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Words: Sarah Winstanley
Photography: Courtesy of Mount and Minster
Featured in the October 2016 issue

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When Chris Hall and his wife Lynne began looking for a new home, they wanted a project with space for equestrian facilities.

Their daughters Rachael and Rebecca loved horses and although their previous house in Ludborough, near Louth, was surrounded by fields, it had no land of its own. And so began their search…

Chris, who was in the motor trade before selling his car garage and moving into property development, spotted an almost derelict house at Tealby, near Market Rasen. When a neighbour told them the owner lived at Cliff House in the nearby village of Walesby, the couple set off to knock on her door.

As they approached the property they were taken aback, firstly by its rundown state and secondly by its location – it stood peacefully alone amongst fields, yet was only a quarter of a mile from Walesby, one mile from Tealby and equidistance from Lincoln, Louth and Grimsby.

Chris said: “The house was in a dishevelled state – the front was completely covered in briars and the garden was overgrown. My wife went round the back to knock on the door and an old lady answered and said, ‘You don’t want this house. It’s far too big!’ But it was exactly what we wanted – no neighbours, nice views, room for equestrian facilities; I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it!”

Chris wrote a letter to the owner which was ignored, but a few weeks later the house appeared in an estate agent’s auction catalogue as the owner had sadly become ill and had been taken into a care home.

“I was late getting to the auction,” said Chris. “But we had looked at the house, driven by it and walked around the fields which surrounded it and had a price in mind. When I walked in, the auction was in full flow and the auctioneer was just introducing Cliff House. I got involved in the bidding and bought the house at the price we said we would pay for it.

“I then went to a phonebox, phoned Lynne and said ‘I’m buying a bottle of something’ and she replied, ‘What have you done?’ and went a bit quiet. I don’t think she ever got over it!”

Built in 1939, Cliff House had only had two previous owners, both were farmers and neither had had any children.

After selling their home in Ludborough, the Hall family moved into a caravan in the grounds of their new home while they completed the work. And what a project it was!

Chris explained: “We totally stripped the house until it was a bare shell with only the roof, walls and some hardwood flooring remaining. We removed the windows, doors, most of the floors and ceilings, electrics and plumbing. We converted a double garage to the left of the house into a lounge with bathroom above. I had been a plumber by trade in the past and so I did the plumbing and we brought in tradesmen as we needed them.

“We’d done it so many times before with different properties that we knew what to expect; the only surprise was that the roof didn’t need replacing. In the end, it was like having a completely new house.”

During the renovation work, Chris discovered a working pump which drew water from a well in the old washroom in a range of outbuildings to the right of the property. Although a conservatory now stands on this land, he carefully preserved the pump and it still pumps water from the well to this day.

The house had also retained its original back staircase and servants’ bells from a time when servants were still employed by the owners. “The girls used to have great fun chasing around up the back stairs and down the front ones again,” said Chris.

It would be two years before the renovation work on the house was finished and, although Lynne describes her time in the caravan as “soul destroying”, Chris jokes that he prefers the phrase “character building”.

The only part of the original plans that was not completed was adding two bedrooms and two en-suite bathrooms into the roof space, which Chris says would add further spectacular views to the property.

When the family did finally move into their new six bedroomed home in 1990, only the lounge needed finishing off. It would be some time, however, before the double garage with large storage area above, stable block, riding arena and three quarters of an acre of gardens to landscape were completed.

Once the equestrian facilities were installed, Rachael and Rebecca were able to bring their ponies, which had been in a succession of stables, home. Chris said: “We would take them to gymkhanas and dressage classes and they knew they had to put the work in. Lynne and I got involved with the Pony Club and the girls’ friends would bring their ponies round; it became our life.”

He added: “I had an old 1960s tractor and have photos of carefree times when the girls and their friends would be pulled along on trailer rides. Now I’ve got it going again for when my grandson Elliott comes round.”

Of particular note is the summerhouse in the front garden which was the old ticket office and changing room from the pool at RAF Binbrook, now known as Brookenby.

“Lynne used to work selling property at RAF Binbrook and one day, I asked about two changing rooms at the pool. We bought both and one has now been reroofed and plastered out and would make a perfect office space for anyone who wants to work from home,” said Chris.

In recent years, Chris has created an allotment with five large raised beds, a greenhouse, hen run, orchard, compost heap and storage area.

The couple are particularly fond of the views from the conservatory where the deer, which graze in the fields on three sides of the property, come within two metres of the house.

Over the years, Chris continued with his property renovation business whilst completing the work on the house; Lynne worked locally and is currently an accounts manager for a company in Louth. Meanwhile, the children, who are now both in their 30s, attended local primary schools, then De Aston School in Market Rasen and now live in the south of England. Rachael is married with two children, two-and-a-half-year-old Elliott and Masie who is three months old, and Rebecca is engaged to be married.

Despite having some wonderful memories of their time in the house, Chris and Lynne have now decided to sell their home.

Chris said: “Now the girls have moved down south, they want us to be around for our grandchildren. When we were young our parents stepped in to help out but we are a three-hour drive away.

“We intend to sell Cliff House and move into our property in Tealby before buying a house near to our children.

“I’m ready to take on another project now and I see it as a challenge and a fun next step in our lives.”

Cliff House at Catskin Lane, Market Rasen, is on the market with Mount and Minster with a guide price of £750,000. For more information contact the estate agents on (01522) 716204.

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