Tuesday, 31 July 2012

It's Official...

Being an academic, I have to acknowledge my sources.  The title of this post was supplied by the ever inventive Mr M, my neighbour, who sent me this photograph at 0612hrs this morning.  As the street's very own vigilante, I suspect he'd spent the night lurking under the lime trees waiting to accost unsavoury looking youths, drunks or unsuspecting elderly ladies who have the misfortune to look like methodists.  It's a long story and, no, he doesn't get out much.  Other than to hang about under the lime trees obviously.  Anyhow, we'll leave him viewing his streaming CCTV on his computer and move on.  And talking of moving...

(Photograph Courtesy of Le Mas Enterprises Inc.)

So, it's happening.

Since I last posted, we have reverted to Plan B (or was it Plan E?), which is to rent both No.7 and The Horseblock.  All a bit scary but no one seems to want to buy either (the nerve!) and I guess that the national economic growth figures published last week will probably finish the house market off completely for the foreseeable future.  We are assured that the rental market is vibrant but The Horseblock has been on the market since last Monday with no interest yet.  "July and August are notoriously quiet", they tell us, "Everyone is on holiday".  All a bit like the excuses for the lack of growth - it's the jubilee, the wet weather, the Olympics, leaves on the line, the wrong kind of snow etc.

We met with the Planning Officer on Friday.  She was brilliant, very knowledgeable and very happy with everything that we proposed.  Although we're not really planning anything more outlandish than bathrooms and a kitchen.  However, she was full of bright ideas about things like conservation glazing and French drains.  I really can't wait! We talked about the possibility of ground source heating and she warned us that if we start digging up the garden to any depth, then we will have to call in the archaeologists. 

We went back into the house on Saturday morning.  We've only visited it in the afternoon before and it was lovely to experience the sun streaming into what will be the dining room and living room at the front of the house.  The house faces east so we will get the sun on the front in the morning and on the back G&T terrace in the late afternoon.  I think the Church tower will be our new yard arm!  We measured up what will be the first bathroom and tried out the boiler.  Delighted to say that the heating is very efficient.  Particularly on a hot July day.  However, the potential cost of heating the place is terrifying (hence the ground source).  We took WD40 with us - I know, does life get more exciting? - and managed to get into the sheds at the back.  Two huge sheds.  One with power and one with lots and lots of shelves.  S is thrilled.  With his love of gadgets, he has a tool for every occasion (which sounds a bit 'Fifty Shades of Grey' but I'm talking Maplin and Screwfix here) and they will be displayed in all their glory once we move in.    

We spent Saturday afternoon in a bathroom store in Oxford trying to find the right kind of bath.  Back at the Old Rectory, there is a single toilet (male, I think) on the first floor next door to a room with two cubicles (female, I think).  This is where the first bathroom will go.  We're hoping to have that ready to install by the time we move in and we're aiming for the first week of October for the move, only because I'm so busy at work during September and this will be my first chance to take leave.

Before I sign off for this post, my thanks to my dear friend, Diana, who is in the Highworth Historical Society and put me in touch with the Chair, Jo, who has sent me some fascinating material about the house and its history.  I'll feed bits and pieces in as I blog over the coming months.  But, for starters, the listed building entry for the house describes it as follows:

Loosely planned courtyard house of C18 with grander front fixed to north wing.  Two and a half storeys.  Roughcast.  Hipped stone tile roof, half hipped to north.  East front 1+3 windows.  Small pediment with urn-finials in centre of three window bay, contains attic occulus.  Venetian window below.  Late glazing in sash windows, flush framed.  Projecting central porch, mostly glazed, with slender fluted Doric colonettes to moulded cornice hoods.  Two and a half storey extension to west.  Three bays with attached brick wing.

The document also indicates that the former coach house (the Church Hall at the top of Vicarage Lane) and the stable cottages that were once next to it were also possibly attached to the Old Rectory. Oh, and the garden wall has a separate listing:

Probably early C19th.  Only that section facing Vicarage Lane.  About 90 yards.  

 And will probably cost a fortune to maintain!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Setting the Foundations

The Old Rectory: Front View

 It was around Easter time that we heard it was on the market.  The home of a marketing company for many years, the partners had been trying to let it as a business but with no success.  My friend, B, emailed me on a Thursday morning to say it was up for sale.  I emailed S: 'The Old Rectory is on the market.  Should we get the details?'  His answer was almost immediate.  I went straight to the estate agents and looked around the house that afternoon.  It needs about £150k spent on it, I was advised.  But to my untrained eyes, it seemed reasonably sound, just in need of some patching up and decorating in places.  Of course, there was no bathroom but, being a business, it had five loos.  There was a sort of kitchen at the back with a dishwasher but no cooker.  The window sills looked in need of replacement in places and who knows what the roof was like.

The Old Rectory: North Wing
And it wasn't just one house but three.  With this to the right hand side.  And another similar building to the left.  But the rooms at the front (Georgian?) were beautifully proportioned, light and bright, with tall ceilings and simple elegance.  A flagstone corridor bisects the two 'houses' at the back with a series of rooms on the left and a future kitchen on the right.  Upstairs was a confusing jumble of staircases and rooms, fireplaces and cupboards.

S came down to see it the next day and we put in a bid.  However, we had two houses to sell.  My house, over the road from the Old Rectory, where my mother lives and S's house in Staverton, Northamptonshire, a beautiful 17th Century cottage that it will break our hearts to leave.  But we could see the Old Rectory being our grand design and, perhaps, an eventual exit route from the stressful working world that we both inhabit.  We had thoughts of B&B, a rented top floor, small weddings, letting the house out for TV and cinema, cookery evenings.  Our imaginations ran riot.

But there was another bid in the frame.  And this bidder had a buyer.  We graciously shrugged and moved on.

A month or so later, the estate agent rang.  By a quirk of fate, S was at home and took the call.  The bidder had lost their buyer, were we still interested?  We were.  But then there was another buyer, who was bidding and then the original buyer reappeared with another bid.  We moved hastily, secured the money by remortgaging both properties and our bid was accepted.  And that's the start of the story.  We hope.  Solicitors are on stand-by, mortgage applications are going through, houses are yet to sell or be let, permission is awaited for the Old Rectory to become a home once again.

And this blog will be my record of our renovation project, detailing the ups and downs, the triumphs, the rows and, hopefully, the revitalisation of this building into a much loved home.  I hope you'll join me on this journey.  There is lots to discover about the house, about renovation and about ourselves.