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Ardyn Griffin's Cotswold Cottage

PUBLISHED: 15:37 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:20 20 February 2013

Kitchen: the newer Rayburn which runs on solid fuel has old tiles behind it which Ardyn bought from a junk shop in Malvern. The sideboard at the far end of the room beneath the window is part of an oak dresser which belonged to her grandmother.

Kitchen: the newer Rayburn which runs on solid fuel has old tiles behind it which Ardyn bought from a junk shop in Malvern. The sideboard at the far end of the room beneath the window is part of an oak dresser which belonged to her grandmother.

Ardyn Griffin's pretty Gloucestershire cottage was once a rather basic affair with no hot water and a corrugated roof on which goats used to roam. Photographs by Nick Yarsley

Nearly 50 years ago Ardyn Griffin, then a young art and pottery teacher at a boys' prep school, bought her tiny cottage in Gloucestershire.. It had once been two cottages of the one-up, one-down type - in fact had Elizabethan foundations - but previous owners had linked them and added a lean-to. Although it had water it was cold water only and there was no bathroom.


"Fortunately there was a loo," says Ardyn. "The fact there was no bath and no hot water to put into it wasn't too much of a problem as I was able to have a bath at the prep school."


The back garden was full of old apple and pear trees in which a neighbour had permission to graze his horses and as far as Ardyn was concerned she was coming into a lovely wilderness.


It turned out that the previous owners had actually rescued the cottage as in the 1930s it had been condemned and by then the once-thatched cottage had acquired an ugly corrugated iron roof on which goats used to climb.


"The previous owners replaced this with Canadian cedar shingles as anything heavier, such as tiles, would have crushed it into the ground."


Out in the garden there were the remains of an earth-closet where she was able to keep her hens and in another shed was hidden a very old well. A rather surprised Ardyn found it when she tried to store her wheel barrow inside and almost fell down it.


"Luckily I didn't as it about 90 feet deep," she says. " I find the water perfectly drinkable but it's easier to use the kitchen tap. "


As Ardyn thought the well could be made pretty she had the shed demolished and built a wall round it so now it resembles one from a nursery rhyme.


However pretty soon Ardyn managed to secure a grant which gave her a hot water system and a small white Rayburn to provide it. "It also meant that the bath which I had found stored away in a very damp coalshed (along with a very old iron "copper" for washing clothes) could be plumbed into the kitchen," says Ardyn. "It was how things were in the 1960s. I say "kitchen" but really it amounted to a lean-to with a sink and the walls were often black with mould."


However things have changed a bit since then as the cottage is now Grade II listed. In addition Ardyn married then had a baby son called Robert born in 1974 and the family stayed on in the cottage. With the help of architect Harold Ragget of Tewkesbury the lean-to was demolished and was rebuilt far more sturdily as a kitchen with a bathroom above. Then ten years later more building work was done to create a new kitchen on the east side with two bedrooms above that.


"And the original kitchen-bathroom became an extension of the middle room with its Rayburn," she says.


At the same time the sitting room on the west side of the cottage was extended outwards.


"The exterior west wall was a bit dicey anyway." says Ardyn. "It was exposed to the wet westerly winds so was rotten and we seized the chance to extend it, put on a new exterior wall and some French windows.


"My house is a real patchwork," she adds. "There are still walls of wattle and daub here and there although in other places these have been replaced with brick and beams and, in the more recent parts, concrete breeze blocks.. And I have two Rayburns now - one for solid fuel in the new kitchen and an oil-fired replacement in the middle room.


As an artist Ardyn is drawn to the unconventional and two of her "guest bedrooms" are brightly-painted roadman's vans which she has parked in her garden. "They date from the 1930s and would once have been dragged along by steam-rollers when repairing roads," she says. "They were made by Bonford and Evershead of Evesham and originally owned by Worcester County Council. I found one abandoned in a field in Upton-on-Severn while the other was acquired by a chap in Chesterfield but I managed to persuade him to sell it."


Ardyn was just as colourful and unconventional when it came to furnishing and decorating her home.


For instance the pine double bed in the guest bedroom was once a set of pony jumps which her farmer cousin had made for his daughter. "He'd broken up a bed to make the jumps and I stripped the pieces and put them all together again," she says.


Her own bed was a present from the landlord of a nearby cottage who found his tenants had left it behind and her bright yellow kitchen table was bought at a house sale in Hereford. "It looks like old Government stock to me as the yellow is actually Formica," she says.


Ardyn is now a widow but shares her cottage with Phoebe a Border collie, two cats called Greyk and Pantaloon, lots of chickens and a visiting majestic peacock and his wife. But she still works very much as an artist and examples of her work are all around her home.


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