New chapter for cherished home with divided past
WHEN Clive and Rita Brett moved to this house almost 37 years ago, it was half the house it is today – in more ways than one.
At that time, it was literally split into two, separated by two blocked-up doorways, one upstairs and one downstairs.
The family jumped at the chance to buy the other half of the house seven years after moving in, and then removed the back staircase, which opened a bigger space in the rear hall.
And though the Bretts cannot be certain when exactly their home was built, it is likely the property had been divided for some time before they knew it.
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Older residents of Oldland can remember when the front half was a shop, while the rear half was used as living space for the retailers. Indeed, the Bretts discovered the old shop-front lintel when they rehashed the facade and put in new UPVC sash windows 15 years ago.
They have old photographs clearly showing the shop, but more interesting is a huge document dated 1778, which details the occupation of several residents, at least one of whom was a grocer.
Though the house is not listed, it is still full of period details, including working fireplaces, dado and picture rails and latch doors. Meanwhile, an original flagstone floor is exposed in one of the four reception rooms – probably the old kitchen.
The Bretts think a second flagstone floor may be hidden beneath the living room, which is dominated by a period cast iron fireplace, while mahogany panelling and a similar fire surround is the main feature of the dining room. This beautiful wood was once in a Bristol bank and the Bretts bought it at a reclamation yard.
The current kitchen, along with a utility area and a WC, is in a side extension, which also includes a small sun room opening to one of two patios. Beyond the patio is a lawn which wraps around the side and rear, and the Bretts have built a second patio around a mature weeping willow.
Elsewhere in the large garden are two connected ponds and lots of shrubs. A garage and parking space are at the top of the garden, with a driveway sloping down to the rear gate. Back in the house, upstairs are four double bedrooms (the master with en suite shower) and a large bathroom.
There are personal touches all over the house, where each room has been carefully decorated by Clive in a different colour scheme. The result is a far cry from the usual, pale and neutral theme that seems to be in fashion and is so favoured by estate agents. The combined effect of the decor, dark wood furniture, artwork, framed photos and ornaments speaks volumes about this family.
There's an almost tangible warmth here; a quirkiness too; and there's not a true straight line anywhere – which, along with the high ceilings, makes decorating a challenge!
Having made changes in every room and brought up their son and daughter here, the house is full of memories for the Bretts.
Clive and Rita paint a picture of a home always filled with people; always busy. Their children would often bring friends home from school to make toast over an open fire and, as the family grew, an informal youth club took over the cellar – and its members painted a mural that still has pride of place on one wall.
A Banksy it is not, but it has value for this family nonetheless and it is now part of this property's intriguing story.
But now, in their retirement, it's time for the Bretts to occupy a smaller house. "We are moving because it is a family house and the two of us are rattling around," says Clive, a semi-retired IT consultant.
But the couple have no plans to leave the area they love. "Oldland has retained its village feel," explained Rita. "We have so many good friends here. If anyone needs anything, people will always help. We have good neighbours too."
She hopes that a new family will cherish the house as she and Clive have.