Country cottage charisma

PUBLISHED: 12:00 22 February 2016

LIVING ROOM: Furniture from Laura Ashley, 01603 505041; curtains and fabrics from Clakre & Clarke, 01706 242010; chair from Keys Fine Art Auctioneers, 01263 733195; stove by Newbourne from Pevex, 01473 736399

LIVING ROOM: Furniture from Laura Ashley, 01603 505041; curtains and fabrics from Clakre & Clarke, 01706 242010; chair from Keys Fine Art Auctioneers, 01263 733195; stove by Newbourne from Pevex, 01473 736399

Tony Hall Photography

Claire Brealey and Andrew Smith show us around their charming village home at Baconsthorpe

A VERY warm welcome awaits at this delightful cottage in the rural village of Baconsthorpe, which lies just a couple of miles south east of Holt. This character cottage, built in 1870, has been beautifully renovated by its present owners, Claire Brealey and Andrew Smith, for their country bolthole. Together with son, Stan who is four-and-a-half, they use this as a world away from their very busy lives.

“We live and work in Leicestershire,” explains Claire. “Andrew and I have enjoyed weekends away, but when it came to choosing our own home, Cornwall which is a firm favourite was just too far, but here, close to the north Norfolk coast, ticked all the boxes. Before our son Stan was born, we would have our main holidays in places such as Dubai and Sri Lanka, but now with Stan we wanted to create nice childhood memories for him, such as we had ourselves as kids.

“As we now live in a modern build home, our shortlist was preferably a period cottage, surrounded by fields, as near to the coast as possible - so somewhere totally different to the family home. The location also needed to be near to both Wells and Blakeney, which are fantastic but just too expensive. One weekend we came to view five possibles, however here shone through. Full of character, wonderful beams, the unusual Gothic window and the delightful and sheltered courtyard garden/terrace. It had a good sized living room and kitchen, plus two nice bedrooms, in a delightful village, so we bought it in October 2013.”

The cottage was built in 1870, the right-hand end terrace of a set of four. Almost certainly they would have been built and owned by a local landowner for the use of his farmworkers. Claire and Andrew have completely updated the property with new kitchen/diner and a posh bathroom with free-standing roll top bath. Behind the scenes they have put in a damp-proof course, a new floor downstairs, new central heating, electrics and new double-glazed wooden windows. Some of the beams have been given a lime wash, giving the rooms a lighter, crisp feel.

Modern upholstery, fabrics and light grey painted kitchen units continue this theme downstairs, while upstairs the bedrooms complete this cool, calm feel with bedding from The White Company. A sizeable inglenook fireplace, complete with woodburner is certainly the focal point of the spacious sitting room, particularly in winter, and is Andrew’s favourite spot. What a lovely place to sit and relax, after a walk around the quiet lanes.

“To be honest,” says Andrew, “there was a lot more to do than we initially thought. Also trying to find good workmen and project managing all the work from afar was quite daunting, however we were lucky. We used Eric Bates to do the kitchen units, dresser and bathroom vanity unit, and Dalehead Woodwork for a lot of internal woodwork and skirting boards. We would certainly recommend both.

“Taking the property back to its original bones and starting again was certainly the best approach. We are both very proud of what we have created, knowing all the work has been done to a very high standard and will last for years.”

Both Claire and Andrew have worked in the textiles industry all their lives, and they have used their knowledge of design throughout the cottage. After gaining a degree in apparel, Claire joined the Next clothing group trainee scheme. She has worked her way up the ladder and is now technical manager. Andrew, meanwhile, has been in textiles for more than 28 years. He is from Newtown in mid Wales. Andrew achieved an A grade in textile design, before going to work at Laura Ashley, whose headquarters are based there. He studied part-time for a textile degree at Bolton, and later went on to work in South Wales for a Marks and Spencer garment manufacturer. He now is a technical laboratory manager, for UL American laboratories.

Claire says: “My favourite room is the kitchen diner. I love the bay window, looking on to the courtyard garden and the stable door which gives access. It’s great sitting out there, day-dreaming, glass of wine to hand and just watching and listening to the wildlife. My favourite item has to be the cast iron bath. I am so pleased we had the room to fit one in, as the bathroom is quite spacious for a cottage, originally being an outhouse.”

Andrew adds: “Now all restoration is completed we have time for walks and visiting places. Our local walk around Baconsthorpe Castle is great, further afield we enjoy the beach at Wells. We park by the cafe, pop in for a tea, then a walk around the beach huts. Stan loves it and wants to stay for ever.”

Claire concludes: “We are so blessed to have some great pubs around. Our favourite has to be the Wiveton Bell - great food and a lovely garden to sit out in the summer. Owning this cottage, it’s wonderful arriving on a Friday night, opening the front door and immediately knowing where everything is.

“Around Baconsthorpe there are lots of secluded and quiet country lanes with gorgeous views of the rural countryside. They are so clean, with no litter, little traffic and ideal for walking or cycling. We try to get here whenever we can, but we also rent it out for holiday lets through Norfolk Hideaways. Our original aim was of a rural country, character cottage, a place for Stan to grow up in beautiful surroundings, a bolthole for ourselves... everything has come up to expectations.

The Cottage, Baconsthorpe, is available through Norfolk Hideaways, 01485 221022;

Fact file:


Claire Brealey and Andrew Smith


Claire is a technical manager for Next Clothing; Andrew is a technical laboratory manager for UL American laboratories


End of terrance period rural cottage




October 2013

Favourite room

Claires says the kitchen/dining room; Andrew says the inglenook fireplace in the sitting room

Favourite item

The cast iron roll-top bath

Favourite pub

Wiveton Bell - great food and nice atmosphere

Favourite outing

Wells, by the beach huts

Favourite walk

To Baconsthorpe Castle

Favourite waste of time

Day dreaming in the courtyard garden

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