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Gatehouses

PUBLISHED: 16:31 02 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:34 20 February 2013

Gatehouses

Gatehouses

What it's like to live in a gatehouse at one of the county's grandeur estates

Gorgeous gatehouses



They are an enchanting feature of our Norfolk landscape the little lodge cottages at the entrances to our grander estates. But what are they like to live in, asks Rowan Mantell.


Charlotte Paton fell in love at first sight. As soon as she saw The Old Lodge, West Bilney, she was smitten.

"It was absolutely not what we were looking for. We were looking for a four-bedroom family house. It was a two-bedroom bungalow," she says.

But of course it was not just any two-bedroom bungalow. It dates back to the early 1800s and lies at the start of a drive down to where, once, stately West Bilney Hall stood.

"It was just spectacularly lovely. We have got a little stream that runs through the garden. The old woman who lived here gave me armfuls of peonies. It was magnificent and I immediately felt at peace here," explains Charlotte.

That was 40 years ago and Charlotte and her husband have lived at the gatehouse ever since.

It was originally built for the estate worker who would rush to swing the heavy gates open for the owners of the grand hall and their visitors.


We have a wonderful front room with a window on every side, so you could see her ladyship approaching from all directions and rush out to open the gate."

"The hall has long gone but there was another estate gatehouse, still here, when we moved in," says Charlotte. "Very sadly it was demolished. If wed have known we could have least saved some of the lovely arched windows.feature of our Norfolk landscape the little lodge cottages at the entrances to our grander estates. But what are they like to live in, asks Rowan Mantell.

Charlotte Paton fell in love at first sight. As soon as she saw The Old Lodge, West Bilney, she was smitten.

"It was absolutely not what we were looking for. We were looking for a four-bedroom family house. It was a two-bedroom bungalow," she says.

But of course it was not just any two-bedroom bungalow. It dates back to the early 1800s and lies at the start of a drive down to where, once, stately West Bilney Hall stood.

"It was just spectacularly lovely. We have got a little stream that runs through the garden. The old woman who lived here gave me armfuls of peonies. It was magnificent and I immediately felt at peace here," explains Charlotte.

That was 40 years ago and Charlottechildren, and their seven granddaughters now enjoy playing in the beautiful garden. And it is not just Charlotte, currently researching West Norfolk artist Walter Dexter, who believes her home is Heaven on Earth. "The vicar says driving down to our house is like approaching the Elysium Fields!" she says.


"It was a beautiful gatehouse and I had a lot of fun there in my childhood and teens."



Zoe Durrant loves all things vintage an enthusiasm which just might have started during her childhood on the Heydon estate.

She lived in one of the gatehouses, and the tiny house came complete with mullioned windows and a stair turret with castellated parapet. Zoe remembers the freedom of being allowed to roam the estate.



"In most cottages the rooms are small and dark, but of course we have all these windows. We have a wonderful front room with a window on every side, so you could see her ladyship approaching from all directions and rush out to open the gate."

The Old Lodge stopped being used as a gatehouse around the beginning of the 20th century but Charlotte, a writer, has an 1892 photograph of the house, showing the gates intact. She has also unearthed a fascinating history of the house.

She grew up in Bungay and remembers tales of the man known locally as the King of Poachers. When she moved to West Bilney she knew she was arriving in another area frequented by poacher Frederick Rolfe, famous for his book I Walked By Night.

But it was another 30 years, when the mortgage was paid off and she saw the deeds of the house for the first time, that she realised she could be living in Fredericks house.

Fred Rolfes memoirs of his mis-spent youth as a poacher became the 1935 book I Walked by Night. He broke hearts as well as laws and it took Charlotte years to unravel his complicated life and tragic death. Her book, King of the Norfolk Poachers, was published in 2009 and the following year she helped produce a DVD of her research much of it filmed around the gatehouse they both called home.

