When Stephen Clure first caught a glimpse of this ancient cottage he knew he could restore it back to its former glory. Just over 10 years later he can still remember how, despite its dereliction, the Grade II listed Tudor cottage exuded an overwhelming charm.
"The owner lived in the nearby manor but had neglected it to such an extent that it was on the At Risk register," says Stephen. Records date the house way back to 1572. It's the oldest house in the village, and before Stepen bought it the house had stood empty for 20 years. But despite its state, all Stephen could see was how beautiful it looked with the roses cascading over it and the ivy growing over the windows.
The ivy, however, was growing inside too, having forced its way through the gaps in the walls. And as it turned out, this just paved the way for the biggest of problems - the roof. "At first the roofer tried to patch it up but it was hopeless," says Stephen, an antiques dealer. In the end the whole lot had to come off and it was back to square one again. Many of the Cotswold slate tiles were salvageable which was lucky as they're very hard to find nowadays.
In typical Cotswold fashion the house had been built up against a bank and unfortunately it was totally wet inside. And whilst digging the soil away from the walls, Stephen discovered that the staircase had rotted away leaving only two of the original steps. A lucky discovery was the original inglenook - it was hidden underneath a 1960s tiled fireplace. "We had a lot of pleasure tackling that with a sledgehammer!" grins Stephen.
The lime plaster had also seen better days, so Stephen had to rake the joints, point it all up and plaster and lime wash it all over again. A total of 15 coats of lime wash was needed on the sitting room walls alone. "It takes a lot of patience and work as we did it all ourselves through sheer lack of cash. But it is a skill which we had to learn," Stephen says.
The cottage - near Cirencester - did have water and electricity but the wiring had to be replaced and central heating had to be installed. After sorting out the essentials, Stephen's thoughts turned to the outside. The garden had been completely taken over by shoemak trees, which have a habit of throwing out shoots which travel underground and then pop up several yards away. In addition there were piles of old rubbish everywhere - the garden hadn't been touched for over 20 years and Stephen had to start from scratch.
An unexpected visitor was the world-famous gardener Rosemary Verey who lived nearby at Barnsley House and who came to advise Stephen on what to do with the space. The garden has now been turned into 'rooms' with a potager, a stream, a huge goldfish pond, a herb patch and a terrace, all connected by little winding paths and odd flights of steps in a higgledy-piggledy way.
When it came to furnishing the cottage it was a case of just finding things that they liked and working out where to place them later. "Most of the soft furnishings are covered in sturdy hunting tweed as we have two rescue cats, Rosy and Percy, and a border terrier, Billie. We spend half our time in London and half here at the cottage and the animals always travel with us. In fact on Friday afternoons Rosy jumps into her box unprompted, ready for the journey," laughs Stephen.
It's fair to say that inside the cottage, it's the bathroom that's been a talking point for family and friends. The white ware comes from Water Monopoly in Queens Park who are specialists in old fittings. Although the bath is reproduction, made of heavy resin, the blue and white lavatory bowl is original Royal Doulton c.1890s. "It's probably the same age as our septic tank outside," explains Stephen. The elaborate wooden housing round it looks like a Medieval throne, but although the wood is old, it was made up only recently. Stephen was told it was actually built as a mock-up for a seat when the House of Lords was being refurbished, but it now hides Stephen's cistern. The basin is original, French 19th century and so are all the taps.
Old stained glass panels are placed in the window, which was once the doorway to the cowshed. Animals lived cheek by jowl with their owners in Tudor times and Stephen believes that the panel on the left with the lion and the unicorn is actually Tudor. The interesting arched timber feature behind the bath was once part of the organ loft from nearby Birdlip Parish Church. "The way our home was put together is by way of a happy accident," says Stephen. "It's eclectic and unconventional, just the way we like it."