Brookhouse: so good they built it twice
PUBLISHED: 15:27 23 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:46 20 February 2013
The stunning Brookhouse at the edge of Knighton is a wonderful example of a 17th Century half timbered houseÂ – but for 330 years it stood somewhere else entirely. SharonÂ Chilcott investigates the house that was rebuilt,Â brick by historic brick
Tucked away at the edge ofthe pretty village of Knighton, on the north Shropshire border, theres agorgeous Grade II listed property where history has not so much been rewritten its been rebuilt.
Theres an old, bricked up railway bridge hidden at the end of the garden of The Brookhouse where at one time an old branch railway line would have crossed the land.
Beneath where the oak beamed dining room now stands there would once have run railway tracks, conclude Jo and Paul Fenwick, owners of this historic 17th century half timbered house.
So its fortunate then that the house itself was somewhere else entirely during the age of steam, far from the noise of engines and the rumble of carriages.
In fact, for more than 330 years itstood some 14 miles away in Bucknall near Stoke-on-Trent. So how on earth did it end up here?
Some 30 years or so ago the house was under threat of demolition, when its previous owner came across it. He decided to rescue it but chose to reconstruct it timber by timber and brick by brick in a new location, on its present site. To look at it now you would never know. Previously a listed building, in the 1980s it achieved listed status all over again, which reflects the true quality of the workmanship and care taken in its restoration.
Paul takes up the story: We bought the house from the previous owner, who had lived here for about 32 years and had a great ability andkeen eye for restoring period properties. I believe he agreed to sell it to us because we had come from a listed timber-framed farmhouse in Suffolk, built in 1520, and he could see we would have an empathy with it.
The advantages of buying an historic property that had been rebuilt were that many of the structural issues that Paul and Jo might otherwise have encountered in an old property had already been addressed. The house retained all its historic charm, but in the careful restoration there had been many enhancements. Wherever possible the original beams had been reused, but those that were rotten had been replaced. The building originally had brick foundations, but in the renovation these were replaced with heavy blocks of reclaimed sandstone from a thirteenth century abbey, which have also created a stunning and atmospheric crypt-style cellar room with mullion windows. Alongside this is another large basement room, providing additional living space in what is already a roomy house with a kitchen, an informal dining area, a formal dining room, a large snug and drawing room and four bedrooms, two of them with vaulted timbered ceilings.
The bedroom accommodation is split with one stairway leading up to the master bedroom, adjoining bathroom and guest room. The stairs up to the remaining two bedrooms and the family bathroom have new oak banisters carefully crafted to the same design as a small, remaining section of the original staircase. The pretty leaded windows add charm yet for a period property they are large and let in floods of light. Following the original design, the rooms are roomy and the ceilings are a good height unlike in many old timbered properties. Being six foot in this beamed house hasnt been a disadvantage, says Paul.
The property has lots to intrigue for example, when the house was rebuilt the hearth of the fireplace in the dining room was created from a reclaimed railway station platform a reminder of the sites previous history. Tucked behind the original over-mantle to the fireplace in the snug is a piece of paper explaining the propertys curious past.
We have been here seven years now and we havent changed it at all structurally although we have decorated it and added mod cons, says Paul.
The dcor was dated for example the bathrooms were avocado green and there were strip lights everywhere, says Jo. Also it didnt have central heating so that was a must. We replaced the old storage heaters with Victorian cast iron ones from an old school which we found in a reclamation yard. The couple had all 28 of them sandblasted back to the bare metal and then lacquered to give that period look.
Jo replaced the strip lights with lots of lamps and mood lighting and chose warm, rich colours for the dcor. She picked out traditionally-styled fabrics for the drapes and soft furnishings, many of which she made herself. And theres a reason why so much of the furniture in this period property looks as if it belongs here the couple bought several pieces from the previous owner. Wenegotiated for quite a lot of thefurniture 17th century Jacobean oak chairs, coffers and a 17th century chair, because we likedthem and they looked at home where they were, said Paul. They have combined this with furniture brought from their previous property and special purchases likean imposing, rustic-style, hand made wrought iron candelabra, which Paul particularly likes. Ifound it in an antique shop in Nantwich within the first couple ofweeks of living here. I bought it knowing it was going to go over thedining table!
The couple upgraded the two bathrooms with high quality Stonewood suites and bathroom furniture and replaced the kitchen with hand painted and hand made oak units. They also added a garage, double car port and garden store and converted a building alongside the main house, previously used for storage, into an attractive oak-beamed snooker room with a gymalongside it. This annexe alsohouses Pauls office since moving to the property he has relocated his mortgage and general insurance business, Interfinancial, from London and now works fromhome.
In addition to the care and craftsmanship that went into rebuilding the house, the changes Joand Paul have made to add modern day comforts mean, as Josays: It provides the best of both worlds the old and the new.
It will be a wrench, but Paul and Jo have now decided to move to be nearer their childrens secondary school. They give the impression that if they were to stay their plans would extend to just one more improvement: There is another wing of the original property that was not rebuilt here. There are still some of the reclaimed oak beams from that in the garden so, subject to planning permission, there may be scope to reinstate that to make the house complete again.
The Brookhouse, Knighton, Shropshire is on the market with Savills West Midlands in Telford witha guide price of 1,100,000