Richard Balson and Allison Sturges have built a traditional-style L-shaped new home that makes the most of locally sourced materials.

Inheriting a share in his aunt Betty’s estate inspired Richard Balson and his partner, Allison Sturges, to take the plunge and build their own home. Betty’s 1960s precast concrete Woolaway bungalow had seen better days, but it stood on a superb site surrounded by fields in an unspoilt Dorset village near Bridport.

“We inherited one third of the plot, and the other two thirds were owned by the rest of the family,” Richard explains. “We sold the Bridport house we were living in and bought the remainder of the plot with the idea of building a new home there. This meant moving in to live with my parents for a year, and we also had a caravan on site where we stayed at weekends.”

The Project

  • Name: Richard Balson and Allison Sturges
  • Build cost: £265,000 (£1,152/m²)
  • Build time: 1 year
  • Location: Dorset

An architect was employed to draw up plans for the replacement house, which is faced in light-coloured local stone with a natural slate roof and stained hardwood windows. Planning permission was granted with ease for the traditional L-shaped design and work began on site in March 2010.

Richard is a master butcher by trade (his family butchers in Bridport has been awarded the oldest family business in the country — trading since 1535) and has always been practical, enjoying woodwork and DIY. He and Allison decided to tackle as much of the build as possible, beginning with demolishing the old bungalow using brute force and an assortment of hand tools.

“We were quoted £10,000 to take away the old shell, but completed it for just £500 — the cost of two skips, plus hours of our own labour and backache,” says Allison, a practice manager in a dental surgery.

A building company was involved in constructing the shell, which has an inner leaf of thermal blockwork and an outer skin of natural Marnhull stone. The couple worked on site on a daily basis, helping with all aspects of the build. The galleried hallway required some substantial structural steelwork, and Richard overcame his fear of heights to climb the scaffolding and bolt these together.

Once the main shell of the house was completed he and Allison took over the remainder of the build. They plumbed and fitted the bathrooms, kitchen and utility room themselves as well as undertaking all second fix carpentry, flooring, tiling, painting and staining.

“We really enjoyed the whole project — although this will probably be our first and last self-build as we want to stay here,” says Allison. Now the couple are planning their wedding, which will be blessed at the new house with a reception held in a marquee in the garden, where an aptly named ‘Betty’s bench’ has been positioned to take in the views.

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