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Jane Perks

PUBLISHED: 11:35 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:58 20 February 2013

The exterior of the property

The exterior of the property

Jayne Perks charming home is actually three 17th century cottages rolled into one. Words by Victoria Jenkins and photography by Steve russell.

Four years ago Jayne Perks moved into her new home - a Cotswold country house called The Manor - and almost at once had to organise Christmas for her four children. Not only that but Simon, Lucy, Victoria and George all brought their various girlfriends and boy friends too while Jayne invited her own sister and her husband.

"I only had a small and very ancient Rayburn to cook on," she said. "It came with the house and had just one oven and one hotplate. So my sister cooked the turkey and brought it over for the Christmas lunch and I made everything else. And somehow or other it was a huge success especially as it began to snow as well."

However since then things have changed for the better as Jayne not only has a new cooker - a Sandyford Sherlock - but a completely new kitchen as well.

Although named The Manor Jayne's charming house in fact began as three 17th century cottages and, even though it is now Grade 2 listed, Jayne calls it a "little person's house" as every room is still small.

"Many people think it was built as an Arts & Crafts house because Sir Gordon Russell lived here in the 1930s," says Jayne who lives there with George (20) the youngest of her four grown-up children as well as four cats, horse Letty and two dogs, Mabel the wire-haired dachshund and Archie the clumber spaniel.

"Sir Gordon was a famous furniture designer who based his designs on the Cotswold Arts & Crafts tradition and added many Arts & Crafts features to the house."

It was in fact Sir Gordon who knocked the three cottages together and as it was a time of national unemployment he was able to supply work for the local people. "He had them landscape the gardens, build a charming stone-pillared pavilion as a summer house and put in several pretty water features, all still in place," says Jayne.

"For a small house he put in some smart things. And I read something about my home in a book about the Cotswolds recently. It describes it as "a wonderful little house on the top of a hill with the gardens cascading down it."

In fact H J Massingham, one of the most prolific "ruralist" authors of the inter-war period wrote an article about Jayne's hamlet in which he described her home as a "....tiny manor house right on the crest of the wilds..... Built into the slope so that the walled gardens are on top of one another.... Anything more bewitching than this minute manor house on a winter's night with the snowfields on either side..."

However when Jayne arrived four years ago many of these features - both inside and out - were in a sad state of neglect.

"There were five bedrooms served by one downstairs loo which kept getting bunged-up and just one bathroom up in the attic," says Jayne. "The plumbing was rather quaint because if you ran a bath you couldn't clean your teeth or flush the loo at the same time. The kitchen too was tiny and when I arrived the Rayburn didn't even work. The boiler man fixed it but said it was probably one of the earliest around. As for one attic room, the previous elderly owner used to leave the window open for birds, bats and butterflies to use as open house - a sort of free-for-all nature reserve. So that took a great deal of cleaning up."

However after four years of building work, with Jayne doing much of the DIY, she has now transformed what she calls her "doll's house" and it has a brand-new kitchen, two new extra bathrooms, new plumbing, new wiring and new central heating.

Rather enterprisingly Jayne has converted an old outbuilding - which she calls her annexe - into her kitchen. "Apparently it was built around 1910 as an artist's studio then for a while became the local youth club," she says. "It does have a lovely Arts & Crafts stone fireplace at one end." It is just a few steps through the garden from manor to kitchen but Jayne plans to link them with a glass-walled passage.

Jayne wanted a pretty kitchen "with lots of bright colours" so asked Abbey Kitchens from Winchcombe to supply units painted in lilac-blue and cream. "I also wanted an oak-topped island with an overhang so you can sit at it on the sort of stools you can tuck underneath when you get up. I also wanted the fridge and freezer to be concealed beneath it too and I wanted the dishwasher next to the sink." This latter is a double Villeroy & Boch sink and the taps have a built-in filter.

Jayne also chose an oil-fired condensing Sandyford Sherlock cooker which she says "does all the cooking, all the heating and all the hot water; its flue goes out through the wall and so doesn't need a chimney."

There was already a parquet floor laid - "black with age and dirt" - so Jayne had it sanded and polished.

The original entrance hall was narrow so Jayne had it extended into a big square room - now called the Library - and above it had two new bathrooms built.

"I bought most of the bathroom suites from Hill House Bathrooms in Bourton-on-the-Water except for the bath in the second bathroom which came from Fired Earth," she says. "I painted the slipper bath red and the one from Fired Earth in blue. I also got the builder to make the oak floors look old by hammering in special nails."

As for the window frames on the top floor, Jayne found many of them so rotten she had to put in new ones of reclaimed oak (including the sills) - "and that meant three months of scaffolding."

In the gardens at the back of the house one wall had fallen down, a bush had spread so much it had taken over the lawn and the bank was covered in a welter of ivy, old trees -"and a huge amount of rubbish." Fortunately Jayne is a very keen gardener and the gardens are now enchanting.

"We have some beautiful waterlily steps leading down to a part of the garden which for some reason was covered in old tarmac and sprouting with weeds," she adds. "But someone in the village showed me a photo dating from the 1930s of a parterre that had been there. So we dug up the tarmac, then a layer of crazy paving and sure enough found its remains. Now I've planted herbs in it."

Likewise the old stone pavilion has been spruced up and George and Victoria have already had their birthday parties there, involving lots of cushions and candles.

When it came to furnishing her home Jayne brought with her a mixture of antique and contemporary furniture from her previous, much bigger, home. She has also bought more from auctions and antique shops. And she had an easy task as regards all the curtains, cushions and other soft furnishings for she runs a small business from her home finding curtain fabric for her clients and having them made up. "I can buy designer fabrics and have them made up for a much lower cost than is usual," she said. "I have done all the curtains for various big projects such as hotels and stately homes both here and up in London but I also do them for cottages and newbuild properties too."

Looking round her charming home she says, "I think I'm very lucky to live in such a wonderful house. The other day a friend described it as the most romantic place she knew; I felt that when I saw it and I still feel it now."


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