be saved and I’m sure one day it will be. But in till then the hard work of the friends of Poltimore will no doubt continue to maintain the house and grounds until  the day the scaffolding is removed and Poltimore is restored to its former grandeur.

A must see property!

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Kingston Lacy

Kingston Lacy Kingston Lacy is a must must see property for any one visiting Dorset. Now owned by the National Trust, it was the largest single donation ever revived by the trust on the death of the owner in the 70’s. The donation consisted of the house its contents and the 16.000 acres estate surrounding the property.

Kingston Lacy Kingston Lacy Garden Kingston Lacy  Kingston Lacy  Garden


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Trawsgoed Mansion

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So here we have one of the great country houses of Wales, ok from the front its not the most aesthetically pleasing house, But what it lacks in beauty it makes up in history. I am currently reading ‘The Vaughans of Trawsgoed a book about this house and the family that once owned it and the 40.000 acre estate it sat on, situated 8 miles from Aberystwyth. Trousgoed mansion has now been split up and is in a semi derelict state. The main Georgian wing is on the market is for just over 500k. the central section for 330k after years on the market. would they accept a cheeky offer? so what do you thing guys shall we all chip in and make this most historic of welsh houses our weekend retreat?

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Hafodunos: A Gilbert Scott Masterpiece

The alarm rang at 6.30am and after almost four hours of driving through some of the most beautiful scenery that North Wales has to offer, I arrived along a country road and was greeted by the gate house. I slowed down to have a good look, excited by this sight. I drove on with mounting anticipation, catching glimpses through the trees of the red brick tower that adorns the east side of the mansion .

A little further and I arrived at Hafodunos; a fantastic property that was a victim of deliberate arson in late 2004.
I pulled into a car parking space behind the main house, and my first impression was ‘WOW’. Although the hall is roofless, the walls still stand and the gables and chimneys are all pretty much accounted for. Scaffolding was clinging around the tower and the chimneys and was protecting the Grade I Listed walls. It was a warm day and after I got out of the car and was greeted by the owner we stood facing the hall. Questions continuously rolled off my tongue. He told me some history of the hall, and about his plans for it and described the jungle that was the grounds when he first bought the place.

It was brilliant to meet an owner with such a passion for his property and the project of restoration as a whole. When I asked him how long he thought it would be before the roof was put back on, he said it would take about three years to renovate the walls of the structure, but then probably another additional year for the roof, as he was planning to do as much of the work as he could himself. He regards the restoration as a long term project that he will be ‘hands on’ with throughout the process. He said that the structure of the building was still sound and after further inspection I could see that he was right. I was amazed at how strong it still looks after having suffered such a huge fire. Only a few charred beams remain as a reminder of the sad fate of this house.

I walked around to the gardens on the south side of the property and looked up. The house was perched high up above a brick and stone retaining wall with an impressive set of stone steps leading up to it. The gardens have already received a lot of attention and replanting was well underway. A stream runs through the grounds with two bridges crossing it, and eventually it runs into a pond. I was surprised to see two swans swimming on the surface unperturbed by the activity around them. I sheltered from a sudden downpour under a yew tree and took in the sheer beauty of the grounds.

Then I walked up the stone steps to have a closer look at the conservatories. In their own way these are also very impressive, and, thankfully, they had escaped the fire of 2004.
Up to twenty years ago Hafodunos Hall was still lived in. It was designed by George Gilbert Scott,(the same architect who designed the London station of St. Pancras), for the wealthy Sandbatch family, who retained ownership of the house up until the 1930’s. It then became first, a school, then an accountants college, in fact in one of the outbuildings there is a blackboard on which there are still some written calculations! The house then had a stint as a care home, but when it became unviable it was shut down. It then sadly became a breeding ground for dry rot. It was sold to a local property developer, who had plans for a hotel and log cabins in the grounds. But then in October 2004 the house was deliberately set alight devastating the main block of the house

Thankfully the future of the hall now looks safe. It will take years of hard work and determination, but I am sure that with the amount of enthusiasm the owner has for the house, he will get there. The plan is that the house will have to pay its way like all houses of this size need to do. Weddings and events will be held in the grounds and I am sure it will become a very popular venue. The owner plans to have open days at the house so people have the opportunity to see the progress being made towards full restoration.

