How Norfolk couple have breathed new life into historic house

Stephanie BrooksIt's hard to believe that for five years this stunning Georgian house sat empty and was slowly falling into a state of disrepair.Stephanie Brooks

It's hard to believe that for five years this stunning Georgian house sat empty and was slowly falling into a state of disrepair.

Aside from the mammoth re-decoration required, the sewage system and plumbing needed replacing, there was no heating, the wiring was unsafe, plaster was falling off some of the walls, ornate fire places were boarded up and the gardens were overgrown.

The Grade I listed home, called Cavick House, near Wymondham, was about to be placed on the Buildings at Risk Register until new owners Christopher and Judith Lawrence bought the property in 1999.

Now after 10 years of sensitive renovation, the couple have turned the once sorry building into a beautiful home and have earned themselves a nomination for a national restoration award.

The eight bedroom house is one of three buildings in the Eastern region, and the only one in Norfolk, to make the finals of the Country Life Restoration of the Century Award.

Mr Lawrence, 60, said: 'Over 10 years we have had a great relationship with South Norfolk Council who have been very supportive and constructive, as well as lots of local craftsmen.

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'When the competition came up I thought we should enter because it was not just a celebration of the house, but also the people who did the work on it.'

It is believed a house has stood at the site since the 12th century, but the core structure of the home you see today was built about 1650.

In the early 1700s it was bought by successful weaver John Drake, who extended the property. New owners continued to add rooms to the house until the end of the 19th century.

When the previous occupier died in 1993, it was passed to the Diocese of Norwich which, after struggling to find a use for the building due to its protected status, put it on the market.

Mrs Lawrence, 56, said: 'I think it was sold as far as Chris was concerned because of the fa�ade as we went up the drive. It was a cold October day and the rain was coming sideways, but we could see the potential although we knew there was a lot to do.'

The couple have since undertaken a complete restoration of the interior, preserving the major rooms largely as they were, knocking down partition walls to create an open family kitchen and converting the attic space, which had not been lived in for 200 years.

Outside they have re-fitted its dormer windows and landscaped the large gardens, as well as rebuilt its 8ft ha-ha wall, which took two years to complete.

Mrs Lawrence added: 'It's been very satisfying. It's a very expensive hobby having a house like this. You do it for love more than anything else.'

A panel of judges will visit all the nominated homes this summer before announcing the winner in October.

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