Sue and David Furnival's Herefordshire Home
PUBLISHED: 10:51 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:47 20 February 2013
Sue and David furnival's Herefordshire home, dating from 1432, is in very good hands with the current owners who have lavished it with love and time to become the stunning property it is today. Photography by Nicholas Yarsley
The beautiful red-painted medieval home of Sue and David Furnival near Ledbury seems made for snowy days in winter. Dating from 1432 the timber-framed house with its wattle and daub walls has magnificent roof crucks, a wealth of oak beams and stone-flagged floors.
"And on wintry days it's incredibly cosy sitting on a window-seat in the Drawing Room looking at the moat below with the scent of apple logs in the wood-burner," says Sue, a historian. "And when we light the Dining Room with candles we can easily pretend we have stepped back in time. "
What made the couple buy the listed Grade 2 * house was its perfect setting. The house itself - then typically black-and-white - was in a very poor state. "Previous owners had replaced the rotting wattle and daub on the ground floor with modern bricks which looked very unattractive," says David. "Then they had sprayed a plastic sealant on the outside walls which meant the house couldn't breathe and the timbers were rotting. There were all sorts of anachronisms including the two sets of sliding metal windows in the Drawing Room (then the kitchen), 1940s plumbing, a leaking boiler, pipes and sinks everywhere and a jungle in the garden."
"It was dirty, dingy and horrible," says Sue. "For the first year we lived here it was teeth-gritting time. All the beams were painted with black gloss and there was anaglypta wallpaper everywhere. We couldn't start work on it as we were waiting for planning permission so David used the time to convert one of the barns into accommodation for us which was a relief to move into."
The family which includes son Ben (26) and daughter Jo (now aged 22) had moved south from Cheshire after they were forced to leave their farm which was right in the way of the expanding Manchester Airport. As prices were high in their area they decided to come to Ledbury where they had been on holiday and soon spotted the ancient listed property, one of the oldest in the area. And despite its condition David, who has building skills, felt he could rescue it. But the work was immense as David began by stripping the house right back to its timber-framed skeleton, discarding the modern bricks and stud walls in the process. He then taught himself how to apply wattle and daub to the original oak frame and on top of this laid lime plaster and a dark red limewash. At first the rest of the family helped until Jo found dead maggots from the cow dung in her handful and she and Sue gave up on the spot.
A roofer helped him insulate the roof and replace the modern tiles with reclaimed ones of clay and slowly and painstakingly David rebuilt the house from the ground upwards. He sandblasted the original black-painted beams, putting in new
green oak beams where necessary, rewiring, installing underfloor heating on both levels and adding new floors, doors and mullioned windows. The layout has now been redesigned and there are now four bedrooms upstairs, two bathrooms and a shower room.
"I always say the Romans helped us," says David when asked how on earth just two men - David and his specialist carpenter Mick Mitchell - managed to haul such enormous beams into place. "We used a system of levers, weights and pulleys, Roman-style. In fact Mick was with us for
nearly three years."
"We tried to use as authentic materials as possible," says Sue. "But we chose new green oak so future generations could see what we had done. And this is what the original builders would have used."
It took six years to make the house habitable and even when the family moved in there was plenty more to do. In fact at one point, running out of money and worn out, the couple asked a builder if he could finish the work for them. His quote - of a quarter of a million pounds - jolted them sufficiently to make them pick up their tools and carry on. "We couldn't afford him so we just HAD to continue," says Sue.
But now they have finished, the house shows their very fine attention to detail. For instance the kitchen floor is of encaustic tiles made for them specially by Chris Cox of Ironbridge and with medieval designs, some of which Sue traced from those in St Catherine's Hall in Ledbury. As for the old-fashioned lead lights, these were made using Polish glass while the local blacksmith made the iron decorative grillwork for them with a charming decoration of apples and pears. Two local artists then painted on to the glass tiny medieval figures, some copied from the Luttrell Psalter.
Up in the exposed roof there are magnificent oak crucks wrought in the shape of quatrefoils so when another carpenter Adrian Maisey made their oak kitchen units he also decorated them with quatrefoils.
Out in the three acre garden (plus 12 acres of woodland) the couple flattened the jungle, planted 1000 trees, and created lawns, flower beds and cleaned up the moat.
Is there anything the couple haven't done? "We didn't need to treat the beams," says David. "Being oak and ancient they're so hard that no woodworm alive could sink its teeth into them."
And is there a ghost? "Seemingly," says Sue. "One night David heard what he'd thought was a child crying but our guest, a music teacher who was sleeping in Jo's room with her baby said she'd woken to hear a recorder playing softly until it finally faded away..."
Sue and David now let out their home for holidays in addition to their two existing cottages and have won the following awards: 2008 Winner Self-Catering Holiday of the Year Heart of England (West Midlands), 2008 Silver Award Green Tourism, 2007 Regional Finalists - West Midlands Excellence in Tourism Awards, 2007 Winners - Self Caterer of the Year Flavours of Herefordshire Awards, 2006 Highly Commended Self Caterer of the year (Flavours of Herefordshire).
website is www.thewoodhousefarm.co.uk or call 01531 640030