Gallery & Video: The Renovation of Thatcher's Cottage, Coates
WITH its thatched roof, exposed beams and roaring log fires the Walker family home could come straight out of the pages of a lifestyle magazine but bringing the derelict listed building back to life has been far from easy. Ian and Tina Walker along with t
WITH its thatched roof, exposed beams and roaring log fires the Walker family home could come straight out of the pages of a lifestyle magazine but bringing the derelict listed building back to life has been far from easy.
Ian and Tina Walker along with their six-year-old daughter Lily are looking forward to spending their first Christmas in the historic Fenland cottage. The journey from decaying shell to an expertly restored two-bedroom home has been a talking point in the village of Coates for the past two years.
The Cambs Times talked to the Walkers about their plans in 2006 when Ian was enthusiastic about working on the medieval frame which had been crafted by skilled workers of the time and he was determined to save as much as possible.
Tina said: "Ian has saved everything of the original frame he could which is what he set out to do. Everything which could be reused has been reused but we have tried to make it into a modern building so it will never get into such a state again."
The couple were living in the Scottish highlands when they saw the cottage in Fieldside for sale on the internet. It took lengthy negotiations before they were able to buy the oak-framed cottage.
What is now the living room was condemned in 1958 and the other end of the cottage was condemned in 1964. Fenland District Council was keen to see the cottage saved because of its special historical and architectural interest and the Walkers have been grateful for the council's help.
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A joiner by trade, Ian had worked on many historic buildings but found working on his own home was different. The family moved into a caravan on site.
He said: "In the end I had to treat it like it was someone else's project. There were days when all I wanted to do was pack up my tools and go but that wasn't an option.
"I never felt like giving up but I wish it had ended sooner. Technically one of the hardest things was doing the floors because you must not disturb what is underneath them.
"One of the most challenging things was bending the timbers. After eight hours of steaming to do one section you then have about 15 minutes to work with it. I did get into a temper with that."
The couple have used local tradesmen and materials whenever possible. Thatching the roof took around 10 weeks but it should last for the next 70 years.
During the renovation the family have found many items and Lily is particularly proud of her collection of animal bones and clay pipes.
Tina said: "We have had nothing but encouragement and enthusiasm for it to be restored, especially among the older members of the community. After the last piece in the paper one man even brought us a piece of oak which he had kept for years."
The caravan has gone and Tina is planning an old fashioned garden where it stood. Ian still has work to do inside which he thinks will take another year to complete, there is a staircase to make and also some doors. Tina loves the cottage and enjoys sleeping in a proper bed.
Would they do it again? The family intends to stay in Thatcher's Cottage but Ian already had his eye on another property.
# You can watch the renovation of Thatcher's Cottage on YouTube on The Renovation of an English Thatched Cottage.