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Words: Sarah Winstanley
Photography: Courtesy of Robert Bell & Co
Featured in the June 2012 issue

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When David Chapman and Brian McGill decided they wanted a new renovation project, they simply put a pin in the map.

The retired pair, who both worked in the ‘rag trade’, had lived on the Isle of Wight for twelve years when they felt the urge to embark on their seventh house restoration.

Mr Chapman said: “We wanted another project and suddenly realised that house prices were increasing quite a lot on the Isle of Wight, so we started looking elsewhere.”

At first they searched Rightmove for period houses in Norfolk and then widened the search to Lincolnshire, finding Clevedon House in the market town of Spilsby.

Mr Chapman said: “We’ve always bought Georgian and Victorian houses because they are a much nicer size and lend themselves to a better way of life.

“Clevedon House was in a sad state, having been converted into two flats many years ago by the local council.

“It is not an attractive house on the outside but we felt it had a heart on the inside and on our first viewing we got a very good idea of what it had once been. We decided to restore it back into one home.”

After their offer was accepted in August 2006, they moved into the property and embarked on an eighteen-month renovation and restoration project using local builders and tradesmen to carry out the work.

Mr Chapman said: “It was a major restoration job to convert two flats back into one house but we found extremely good local people who were able to do the work we wanted.

“The builder took down walls that had been installed during the conversion and completely re-wired and re-plumbed the property.

“The suspended ceilings that had been put up throughout the ground floor were ripped down revealing a further three or four feet of ceiling height. Once the rooms were re-plastered, we brought in craftsmen to copy and replace the cornicing and ceiling roses in each room while the other work was still ongoing.”

He added: “We lived in the house as we renovated it and it was a little bit precarious at times when we had to climb over heaps of rubble to cook and find things!”

All the windows in the property were replaced by Victorian style windows, which open inwards so they can be cleaned properly, and a supplier in Spalding provided six wooden fire surrounds and cast iron grates for the fireplaces.

Once the major restructuring work was complete, the pair set about redecorating the house back to its former glory.

They sourced William Morris wallpaper from Sanderson and other papers by the Little Green Paint Company, which had been reproduced from wallpaper found in Georgian properties in London. They also specially commissioned the huge twelve foot by twelve foot curtains for many of the rooms.

Mr Chapman said: “We didn’t decorate the rooms with anything earlier than late-Georgian. We always do our best to stay within the period of the house from the time it was built until fifty years on. For example, the paintwork in the house is all off-white because the Victorians and Georgians could not create white paint at that time.”

Although the majority of the furniture and ornaments in the property had been brought from their previous home, they took great pleasure in sourcing some items from antique shops in Horncastle.

“We bought a number of items from Horncastle Antiques and Seaview Antiques in Horncastle,” Mr Chapman added. “Once we found them we stayed with them because they were very good.”

It took around four years for Mr Chapman and Mr McGill to be content with the house and for the last two years they have simply been enjoying their surroundings.

Mr Chapman added: “Once it was all finished and we could just live in the place, it was marvellous. It is three floors with cellars and the walls are thick so you don’t have noise coming from elsewhere.”

If the house seems like the perfect Gentleman’s Residence then it is a fitting title, for it is believed the property was originally built in 1847 for officials at the court house opposite.

It is understood that the land the house stands on was originally part of the Willoughby Estate and that Eresby Avenue was known as the Quarter Mile Gallop from the Manor House.

It is believed plans were in place to build three pairs of semi-detached houses but only one pair was built and that the first resident was a gentleman of leisure who was the son of a court official.

With the restoration complete, Clevedon House is once again a grand residence brimming with period features including fourteen-foot ceilings to the ground floor, ornate plaster cornices and ceiling roses, panelled doors and deep skirting boards.

The front door opens onto a vestibule with three arched windows and a black and white tiled floor which leads into the main hallway, which has a fine sweeping balustrade staircase leading to the first and second floors.

Both the sitting room and library have large bay windows (installed in around 1900 when the house was modernised) with concealed shutters and whilst the sitting room has a marble fireplace with tiled hearth and living flame gas fire, the library benefits from an open fire and eight-foot tall bookcases to three walls.

The dining room has wood panelling painted a dramatic red colour and leads into the kitchen with its fitted wall and base units, sash window and Belfast sink.

There are six bedrooms on the two upper floors – the first floor has three bedrooms, one of which is currently used as a sitting room, and a large bathroom with bath and shower. On the second floor there is another bathroom and a further three bedrooms, one of which is used as a media room and another as an office/work room.

Outside, the private walled gardens are accessed through a gated entrance along a gravelled driveway and feature mature trees and shrubbery beds. There is also an attached garage and four brick built outhouses with doors onto a courtyard.

For Mr Chapman and Mr McGill, the days are spent enjoying their home with occasional jaunts to the antique shops of Horncastle. But without the demands of property restoration to distract them, the pair have found life in Spilsby a little slow.

Mr Chapman said: “Neither of us drive and public transport connecting Spilsby to Lincoln or Boston is not good. Most buses leave Lincoln at 9pm which means trips to the theatre, cinema or concerts are out.”

The house has now been placed on the market and Mr Chapman and Mr McGill have brought out the map and pin once again.

“There are many holes in the map already but until we find a buyer we won’t make any firm plans,” Mr Chapman said. “We do know that we’d like to stay in Lincolnshire though and that we will be looking for another restoration project, but maybe not such a major one as this has been!”

• Clevedon House on Church Street, Spilsby is on the market with Robert Bell and Co for £399,950. For more information contact the estate agents on (01507) 522222.

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