Through the keyhole of a pretty house in Wells-next-the-Sea
PUBLISHED: 09:48 01 August 2017
Tony Hall visits a Wells-next-the-Sea home with centuries of history and character, updated for the 21st century
Barry and Jane Munday’s spacious townhouse is situated right in the town centre of Wells-next-the-Sea. Originally a merchant’s house built in 1650, with a Georgian front added about 100 years later, it was modernised around seven years ago and bought by the Mundays a year later.
It has a shop on part of the ground floor leased as a gallery and at the rear, at the end of their courtyard garden, what was a decrepit garage is now a sympathetic new build called Newgate Boathouse, a holiday home with its own garden and patio.
“We are both very enthusiastic walkers,” explained Jane. “Being townies from London we were drawn by the central location of this house, with all the shops you need within 50 yards – fishmonger, grocer, butcher, deli. On the other hand you have wonderful coastal path walks from Wells to Stiffkey one way and Burnham Overy Staithe the other. Wonderful, ever-changing views, nature in your face; so exhilarating. So we are very fortunate in having the very best of both worlds, all on the doorstep.”
Barry, an architect, was born in London, but his family moved around a lot. His father, after serving in the RAF, went to different parts of the country managing family shoe shops accompanied by his family. “However by age 11 we found ourselves in Norfolk and I went to Thorpe Grammar followed by Wymondham College,” recalled Barry.
“I used to listen to the Home Service (now Radio 4) and got fired up by history and architecture. I studied part-time, whilst working and gaining experience in the practice of Powell & Moya, in Westminster. Then after seven years I joined the housing practice of Phippen, Randall & Parkes, where I stayed ever since, rising up to chairman, before retiring in 2007. I now carry on a bit, on my own, and have been involved in conversions and extensions, having recently done one at Helhoughton for some good friends.”
Jane, who was born and brought up in London, lived in Clapham. “I was always interested in fashion,” she explained, “and was fortunate to get on a training course with Jaeger, where you did absolutely everything. I worked in all departments of the company, then retail for six years followed by being a buyer and then I moved into HR.
“This was fascinating as I knew how the business worked and was able to put applicants into the job most suited, so all my years of experience came in most useful. I was there for 27 years and enjoyed it all.
“Barry and I had known each other for years, continued Jane, “before marrying in 1986. After retirement we have managed to focus on personal projects, including a small plot of land owned by my family in Clapham. Fortunately I knew a good architect! Nowadays I enjoy doing voluntary work at the Royal Marsden Hospital and am on the committee of the Friends.”
While judging the British Urban Regeneration Awards, which involved Barry and Jane traveling around the country, they stayed overnight in Wells on the Norfolk leg. “It was just like coming home,” remembered Barry, “and it stuck in the memory banks, so much so we started looking for a holiday home, when Staithe Street cropped up.
“We were taken by the space and history of the property and the first floor layout in particular, with a sizeable living room and its big open period fireplace, our favourite room and good kitchen dining [space]. With four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a delightful courtyard garden it ticked all the boxes not only for ourselves, but also when the family come. There’s Zoe and Leo, my children and Tom and Tilly, who are Jane’s.
“Each year for Wells Carnival they and many grandchildren descend for the festivities. I must admit, I find I start to mentally unwind as soon as we pass Swaffham on the journey up from London, and on arrival we feel incredibly relaxed.”
“Something we frequently do,” added Jane, “is to walk either to Stiffkey, Burnham Overy Staithe, or Blakeney, have a good lunch, then take the Coast Hopper Bus back; just brilliant. I mentioned earlier we are keen walkers and over the years many holidays were walking trails abroad. We have done Corsica, the Apennines in Italy, also the Italian vineyards plus the Dolomites around Cortina and Mount Etna in Sicily, which was a special walk as it was active at the time.”
“As keen lovers of art,” said Barry, “we have an eclectic collection. My favourite is a painting of Wells Harbour, in the hall, by Wendy Broer. Jane likes one bought in Australia, hanging in the kitchen which is a yellow tea towel, imprinted ‘Modern art = I could do that + yeah but you didn’t’. More recently, we have got to know Andrew Ruffhead and his wife Sarah, on visits to his gallery, Fish & Ships at Burnham Market. Interestingly Andrew is very into Chelsea Football Club, as I am, and has come down for matches.
“He makes wonderful things from old boat timbers and the whale above the fireplace is one of his. I originally was seriously thinking about fine art as a career; however no regrets, as it is now a hobby and I am learning more going on various courses. I enjoy going to the Wells Institute on a Saturday to watch the football on TV, a real experience; great atmosphere.”
“The Boathouse,” concluded Jane, “has proved very popular with couples, who enjoy bird watching, walking, sailing and the wonderful surrounding countryside and pubs, but like being in the centre of the town. One of the things I personally enjoy is walking down the street to the Albatros, a Dutch cargo boat built in 1899 as a North Sea Clipper, moored at Wells Quayside, that’s now a bar/restaurant and sitting there watching the sun go down; very special, as indeed is living here in North Norfolk.”
Newgate Boathouse is available for holiday lettings through:
Norfolk Hideaways 01485 211022 www.norfolkhideaways.co.uk
Owners: Jane and Barry Munday.
Property: Grade two, converted merchant’s town house.
Moved in: 2010
Professions: Barry is an architect. Jane worked in fashion, now does voluntary work.
Other home: London mews house.
Favourite room: The sizeable living room, with its big open period fireplace, sold us the property.
Favourite item: Barry said: “My favourite is a painting of Wells harbour, in the hall, by Wendy Broer. Jane likes one bought in Australia hanging in the kitchen which is a yellow tea towel imprinted ‘modern art = i could do that + yeah but you didn’t’.”
Favourite interiors shop: Conran in London and Fish & Ships Gallery Burnham Market.
Favourite part of the county: Here
Favourite day out: Wells Carnival; the family and many grandchildren descend for the festivities.
Favourite waste of time: Jane said: “The Albatros, a Dutch cargo boat built in 1899 as a North Sea clipper, moored at Wells quayside, that’s now a bar/restaurant and sitting there watching the sun go down; very special.”
Favourite walks: Walk either to Stiffkey, Burnham Overy Staithe or Blakeney.
Favourite pub/cafe/picnic: Red Lion at Stiffkey. Walk there for lunch, Coasthopper back.