The city architect well-known for his work on Norwich's Castle Mall, now known as Castle Quarter, has put his family home on the market for a cool £1.45m.

On the day I visit the home of Michael Innes, it’s one of the hottest of the year.

It’s 10.30am and already humid, the sun high in the sky as I drive up the dappled, tree-lined road to High House. It’s situated in the ever-popular suburb of Thorpe St Andrew – once known as the Richmond of Norfolk, Mr Innes later tells me – and stands on the crest of Thorpe Ridge, a steep hill rising over the Yare Valley.

The house forms one end of a much larger property, which was originally built within a country estate. It is thought to have been built in the early 19th century for the Birkbeck family, part of the wealthy Norwich-based banking dynasty.

In the 1870s it was extended by the ‘Arts and Crafts’ architect Thomas Jeckyll but by the 1930s had been divided into a series of smaller, more manageable homes.

Once I’m inside, welcomed through the grand red door and past the Costessey-ware brickwork, I forget all about the heat. Period homes, like this, are built to stay cool and Mr Innes, who has restored it, has always been ahead of the curve.

As a founding director of LSI Architects, he was working on much larger projects – including Castle Mall, now known as Castle Quarter, South Norfolk House, Colney’s BUPA hospital and the revamped Norwich Market – while he was still renovating the house. It has evolved and changed over the years, becoming both a family home and his ‘office’ and is now up for sale with Allgood & Davey for £1.45m.

But Mr Innes admits that when he bought the home over 50 years ago, he didn’t know very much about it.

“I didn’t know anything about it other than it was a nice, big bit of space – but it was a messy bit of space,” he says. “I didn’t have a vision for it and I didn’t have the money to indulge a vision. What I had was the realisation that it was a quarry of opportunity, and I quarried the opportunities.”

Over the decades, he has made a number of changes, including the addition of a spectacular garden room and a studio extension, and much of the internal work has been done to capture the spirit of Jeckyll’s original intentions. It is ornate without feeling fussy, spacious but manageable and, above all else, a family home.

As part of the works, Mr Innes reconfigured the entrance hall, creating an impressive archway in the centre and relocating the staircase. A circular window, which is mid-century in style, peeks through into a downstairs office, while the rear hall leads on to the Scandinavian-style kitchen, which doubles as a breakfast room.

Mr Innes says the thing that made him “absolutely determined” to get the house was the two reception rooms on the ground floor, which are separated by a set of double doors and, once opened, create a huge entertaining space.

“Where will you find anything better?” he asks, as he opens the doors and I see, for the first time, the scale of the space, which swallows a concert grand piano and masses of furniture.

Doors at the opposite end lead out on to a terrace in the garden, which becomes part of the room. The ceiling is covered in decorative mouldings, which wouldn’t be out of place in a stately home, and there are plenty of other eye-catching details too: sash windows with working shutters, dado rails and ornate skirting boards, to name but a few, mixed in with more contemporary fittings.

Elsewhere, the studio extension features a pyramid-shaped roof with a timber ceiling and a central roof light and is “well-proven”, he says, for today. “People are talking about working from home and not the centre of towns – well I have, mainly from here, for 50 years,” he says.

Upstairs the four bedrooms are set off a wide landing corridor. The bathroom has a separate cloakroom, the master bedroom has a shower and wash basin and there is also a separate laundry room. All the bedrooms are spacious and two have vaulted ceilings, but of all the areas of the house, these are the rooms that could do with some cosmetic updating.

Mr Innes was an early convert to solar PV and had panels installed on the roof. More recently, the heating has been converted and is now delivered by an air source heat pump, and both the modern and original walls are well-insulated. Its origins may be from centuries ago, but High House has been built and maintained with the future in mind.

“Looking back and looking forward, it is future proof,” Mr Innes says. “Far more than many a house, because it’s grown that way, but it didn’t grow that way accidentally – it grew that way because it is an interesting building with plenty of space.”

Outside, the gardens are inviting and predominantly to the south and east, where they slope away to the rear. They are well-planted and tended with wide lawns and generous screening, which creates a feeling of separation and continues the parkland setting.

The outdoor swimming pool is set on a levelled area, also to the south, and has an electrically-operated cover. It can be topped up from the heat pumps and is large enough for both exercise and leisure.

High House is not a listed building, but is recorded by the district council as being of special interest, owing to its age, architectural features and enviable location in an area of conservation.

Houses just aren’t built like this anymore, and they certainly don’t come up for sale very often.

1 High House is on the market for £1.45m. For more information, visit

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