Through the keyhole of this 18th century Cotswold country house
PUBLISHED: 14:53 26 April 2018
When the Sailes moved into their early 18th-century home they expected a few surprises, but nothing prepared them for a well in their dining room and electrical wires nibbled by mice
Lindsay and Blair Sailes knew there might be some surprises when they bought their Grade II listed Georgian country house near Bath. After all, it is thought to date back as far as 1710.
But they weren’t quite expecting the ones that emerged.
The first was finding a well in the dining room. “When we came to view the house a big rug was covering the dining room floor. When we actually moved in we found the floor was of oak boarding round the edges, tiling in the centre and a large tile marked W – for well!” So the Sailes plan to illuminate the well and give it a glass cover one day.
Another surprise was when their new kitchen was being installed by the Bath Kitchen Company. “We were alarmed to find in one corner the beam had come away from the main joist; it was so rotted by seepage from the ancient bathroom above that it could have collapsed at any moment. If it had, then anyone perched on the loo upstairs would have hurtled through the ceiling and into the kitchen!”
The couple bought their beautiful house in November 2014 while on a quick visit from Thailand where they were living. They had already spent many years living and working abroad thanks to Blair’s job in management. “We’ve lived in Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and Mexico,” says Lindsay. “So we’ve been able to collect many beautiful things from each country.”
An old couple in their 80s had lived there for 36 years and nothing had changed significantly from the 1970s, but despite the dated décor the Sailes thought the house had a nice feeling. “It was like walking into a time warp but we loved the original picture rails, deep skirting boards and old fireplaces,” says Lindsay. “There didn’t seem too much work to do either – or so we thought. We planned to tackle it room by room.”
The Sailes returned to live in the house permanently a year later and began by completely rewiring. “Some of it was Heath Robinson-ish and mice had been nibbling at the wires in the attic,” says Lindsay. They also found the chimney stack was leaning slightly so that needed to be rebuilt. “We checked the Cotswold stone roof tiles at the same time but they were fine,” she says. “But we did repoint the gable ends and external walls as we found that the Bath stone from which they are built can wear away fairly easily.”
The kitchen – which had once been a stable block - consisted of dark wood cabinets with much tongue and grooving and a big farmhouse table in the middle. As well as a gas-fired Aga there was a wall oven in a rather strange place while a fridge-freezer was standing alone in a lobby next to the kitchen.
“We knocked down the wall between fridge and kitchen,” says Lindsay. “That’s when we discovered the water seeping from the bathroom above. The kitchen repair work meant installing new joists and replastering.”
Once finished the couple had engineered oak flooring laid to replace the mixed flooring of blackish oak and terracotta tiles, and then the Bath Kitchen Company installed all the new cabinetry. “It’s hand painted in ‘Purbeck Stone’ by Farrow and Ball with ‘River White’ granite worktops,” says Lindsay. “We kept the Aga as it was in very good condition even though it dated from the 1980s.”
The large en suite bathroom above also had to be repaired before it could be refurbished.
“It had sloping rotten floorboards and a sloping ceiling,” says Lindsay. “There was also a dated 80s suite and matching décor so it made for a very gloomy room. We had to gut it then rewire, replaster and lay new flooring before we could redesign the layout. That part was also tricky as the sloping ceiling limited the places we could site the shower. I’m really pleased with the ultra-modern look we’ve achieved, although it took a lot of planning.”
The couple also refurbished the family bathroom - “which by comparison with the en suite was quite straightforward,” says Lindsay.
She finishes, “It’s a lovely house. The classic Georgian windows allow natural light to flood in all year round, and its generous proportions provide plenty of room for family and visitors to be entertained comfortably.”
Bath Kitchen Company, 01225 312003
Bespoke Projects, mob 07720 607336
Farrow & Ball, 01202 876141,
Little Greene, 0845 880 5855,
Sofa Workshop, 0808 115 0558,
Total Bathrooms, 01225 462727,