When we first met Mabel’s Farmhouse we both knew she was ‘the one’ — it sounds clichéd but it’s true. We were instantly drawn to her picturesque charm. She was what we had been looking for: a dilapidated, unspoilt listed building in the Cotswolds. The building oozes charm and character with some lovely original features, and the location was also a real find: a pretty village in the far north-east corner of the Cotswolds area of outstanding natural beauty.
Having renovated a few houses, including the award-winning Miner’s Cottages, we were on the lookout for a project. We have viewed many properties and the ones that we seem to be drawn to are those which are listed or in conservation areas. This is partly due to our desire to find projects with real character and interesting features, which inevitably come with a listing tag.
Rejecting Other Options
We rejected some interesting buildings, from a three-storey timber-framed farmhouse to a complex of barns, which comfortably fulfilled the potential and features categories but all had some major drawbacks.
We viewed a lovely listed Arts and Crafts church that was constructed of rare terracotta bricks inspired by the architect’s travels to Italy. Unfortunately, it was this method of construction, coupled with some difficult ground conditions, that had caused some significant movement in the building.
We quickly realised that although we are not shy of tackling structural issues, this was a leap too far for us as the fabric of the building, which was the very reason the building was listed, was also the cause of its demise.
Finding Mabel’s Farmhouse
What drew us to Mabel’s was its scale and period of construction. It was just the right size for us, giving us no cause to extend and thereby avoiding any heated debate as to what might, or might not, be possible with the local conservation officer.
We also like vernacular buildings from the 18th century and enjoy their robust and simple character; in fact Mabel’s felt like a larger version of our previous renovation project!
The renovation work also seems manageable within our budget. The property had been a council house for a period and poorly maintained. Everything needs to be addressed, from ensuring basic services are installed to more major structural repairs.
It’s likely that the reason for its listing is that so many original features still remain and the building feels untouched. It is these features that we wish to preserve and repair. We believe it’s important, when considering purchasing a listed building, that you love it for what it is.
We certainly both love our 18th-century farmhouse, and we hope that’s exactly how it will remain with a few 21st-century enhancements. An added bonus was discovering that the farmhouse was once a tenanted farm owned by the local council, which still owns the adjacent farmland, now run as a local dairy.
You can buy Mabel’s milk in all the delis and shops in the area and we never have an excuse to run out of local produce as fresh eggs and milk are sold directly at the farm door using an honesty box system reminiscent of times gone by.