The B&B where ghostly 'guests' still turn up unannounced
PUBLISHED: 09:42 15 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:33 20 February 2013
When Jane and Kevin Scrivner bought their house near Stratford-upon-Avon they hadn't bargained for the extra inhabitants which occasionally make their presence felt.
Jane Scrivner and her partner Kevin often used to drive down the lane that leads to a certain magnificent house near Stratford-upon-Avon and they would fantasise how wonderful it would be to live there. It stood in nearly three acres, had three floors plus cellars and was built over three different periods the cellars date back to 1650 while the beamed areas date from 1780 and the high-ceilinged parts are from around 1870.
Then one day the enormous house came on the market so the couple went to view it. Kevin, who has always lived in large houses, loved the idea of having 13 bedrooms but Jane thought it was just too big. However one particular room the sitting room lingered in her mind as she had a very strong feeling it was the heart of the house where she could feel really at home. Plus the house had some very interesting features such as the Victorian washing machine (made of cast iron) which stands in the ancient inglenook fireplace in he sitting room nd is now used as a wood-burning stove.
We put wood inside it through a little door, light it and cover the top of it with the upturned copper bowl in which the clothes used to be washed in, says Jane. A flue leads out of the back of the stove and up the chimney. Other lovely old features include the high ceilings, splendid proportions of the rooms and sash windows although there is a real mix of styles, says Jane. Luckily it isnt listed.
So, despite her initial impressions, she found herself wanting the house as well and although it came to a sealed bid Jane and Kevin succeeded. They moved in ten years ago with their five cats and were able to remove some of the walls downstairs to let more light in, especially as the house faces south. They also removed a sweeping driveway which led to the front door in order to gain more privacy it wasnt very attractive, a sort of red tarmac put in by the previous owner, a builder, says Jane. But one of their main jobs was to take out a great many baths actually in the bedrooms. At some time the place had been a bed and breakfast business; for instance, we found one double bedroom had half an avocado suite in a corner, she says.
And every basin had an old-fashioned mirror above it. Now Ive put about seven of those mirrors in our family bathroom as a feature. However although the B&B is no more they still have guests ghostly ones as a great many visitors find the first floor very creepy, especially around a particular archway, to the point where they wont go through it. Others have woken in the night and felt someone sitting on the end of the bed. But I havent seen or felt anything, says Jane. Although when Im working at home I become so absorbed I probably wouldnt.
Jane has written 11 books on healthy eating including one called Detox Yourself published by Piatkus in 1999 which is still selling well (having been updated four times). Her latest is a manual on Le Stone therapy as Jane also has a teaching and treatment clinic in Stratford where clients are encouraged to book for a session and then decide what they want when they get there anything from a facial to a massage, says Jane. But it is all more health-orientated than beauty. After all, when you book dinner at a restaurant you dont book the food at the same time, do you? You need to see the menu.
Jane has travelled widely and picked up a great many objets on her travels as well as spotting finds in antique shops. For instance she has a bateau lit thought to go back to Napoleonic times found in an architectural salvage yard. Made of flame mahogany and burr walnut this beautiful bed is decorated on one side only as the other side was meant to be pushed against a ships cabin wall. Kevin and I were planning a skiing holiday but when we saw the bed knew we had to have it so we cancelled the holiday, says Jane. Now she lovingly polishes it with beeswax from time to time.
Other fascinating touches to Janes house include the six-foot-long Chinese daybed in the Drawing Room which is now a coffee table while the red walls of this room look particularly beautiful at night. Especially when lit with dozens of candles, says Jane. I have a paint specialist friend Kerry Bromfield who suggested a Japanned effect in here. To get this she first painted the walls in a colour best described as JCB Yellow (very strong and bright) and added 13 layers of a thin transparent paint with a faint touch of red in it. The effect is amazing.
In here is also a reproduction French fireplace in black and white marble which they gained in an exchange. Previously there was a pretty but tiny Victorian fireplace which just didnt suit the proportions of the room, says Jane. It needed something with more size.
Surprisingly the couple now have only four bedrooms as the others have become variously a dressing room, an office, a packing room, a music room or storage rooms. We are under no illusion that whilst we may 'own' our home, we are merely caretakers for the time we are here, says Jane. It will be lived in and loved by many, many more people after us, each putting their own mark on it. Maybe that's why previous owners come back to visit us to 'see what they've done'!
- Coxs Architectural Salvage, 10 Fosseway Business Park, Moreton in Marsh GL56 9NQ; Tel: 01608 652505
- Fired Earth, 114 Regent Street, Leamington Spa CV32 4NR; Tel: 01926 886125 and at 38 Poplar Road, Solihull B91 3AB; Tel: 0121 704 3605; www.firedearth.com
- Scotts Decorators Merchants, Unit 5 Wharf Road, Avon Industrial Estate, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 0AD; Tel: 01789 292171
- The Richard Harvey Collection, 28 Church Street, Shipston-on-Stour, CV36 4AP; Tel: 01608 662168