The house was much smaller then. Even now Charlotte says: "Its by no means a sensible house to live in. The rooms are not very big. My children couldnt wait to get away. All they wanted to do was ride their bikes somewhere with pavements. But now they come back with their children!".

She and her chartered surveyor husband had two omplete with a little brick building, with an old-fashioned oven and fireplace to heat it," says Zoe, whose varied career has included international modelling contracts, singing in bands, song-writing for stars and running a series of vintage fairs.


Her mum rented the cottage from the Heydon estate for 25 years, and Zoe recalls: "It was a beautiful gatehouse and I had a lot of fun there in my childhood and teens."

She loved the summer days and being able to walk to Heydon, which she calls "the prettiest village in Norfolk."

"But it could get extremely cold in the winter as it wasnt built with any insulation," remembers Zoe. "The main room in the house was my favourite, with big windows, high ceilings and lots of sunshine."

The gatehouse, also known as Eagle Lodge after the birds on columns on each side of the gates, is one of five sets of lodges at different entrances to the estate.

Today, Zoe lives in Guestwick and runs her vintage fairs all over Norfolk, plus in Stockholm, where she was based as a songwriter in the team writing for Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and the Sugababes. But she still returns to Heydon every summer to hold a fair there, July 1 this year.

Zoes Little Vintage Lover Fair specialises in clothing and collectibles from the 1920s to the 1980s. Period music and refreshments served on vintage tea-sets are all part of the fun. The next is at Blakeney Village Hall on March 18 (www.littlevintageloverfair.co.uk).

When you are in charge of the gates to a viscounts mansion you might expect a few aristocratic visitors but Madeleine Secker was certainly not expecting to see the heir to the throne when she answered a knock at her door late one evening.



"Its a beautiful setting, with the hall and lake in the background. Sometimes they have to stop the match to let the ducks walk over the pitch!"



She was washing-up and went to the door with a tea-towel draped over her shoulder. There stood Prince Charles.

To this day Madeleine does not remember what she said as she opened the gates to Holkham Hall for the Prince of Wales.

Her husband, Toby, was Holkham gatekeeper Holkham Hall for 24 years.

Nowadays the gates are automated, but his widow, 87-year-old Madeleine, was able to keep the title and the gatehouse cottage.

It was a perfect job for Toby, who was born and raised in Norfolk. Although he spent most of his working life in London, his heart was always in his home county.

"He grew up in Norfolk and long before he lived at Holkham he always played cricket for Holkham," explains his sister, Jane. "He came up every week from London in the summer. He used to have a caravan at Burnham Overy Staithe. Then one of our cousins told him the gatekeeper job was coming up. It was a dream job for him and he loved being there."

Toby and Madeleine were responsible for opening and closing the gates at set hours, as well as being on call for unexpected guests.

Their gatehouse bungalow was originally built in 1757 and remodelled in 1840, when the impressive entrance stonework was added.

Toby remained committed to Holkham cricket club and became an umpire when his playing days ended. "Its a beautiful setting, with the hall and lake in the background. Sometimes they have to stop the match to let the ducks walk over the pitch!" says Jane.

And she said the Coke family, in the grand hall, foster a close-knit village atmosphere throughout the estate. "They make everyone feel they are part of a big family," she says.

Fancy trying life in a lodge yourself, without the hassle of having to leap into gate-opening action every time a car or carriage passes?

Three of the entrances to magnificent Houghton Hall have gatehouse lodges. While the northern lodge and the pair of cottages at the main entrance are still permanent homes, the West Lodge is a holiday cottage let through the Landmark Trust.

The Gamekeepers Cottage at North Runcton, near Kings Lynn, was once at the entrance to the North Runcton Hall estate. The mansion built for the Gurney banking family in the 1830s was demolished in the 1960s but its gatehouse, even older than the mansion it served, is a holiday cottage let through www.cottages4you.co.uk. A week early this month would cost 469, rising to just over 1,000 in August.

Moated Oxburgh Hall has a magnificent 15th century gatehouse which is open to the public as part of the National Trust estate


























































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