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Written in 2013

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Neuadd Fawr: The south east elevation

Here we have  Neuadd Fawr in Carmarthenshire, The  first photo was take over 100 years ago the second in 2013 after the house had become derelict. you can see that the stone balustrade was removed at some point.

I have recreated the earlier elevation  in too two drawings, and  used two colors to highlight the detailing on the building,

Just for fun on a wet and windy afternoon!

I hope you like them

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Looking for a larger property ?

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More sad news as Ruined Plas Gwynfryn mansion, is hit by fire again!

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Iscoed: A Red Brick Mansion in Carmarthenshire

On a hill, overlooking Carmarthen Bay, sits the red brick mansion of Iscoed. Work began on the construction of the mansion  in 1772. The choice of red brick was unusual for that part of West Wales.  Iscoed consists of a central three storey block with matching wings on each side. A further  range behind the main block links the two wings together, creating a large courtyard .It was used as a family home by the Mansel family before being sold to Sir Thomas Picton  in 1812. It changed hands again in 1919, but remained a family home until the end of the Second World War. At this point it became owned by the council and converted into flats. Just 15 years later the house had been stripped of its fittings and roof. After passing into private hands again it just avoided demolition due to its owners sudden death in the late 1950’s.

Now Iscoed sits on an overgrown site and ivy clings to the walls. A more recent owner has re-roofed one of the wings and  its windows have  been boarded up. The rest of the mansion remains roofless. Small piles of bricks lie on the floor where lintels have given way. Around the house a few pieces of  plasterwork remain. Looking upwards towards the sky, you see doors hanging precariously  from their rotten frames. With the floors now long gone, exploring Iscoed is a dangerous task. The brick vaulted cellar ceiling is now collapsing leaving holes in the ground floor so it is imperative to tread carefully . The courtyard too is now an overgrown jungle of vegetation.

What a lovely house this could be again.  It is not so big that renovation back to a family home would be completely unrealistic. The house is made up out of different blocks which could be tackled one at a time. But until a new enthusiastic owner turns up, Iscoed remains at risk!

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Remote, Derelict and on the Market

Remote, Derelict and on the Market

The derelict farmhouse known as Pemprys, twenty minutes from Aberystwyth is currently on the market.
If seclusion is what you’re after then this house is the one for you! This Grade II listed building is sited on a small plot of land and it sits in a secluded valley up a long and bumpy track.
After negotiating the fallen trees and the pot holes I reached the farmhouse. It was dusk and the light was fading fast. The ground was wet and there was a cold chill in the air.
The walls of the house were thick and seemed to be in a good state, but the roof had many slipped slates and there were no signs of any activity to patch the holes up.
Walking into the house I saw a layer of mud covering the ground floor. Some attempt to make the house semi- water tight had been made, but this was purely by blocking the windows up with whatever stones or pieces of wood had been lying nearby. In the main room a large inglenook fire place took up the majority of one of the walls, but the large wooden beam that held up the chimney had a great crack in it and had consequently shifted allowing the wall above it to drop. A rickety staircase led to the first floor, and I had to avoid the holes and rotten floor boards to take a look. There was evidence of wildlife, of various kinds, making the cottage their home.
There are six rooms in total, as well as a barn which is built onto the end of the house. This is a good size cottage sitting in the most beautiful position.
Sadly, planning permission has already been refused twice, with the local authority suggesting that a better use would be to use the building to house animals! Surely this is not the right answer! Further worries from the council include access and the presence of bats at the property. The lack of facilities at the property and its remote location are factors that could put off many perspective buyers, but for someone wanting to live off-grid this could be perfect!
I will watch and hope that someone who can take on the many challenges of this property will appear and bring it back to life.

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