Improving on property perfection

Meticulous restoration means that Rex House has never looked better, reports Marsya Lennox…..

Rex House

Rex House at Willersey in Gloucestershire, one of the best houses in the picturesque village, meticulously restored. Offers over £2 million are invited for the 9,000 sq ft property.

The living, architectural museum that is the village of Willersey works its magic on the viewer with a visual overload of glowing limestone.

Every house and cottage demands attention as the neighbouring delights of the wooded escarpment fade instantly.

And, for once, it’s the man-made that lifts the spirits and makes you wonder.

Just as well that Willersey’s Main Street is quiet and wide so motorists can stop at will to sit and stare.

It is a Cotswold confection to confuse the modernist. And it is proof of the pre-eminence of the unspoilt, period street scene.

Midland couple Bryan and Jayne Rose who have roots in Birmingham were unable to resist it.

They had spotted Rex House, one of the best properties in the village, newly on the market after some 40 years in continual ownership.

Their idea had been to find a family home and project.

“It was just what we wanted, something that had not been modernised,” said Bryan.

As he started to do the sums and make lists of the work required, there was still no turning back. Wife and daughter were smitten and determined to live here.

So much needed to be done that the family rented nearby for nine months while an army of local craftsmen repaired, replaced and restored.

The original Georgian designers of the early 18th century house would know it instantly for it looks very nearly new again.

The frontage, wide green and surfaced approach drive are now planted, mown and perfectly presented, something that would have been unlikely in the village of the 1700s.

It is, therefore, fair to say that Rex House can never have looked better in nearly three centuries.

The Rose family have spent considerable sums on the long programme of improvements from the rewiring and new plumbing to the restoration of the original, listed windows and a careful, though inspired, addition to the back of the house.

Remarkably, however, time had treated Rex House well, in a village ‘blessed’ by the healthy neglect that left the wider Cotswolds untouched, unspoilt and well preserved.

An extension, in stone, to the drawing room was very well planned by the previous owners.

And even Victorian ‘improvers’ had failed to deaden the Georgians’ light touch.

The original house was not as large as suggested by its grand, double fronted design of two and a half storeys.

Rex House, kitchen

Rex House, kitchen

By adding another layer of rooms behind, the property virtually doubled in size. But it was all done extremely well, keeping the handsome Georgian proportions in each new room.

A picturesque, two storey, curving bay to the newer back of the house is a clear tribute to the then earlier, Georgian style.

And as Bryan Rose points out, each of the 48 glass panes on both levels is gently and perfectly curved.

“When we accidentally broke one we were rather worried to hear that replacements would cost £200 each,” he said.

But luck was again on their side. A stash of 20 spares was discovered on the property, probably enough to cope with a century of accidents, and valuable foresight by canny former occupants.

Other later improvements, before the Roses’ time, have also worked in the house’s favour.

A collection of very nice stone fireplaces have a distinct Arts & Crafts look about them and sit very well with the original Georgian house.

Rex House is ready for new owners, totally up and running, all the hard and expensive work done.

The Rose family even made their own addition by elongating the kitchen with a single storey garden room extension, all beautifully top lit.

This has created a showpiece heart of the home with a huge expanse of granite-topped work island at one end, alongside the big Aga. In the middle is family dining space – and to the glazed, garden end is the big bright sitting area.

Rex House outhouses

The cottage and outbuildings have been converted and refurbished to a very high standard.

Planners stipulated that this extension should match the rear finish of the rest of the house. The Roses would have liked to indulge in some more stone construction but instead, went along with the authority’s preference for matching pebbledash.

Rather cleverly, however, the quoins are in stone and the effect is more of an evolved, refurbishment than something
brand new.

Bryan and Jayne have found it easy to settle into Willersey, very much a real village with its important, working parts.

There is a well regarded primary school, two shops, post office, pubs and even a garage business where they still pump the petrol for you.

“The community is wonderful.

People are so friendly and everyone is ready to help,” said Bryan.

He is in no doubt about the serious attractions of living in a Cotswold village.

“It’s really the little things – waking up in the morning to birds singing, the fresh clean air, strolling to the local shop to pick up The Times and freshly baked croissant and bread still warm from the French bakery, sitting outside on the terrace for breakfast, the friendship of the village, the golf club just a mile away, the less frenetic pace of the countryside – and being able to bring up a family knowing they are safe and able to take advantage of simple country pursuits – walking, riding, cycling – in a secure and caring environment.

I just wish we’d moved out here many years ago.”

Rex House, cinema room

Rex House, cinema room

The children too have enjoyed living in the Cotswolds though they are nearly out of the family nest. Twenty-first birthday parties have been hosted effortlessly at Rex House.

“We have had 120 people here before – and once counted 40 eating in the kitchen and 30 in the dining room”.

Bryan and Jayne now plan to downsize, somewhere in the same area.

They believe that their completed project and much-loved home would now be ideal for a large, younger family, able to fully exploit the vast space on offer.

When the Roses took it on, the three bedroom cottage and unconverted outbuilding adjoining were bursting with potential.

They are just across the traditional, high gated, courtyard entrance, detached and equally photogenic.

It is actually quite astonishing that Rex House has held onto its additional buildings for so long where they might easily have become a totally separate dwelling.

Add up all that extra space and it is just a touch bigger than the main house, easily enough for a whole row of lovely cottages.

But in this price bracket, something over £2 million, a new owner will probably want it all for himself, pretty much as it is thanks to the inspired renovation job done by the Roses.

The big cottage at the front is now a pristine property used as a smart home office and overspill, multi-purpose space.

There are hints at the much older cottage core with some heavy beams and some charming domestic remnants, among them the latched doors, the old timbers and a little original pantry.

There are sophisticated bathrooms, a kitchen all plumbed and wired, if someone wants to fit one. There is a 34 ft long games room in the old hayloft, now ideal for family dancing practice. “We have taken up ballroom dancing – and this is perfect,” said Bryan.

At the far end of the former Malthouse, upstairs, is a cinema room, its agricultural souvenirs, the hop-drying meshes, still there though concealed between levels.

Rex House bedroom

One of the five bedrooms in the main house. The curving bay overlooking the garden has 48 individual curved panes of glass.

And back downstairs, beyond workshops and garaging is a showpiece gymnasium and fitness room with sauna, shower, solid oak flooring and even a gas stove for lounging by.

The main house provides a generous 4,360 sq ft with five bedrooms and five bath or shower rooms over the upper levels.

Outside is a more than useful 1.46 acres of garden with former tennis lawn, water feature, wide paved terrace, fruit and vegetable areas and mature woodland to the far boundary.

Highlights also include espaliered pear and a formal rose garden.

Details from Hayman-Joyce in Broadway, 01386 858510.