Standing in the rain outside a Regency Villa in Cheltenham the other day, the Conservation Official looked me in the eye and said. “You realise that if you do ANYTHING to this property without my permission, you will be prosecuted and could go to prison.” That’s friendly, I thought.
Buying a listed house is never without its dramas. I know. I’ve done it a few times. I’ve bought listed houses as homes, as investments and, unfortunately, as a development. BIG mistake. Proper, grown-up, bona fide property developers: never buy a listed building. Too fraught with problems and little people telling you to install floated glass instead of the normal stuff!! As a result, it eats into your profit margins and you end up making 73p. After two years work!
No, this time I’m being cringe-worthily obsequious to the CO because we’re buying this lovely house as our next home. After 14 years in a draughty old Vicarage, we’re on the move. Cheltenham is full of classically beautiful Regency terraces and detached villas in sweeping tree-lined avenues. I spotted this one on the Internet and viewed it and put in an offer all within the space of three hours. Never one to let the grass grow under my feet, I know a bargain when I see one. (Unfortunately it then went to sealed bids, so I had a nail-biting Easter weekend thinking that we could lose it by £100, or, alternatively, might have paid £50,000 over the odds. Aaaaargh!)
Built in 1840, it has been offices since the 1960’s and still retains all the original features such as decorative plaster cornicing, balustrades and fireplaces. However, it currently has tarmac at the front with enough parking for about 14 cars! My friends think we’re mad to undertake such a huge building project but that’s because they are wise and sensible and I am not. Neither is my husband. We like a challenge, and all being well, will have a gorgeous house/home at the end of it.
The touching thing is that the people who have been working in that building, some for the last 40 years, are all devastated to be moving on (one company inhabits it). They have a palpable affection for the house and are keen that the new owners should respect the fabric and history of the property. As are the Conservation people from the council. Quite rightly too. It was the same at the Old Vicarage. But, I am acutely aware that one can never really own a building. We are merely preserving it for the next generation and are simply passing through. Yes, we will put our stamp on it and create an individual space, but within the correct guide-lines, so that the integrity of the house remains and that it will sit well within its conservation area.
So I’m sure I will be studying lime mortar and wrought iron railings and ashlar stone and hanging balconies, and cantilevered staircases will be floating into my dreams. Because the last thing I want to do is upset that ferocious Conservation Officer.
For help renovating or decorating a listed house post your job on Rated People and up to three tradesmen will get in touch to quote on your job. You’ll be able to view their individual profiles, complete with previous customer recommendations, to help you decide who to hire.