Through the keyhole: Little Parsons Hall, Kyre
PUBLISHED: 00:17 21 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:56 20 February 2013
The house that John and Nicki Beavan rebuilt with love and determination is now a beautiful home and a centre for a growing number of business ventures
10 years have witnessed the transformation of Parsons Hall Farm at Kyre from a collection of tired, historic buildings back to its glory days as a medieval farmstead.
Its thanks to the vision of owners John and Nicki Beavan, who have worked tirelessly, first to restore the 14th century cruck hall house in an entirely sympathetic way and then to breathe the life back into the original tithe barn across the courtyard.
When we first saw it, the house was crying out for someone to come and care for it. The place was affordable, but no-one wanted it because of the costs of putting it right, said John. However, as well as being able to see beyond the dilapidated buildings to what had been there 700 years ago and what could be there again, John was interested because the smallholding had three-phase electricity and a range of more modern farm buildings, essential for his cabinetmaking business. He also had the skills to take on the project and Nicki, too, saw the potential and the opportunity, over time, to turn the house into a comfortable home for their eight children, including two sets of twins.
It felt like it was meant to be, said John. Its a life project, but in the past 10 years a lot has been done. Mostly, he has completed the work himself, alongside his demanding day job, with the help of local stonemasons and specialised craftsmen. In the summer, if I finished early, Id go to work on the house, he said.
Restoring the timber-framed house has been an enormous undertaking. The oldest part of the house dates from 1304 and at that time the central portion, the hall, would have been open to the roof, although a floor has been added since. Somewhat unusually, alongside the original building were the remains of a detached kitchen a later addition, probably erected in the 1500s. The couple decided to join this to the house, to maintain the integrity of the whole and avoid the possibility that at some future date it might be used as a separate dwelling. Further alterations included turning a 1970s lean-to at the back of the property into a hallway, rewiring from top to bottom and installing central heating using a ground source heat pump, which Nicki explains is good for timber-framed buildings because it maintains a constant background heat.
The couple took great care over the restoration, consulting old photographs and records and carrying out research, so they could re-build the various facets as they once were and maintain the propertys unique character. The work has involved removing the leaking tiled roof and replacing it with traditional thatch they found traces of a thatch-line on a chimney.
Another significant change to the external appearance of the property has been the addition of a 21st century extension to enlarge the living room. This has been done with great care, designed to reflect the style of the original house. John made the leaded windows himself, having them glazed by local craftsmen, and these now replace the incongruous French doors to a former extension in that part of the property.
Restoring the character of the dining room, John opened up the chimney to the original open fireplace and reinstated the beautiful carved oak beam. The chimney was full of rubble, and like every chimney in the house had to be rebuilt.
The open fireplace is now a magnificent feature in this atmospheric room, which has been given a real medieval feel, with huge flag stone flooring and a heavy dark oak table which John made in his workshop. The medieval theme continues in other aspects of the dcor, including, in the nearby hallway, a suit of armour and a wall light in the shape of a shield.
There is also an open fireplace in the kitchen, which now houses the cream Aga which the couple brought from their previous home. However, when they moved in, the kitchen was in a very sorry state. The fireplace fell down, and John had to rebuild it bit by bit. He also replaced the red tiled
floors in this room with traditional lime crete flooring.
Upstairs in the five-bedroom property, there is still more work to be completed, but the master bedroom with its en suite bathroom gives a flavour of what is to come. The room is dominated by a wonderful four poster bed which, like much of the beautiful furniture in the property, has been handcrafted by John.
More recently, the couple have turned their attentions to the long tithe barn across the courtyard from the house. It was not a pretty sight, with its rusty tin roof and with most of the timbers rotten or cut through to allow modern farm machinery in. Only a few traces of thatch, some original panels and purlins gave any indication of what it would have looked like plus a few old photographs dating from the 1950s which the couple used for reference.
Today, it is unrecognisable; after two years hard work and some initial part-funding from Natural England, it has been reinstated as a beautiful timber-framed building. The concrete floors have been lifted and replaced with flag stones and cobble sets, the timbers have been repaired, the woven cleft oak panels have being reinstated and the roof has been thatched with long straw, with hazel spurs woven in.
Its new life as a medieval-style functions venue was launched in raucous style last summer, with an evening of Medieval Merriment held in aid of Megan Baker House, for which the barn, with long wooden trestle tables specially made for the occasion, was a perfect backdrop.
John and Nicki have reinstated the original cart pond and replaced the concrete with a cobbled courtyard. But the work doesnt end there. The property, on the border between Worcestershire and Herefordshire, near Tenbury Wells, stands in 25 acres of beautiful meadows and woods, where the couple plan to build two tree houses, to Nickis own designs, which will provide a tranquil and secluded retreat for high flying entrepreneurs to de-stress amid a secluded, rural setting.
Meanwhile, on their farmland and an adjoining 19 acres which they rent, they breed traditional Hereford cattle and Gloucester Old Spot pigs, while John runs his thriving bespoke cabinet- making business in some of the more modern farm buildings, hidden away behind the tithe barn. Nicki also helps market the various business enterprises, so its no wonder, as John points out, that she never has time to watch TV.
What at first glance seems an idyllic, peaceful smallholding with its
medieval hall house, tithe barn and cart pond is both the result of years of hard work and hides a hive of continuing industry