Through the keyhole of Glebe Farm near Alcester
PUBLISHED: 10:20 06 March 2013 | UPDATED: 21:04 05 April 2013
Paul Devey's determination has turned Glebe Farm into a home that combines the best of ancient and modern, says Victoria Jenkins
Paul Deveys determination has turned Glebe Farm into a home that combines the best of ancient and modern, says Victoria Jenkins
Ancient Glebe Farm near Alcester is one of the few dwellings in the county to contain an intact 14th century oak cruck arch. When Paul Devey came to see the L shaped farmhouse on its 27 acres of land in 1998 he was surprised and relieved to learn the place was not listed, despite this striking medieval feature at the heart of the house.
The farmhouse exterior, says Paul, was a mishmash of different brickwork, some rendered, some wire-cut and some wood-clad. As for the interior, this was very tired and dated with several small dark rooms. Both the kitchen and single bathroom were cramped and old-fashioned and the latter was typically 1960s with a dated avocado suite and black tiles.
I could see it needed completely refurbishing and would be a huge amount of work, he says.
But building is a passion for Paul and in any case he had fallen in love with the location and surroundings. He also loves a challenge and was looking for a project, so it was a huge setback when he discovered the house went to another buyer. It was very disappointing but about a year later I saw the property had come back onto the market so I went for it, he says.
However getting planning permission was fraught with problems.
My original plans to demolish and rebuild the farmhouse so that it faced the road were refused four times, says Paul. The planners insisted it cover the original footprint with an extension of no more than 30% extra. My fifth set of plans showing a modified house on the same footprint was accepted.
With the help of now-retired architect Robin Wardell of J W Designs Paul was eventually given the go-ahead in 2004 and moved into rented accommodation while the work began. He was not only project manager, but did all the specifications, sourced all the materials and employed various skilled tradesmen.
Although he used to have his own furniture-making company Paul is now a property developer, says his wife Louise who married him in 2007 He has a great deal of vision and is very hands-on when it comes to DIY. He also has the ability to look at something, work out the square footage and know exactly how many bricks hell need, plus he has his own JCB.
I was allowed to demolish an old cow shed at the west end of the house and build a single storey dining room in its place, says Paul. That meant I had to move the pond further away to create the footings. I also extended a small sitting room so that it became double its original size and created a roof terrace out of the master bedroom. I added two green oak porches around the front and back doors so the farmhouse now has a total of 4000 square feet. The project took around two years to complete. But the main issue was trying to have the house flow around the 14th century cruck arch and the creation of a vaulted ceiling to enable it to stand on its own in all its glory. This is the main feature of the new development and it had to satisfy todays rigorous building control requirements while retaining its structural characteristics so for that I brought in the help of a structural engineer.
With the help of a labourer, Paul began the project by removing the roof and then removing the outer skin of the walls. This was so that he and the bricklayers could build a new outer skin using all-matching reclaimed bricks for a more cohesive look and install a damp course too. However, in some cases he found that either the footings or the inner skin of bricks were not up to standard which meant demolishing large sections of walls, creating new footings and then re-building the walls from scratch.
One big setback was that before we could replace the roof there was a bad storm and two of the main kitchen walls blew down overnight, he says.
As for the roof, this was insulated, new roof timbers put in and new handmade clay tiles laid to replace the originals. It was more economical to sell off the old ones and buy new which all matched.
Internally he demolished walls such as that between the kitchen and the small breakfast room to create much bigger rooms, and built others to gain a total of two bathrooms, three shower rooms and a downstairs cloakroom. There are now four bedrooms where there were three.
As many of the walls had been demolished then rebuilt I obviously plastered, rewired and replumbed the whole house, says Paul. I installed oil-fired central heating and replaced the poor quality flooring with Turkish marble (as it is more hardwearing than limestone) throughout the ground floor; that is, except for solid oak boards in the dining room and the two lounges (which we call the summer and winter lounges.) Ive put in uPVC window frames with double glazing, Sunfold bi-fold doors in the two lounges and the main bedroom, and all new oak joinery such as the interior doors and the skirting boards.
There is a new bespoke kitchen from Barn & Brook of Shipston-on-Stour with an Aga and all the bath and shower rooms are fitted with Jacuzzi sanitary ware.
They also redecorated throughout, mainly in Laurence Llewellyn Bowen paints and wallpapers and outside laid new drains and a large terrace of Riven limestone around most of the house. However there was yet more work and planning permission was granted in stages, often retrospectively. Not for the faint-hearted, says Paul. We had to get permission for everything, says Louise. To move the oil tank, for a double garage, to rebuild the wall separating us from the road and stabling for my two horses as I take part in dressage events.
Where the garage now stands was once a wooden shed, and the garden wall was rebuilt using both original bricks and some reclaimed topped off with blue ridged header tiles, some found in the garden and some given them by a local farmer. A Dutch barn used for hay storage was demolished and in its place Paul built an American barn fitted with Victorian-style stalls to house Louises horses.
Was there a worst moment? Not really except for one particular day just before Christmas, says Louise. It was chucking it down with rain and the garden had to be fenced off so the dogs didnt fall in where we were digging out the new pond. There seemed to be muddy footprints everywhere and a constant collection of wellies by the kitchen door. I did wonder if it all ever would be finished.
And the best part? Seeing the garden mature after we planted a lawn, lavender hedges and oak and spruces. We have an orchard which was very overgrown but full of plum and apple trees and we grow sunflowers too to feed the birds. Paul and I are keen on wildlife and every day we see deer, badgers and foxes while curlews come to nest every year.
Last word from Paul: With hindsight I wish Id knocked down the whole farmhouse and built a new one in its place. Would I do it again? Absolutely! I am looking forward to my next project which will be hopefully very soon only next time Ill have the benefit of the experience gained from this one.
The couple are now looking for another project so are selling their home for 1,550,000 through Sothebys.