Yorkshire Interiors - a renovation of a World War II listening post

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 December 2014

The fireplace was based on a rough sketch, drawn by Lyn, and built with reclaimed bricks and a huge beam. I wanted something really big that made a statement, says Lyn. It lends itself to very traditional Christmas decorations and greenery brought in from the garden. The furniture was all bought years ago and is a mix of antiques and pieces found in local shops

The fireplace was based on a rough sketch, drawn by Lyn, and built with reclaimed bricks and a huge beam. I wanted something really big that made a statement, says Lyn. It lends itself to very traditional Christmas decorations and greenery brought in from the garden. The furniture was all bought years ago and is a mix of antiques and pieces found in local shops

COPYRIGHT COLIN POOLE

A former wartime listening post close to an East Yorkshire airfield becomes an unlikely family home as Heather Dixon reports

Lyn papered the back of this pretty shelf and painted it, then added lace before displaying her favourite crockery collected over the years. The butcher’s block was found in a reclamation yardLyn papered the back of this pretty shelf and painted it, then added lace before displaying her favourite crockery collected over the years. The butcher’s block was found in a reclamation yard

Lyn Baines was helping her husband deliver newspapers to a house in the country when she had the strangest feeling that she was coming home. ‘I’m a very practical, down to earth person but I couldn’t shake off this weird sensation as I walked down the drive,’ she says. ‘There was nothing particularly remarkable about the property, and we were very happy where we were living, but I knew instantly that I wanted to be here, in this house.’ So when Lyn made a second delivery the following day and saw a for sale sign in the garden she couldn’t believe her eyes. ‘I was so excited I forgot to deliver the paper and raced back to the shop to tell Vic. We came to see it as soon as we could.’

The property was built as a World War II listening post for a nearby airfield in East Yorkshire. When it was decommissioned it was turned into a single story house and the original building was encased within a brick outer skin. Inside, a long corridor running the full length of the building linked all the rooms. There was a mud driveway, a selection of dilapidated outbuildings and a field at the back.

‘It wasn’t a particularly attractive house,’ says Lyn. ‘It was the setting that appealed to us.’ Within three months Lyn and Vic had sold their last house and moved in. ‘The house was very long and thin, like a railway carriage,’ says Lyn. ‘We decorated and settled in so we could decide what we wanted to do with the house.’ But the couple had been in less than a year when the whole place was flooded by one foot of field water during terrible storms. ‘It caused havoc,’ recalls Lyn. ‘The house was a complete mess. We used dehumidifiers to dry out the house but the floors were ruined. We took them all up and laid new ones almost straight away.’

The flood not only galvanized Lyn and Vic into action, but also marked a turning point in the building’s history. With the help of the insurance money, they bought and moved into a 40-year-old caravan parked on the drive and, with a combination of the remaining funds and their own savings, launched a two-year project to expand and refurbish the tired old property.

Lyn BainesLyn Baines

They employed a structural engineer to assess the foundations and quickly discovered that the Ministry of Defence had made them strong enough to support a second story. They gained planning permission to raise the roof and extend the house to include a sun room, study and hall for the staircase, plus four bedrooms and three bathrooms upstairs.

‘We didn’t want anything too tall,’ says Lyn. ‘We still wanted it to look like a cottage rather than a big house. A local planner drew up the design for us then the builder project managed the renovation.’

The build team demolished two walls downstairs to incorporate the corridor into the main living rooms. Then they developed a dining kitchen at the heart of the house, with a sitting room at one end and an en-suite bedroom at the other.

‘It wasn’t without its ups and downs,’ recalls Lyn. ‘While we were in the caravan we had to use an open-air toilet in one of the outbuildings, with just the pigeons for company. The bed fell through the floor of the van, the pipes froze and had to be lagged and the cooker packed up. Looking back, I wonder how we got by, but it was an adventure and we just got on with it.’

Disaster almost struck a second time, however, when the roof trusses were craned into position. ‘Everyone had stopped for a cup of tea and cake when a sudden gust of wind came up and blew the trusses down like dominoes,’ says Lyn. ‘We couldn’t believe our eyes. Everyone was so stunned they just stood and watched – there was nothing anyone could do. Fortunately, nothing was damaged.’

Once the shell of the house was complete and the new roof was put on, the builders fitted reclaimed beams in the kitchen ceiling and laid terracotta tiles on the kitchen floor to create a period farmhouse look inside. Lyn and Vic had a reclaimed brick fireplace built in the spacious sitting room, with a thick heavy beam set into the chimney and a second fireplace in the kitchen where they fitted a working reclaimed range. The sloping ceilings of the bedrooms upstairs added to the aged character of the house inside, even though the exterior has a more modern edge.

‘We chose a kitchen, made by a local company called Elite Kitchens of Pocklington, which is part fitted, part unfitted, to give it a lovely country style,’ says Lyn. ‘Once the units were in we moved out of the caravan and couldn’t believe how much space we suddenly had. It seemed huge.’

While the house was being developed, Lyn and Vic turned their attention to the land. Although some of their seven acres are used for a small beef herd of Dexters, Lyn is a keen gardener and wanted to landscape as much as possible to include a large natural pond, a summer house built by Vic, an orchard and bordered pathways around the house itself. ‘The house and garden have evolved side by side,’ says Lyn.

When it came to furnishing their home, Lyn and Vic tried to buy as much as they could from local shops and antique fairs, accumulating furniture and accessories over the years to create a relaxed, informal style. Lyn particularly likes floral wallpapers and rich warm colours in the main living rooms, while the guest bedroom is summery and feminine. She collects crockery, boxes, throws and glassware as well as antique and modern pictures – including paintings by her sister, artist Jan Jones.

‘It’s the finishing touches which take the longest time,’ says Lyn. ‘I like a house to be lived in and personal. That’s why we tend to buy things which have a story behind them and a bit of history – it seems fitting for a house which has such an unusual history of its own.’

Contacts

Elite Kitchens 01759 306390 elitekitchensandbedrooms.co.uk

Jan Jones (artist) 01430 876784 mallyart.com

Paul Shepherdson (builder) 07802 497042

Alan Stewart (electrician) 01759 318888

Steve Wilcock (plumber) 07805 974887 swilcock.co.uk

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