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Through the keyhole: 270-year-old converted barn in Holt

PUBLISHED: 15:35 04 August 2017 | UPDATED: 15:35 04 August 2017

Tony Hall takes us around a wonderful home crafted from a converted 270-year-old barn tucked away near Holt

Dennis Ellis was a well-respected man who lived a lot of his life in one part of the pair of cottages that now form a section of this creative conversion in Field Dalling. Dennis was a tall, gentle man, a church-goer and well-known in the village, so when Tim James came to convert both the cottages and the adjoining barn into a spacious rural home he wanted to keep the name alive and decided that it should be called Ellis Farm.

Tim’s mother, Gloria French, joins us and explains to me the family connection with the area. “My father, Frederick Arundell Trengrove, was the vicar of St Margarets Church Saxlingham and Field Dalling from 1935 to 1962 and we grew up in the rectory. In 1932 the church in Field Dalling was united so the vicar looked after both. As a family we were quite poor and father told us to get on and build or make anything we needed. This proved a good education as both I and my sister, Pamela Noyes, are creative. She is an artist and I still do both sculpture and painting, so I think that’s were Tim gets his creative ideas from.”

“My father, Michael James,” explains Tim, “was very keen on boats and sailing. He bought a ship’s lifeboat from the Port of Rye in Sussex and converted it to a sailing boat which we took over to France on a regular basis, so I was taught to sail by the age of six, something I still love to this day, now owning a Cromer crab boat.

“One summer father brought his boat around the coast to Blakeney and, having seen Goose Cottage at Cley, sold the boat and bought the cottage for £700. So this was the beginning of my connections with the area, with holidays in Cley and Blakeney.

“My career for many years was in the design and manufacture of orthopedic artificial limbs, but on selling the business I was looking for a new challenge and, having loved aviation, I started, with colleagues, Anglian Air Centre at Norwich Airport which taught flying on helicopters and airplanes, where I obtained my licence to fly helicopters.

“Looking for a new home I first converted a barn just down the road in 1994, called Moonstone Barn, which I now rent out. That gave me a taste for barn renovations and as I used to pass by here often, when I saw it was for sale, it was an opportunity not to be missed. I used builder Bryan Williams and his team, with foreman Andy Catt, on the renovation and conversion.

“With my nephew William, an architectural technician, we did the basic design joining the cottages and barn to create a wonderful, spacious, five-bedroom property with a living room, TV snug plus a large kitchen/dining area with mezzanine in the 1747 barn area, with uninterrupted rural views. I was here nearly every day in case decisions had to be made. The build took 10 months and was finished in 2014.”

“By total contrast,” says Tim’s partner Nicole Thompson, “I have been in media fashion. I was fashion editor for She magazine before deciding to go as a studio manager to Jet Studios, an advertising photo studio. I then went freelance as a fashion stylist on various photo-shoots. I am based in Battersea, London during the week, where my two children, Mollie, 12 and Spike, 10, are at school and up here in north Norfolk at weekends. Tim and I met through mutual friends.”

“When it came to the interior styling throughout,” continues Nicole, “I have given it the female touch. I like practicality, paying attention to the structure and history of this wonderful conversion with some modern twists.

“Outside I love the walled garden, full of country flowers, designed by Jackie Finch.

“The house has an inherent peace and quiet, with enough room for everyone to have their own space. There is also over an acre of lawns and grounds. As we have a dog the grounds are totally contained and secure once we have closed the double doors, so ideal for pets and children.”

“Field Dalling,” adds Nicole, “is a delightful unspoiled village, near to the coast, with easy access, but without all the traffic. We are also so close to Holt, where there is brilliant shopping from a selection of independent shops and from Bakers and Larners department store; what a gem. Likewise we are very close to what in my mind is the best beach in the whole of Norfolk, Holkham. We like going to the Anchor at Morston; friendly staff, good beer and drinks.”

Both Nicole and Tim agree that the master bedroom is their favourite, especially with the balcony overlooking the grounds, but equally they like the kitchen dining areas as it is the epicenter of this lovely house. Mum also thinks this her favourite. The big sitting room is also popular although, as they say, ‘it took along while to come together’. My eye was taken by a large model aeroplane hanging from the ceiling of the dining area. “I bought it from the Dial House in Reepham, about 18 months ago.” Tim tells me. “It’s a Cornell Fairchild and had early remote control, but doesn’t fly now.

“One of my passions,” says Tim, “ is my collection of classic cars and motorbikes. I have an Issetta bubble car and an early Porsche 911. My collection of bikes includes a 1949 BSA, a 1955 Sunbeam and a 1953 BMW. My interest probably spans back to the age of seven, when I had a BSA 150 to ride off road. I enjoy going out for a spin and around the coast to Cromer or further round to Sea Palling. Whenever there’s time and we have clement weather then its down to the boat that I keep at Stiffkey and is looked after by David Hewitt. I also take a bike once a year either off-roading in the Picos Mountains in Spain or around Morocco, Portugal and Spain, however I’m always delighted to return to this peaceful corner of North Norfolk.”

Ellis Farm, Field Dalling, North Norfolk, is available for holiday lets: www.norfolkhideaways.co.uk 01485 211022 or 01328 711454

Fact file

Owners: Tim James and partner Nicole Thompson

Property: A conversion of a pair of cottages and barn into luxury five-bedroom farmhouse.

Built: Around 1747

Location: Field Dalling

Bought: 2014

Moved in: 2014

Professions: Tim is a partner in Anglia Aviation.

Favourite room: The master bedroom, with balcony and views over grounds.

Favourite item: The Connell Fairhead aeroplane, hanging from ceiling of dining area

Favourite part of the county: Unquestionably here.

Favourite day out: Sailing the Cromer crabber around the creeks to Blakeney Point

Favourite waste of time: Tim says, off-roading in the Picos Mountains of Spain on one of my vintage motorbikes

Favourite walk: With our dog Peggy, a Labradoodle, locally or along the coast path

Favourite pub/café/picnic: Morston Anchor, a proper pub, with friendly staff, good beer and a place for meeting friends

Hobbies: Tim says: My collection of vintage cars and motorbikes


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