‘Foreign’ building at home in the Wolds

Words by:
Caroline Bingham
Featured in:
October 2022

Our county has a wealth of listed properties but one of the most unique must be Colonial Cottage in Little Cawthorpe. Designed at the beginning of the 20th century as a prefab bungalow to be shipped abroad, its short journey was from London to Lincolnshire. By Caroline Bingham.

The property is in an idyllic spot on a prominent plot in the village above the flow of the Eau splash. A narrow, winding path leads from the footpath below up to the front door. Current owners Tracey and Gez Hyde have lived here for 21 years and are responsible for the complete renovation and extension of the building.

“The original square, three bedroom bungalow with its pretty veranda, French doors and corrugated iron roof was built here in 1910 on approximately one and a half acres of land,” explained Tracey. “We believe it was purchased by a gentleman call Mr Chambers from William Cooper & Sons of London. The listing credits it as a Boulton & Paul building but research before we began the renovations, especially by the surveyors at East Lindsey District Council, points to it being a William Cooper model.”

Tracey’s own research took them to Norwich to view a restored Boulton & Paul building and also to Immingham where, at the time, there were some timber and iron homes which had been erected for workers and their families close to the docks.

Manufactured using pitched pine and corrugated iron, Colonial Cottage was of a sturdy timber frame build and housed several more families including the Staples (the father of whom was a boatman on the Humber) and Mr Davy, who was resident for 40 years prior to its sale to the Hydes.

“By the millennium the building was derelict and owned by a local man who wanted to demolish the bungalow and redevelop the site,” Tracey continued. “A local resident had the property listed which brought it to the market again. We had a clear vision of how we wanted to save this piece of architectural history and bring it back to life but it was four years before it was habitable and we could move in.”

Documents that Tracey holds in her archive of research and photographs, donated by the Staples, show the bungalow in the 1930s and 40s, a monkey puzzle tree close to the front door. That tree is still in place now, towering above the roofline.

These prefabricated bungalows were marketed as ‘Buildings for Foreign Countries’ and most were exported to colonial outposts in India, Australia and Africa where they were easily transported and erected. Their design, especially the veranda and its overhang, offered cool shade from the sun and during monsoon season deflected the rain away from the walls and French windows – a benefit the Hydes still appreciate today.

“We took the building back to a timber frame skeleton and dug out the crudely laid concrete floor which had been poured to replace the original wooden floor boards when they rotted. We hired jack hammers and even unearthed old car parts which had been used as some very unusual rubble when the concrete was laid.”

In its place the Hydes reinstated a new wooden floor as it had been with an underfloor heating system throughout. The high quality, pitch pine tongue and groove panelling of the rooms and ceilings were stripped of many layers of paint and re-installed, replacing any timber near the base which was damaged. Originally, insulation of bitumen felt mixed with some natural fibre, possibly horse hair, was between the inner timbers and the external iron cladding so Tracey and Gez replaced this with Kingspan foil insulation. The roof was entirely replaced with new corrugated iron and a local joiner was employed to replace the rotten veranda and handrails.

“We have retained as much of the original materials of the building as possible”, continued Tracey.

“Many of the windows are original and certainly the cladding and tongue and groove are now more than 100 years old. I think it is fair to say the cottage has never been warmer than it is now. In 2011 we built a block and timber extension which created a new utility, bathroom and sitting room where we have a log burning Esse stove.”

Tracey and Gez have a great sense of pride in saving this exceptional heritage home. “We found it a relatively simple construction to renovate. Tracey has an experience of living abroad so that resonated with us and her family have a history of undertaking house renovations. It was just a natural choice for us to do most of the work with her father, except the joinery, ourselves.”

Colonial Cottage has become a little piece of paradise for the Hydes. The spring-fed chalk stream at the garden gate and the micro climate created by the banks of trees which shield the gardens attract plenty of wildlife. They purchased six more adjoining acres to accommodate Tracey’s horses, part of which includes a small wood. The house has not remained unnoticed as in 2013 it was featured on an episode of Britain’s Secret Homes hosted by Michael Buerk and Bettany Hughes.

“There is just such a lovely feeling to this house,” said Tracey. “It is a combination of its heritage, location and layout. We are surrounded by beautiful gardens and countryside and I find it amazing that we have been able to future-proof this little piece of architectural and county history for many more years to come.”

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