WATCH: First look at transformation of historic wedding venue into new homes
PUBLISHED: 14:08 02 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:08 02 September 2020
A ‘Tudorbethan’ manor house in Norwich with an ancient monument is being converted into new homes.
Iain Wilson, the man who transformed Reepham’s Dial House and who currently owns the Pigs, Edgefield, and Byford’s, Holt, is working his magic on Drayton Old Lodge, Drayton High Road.
With its medieval style windows and chimneys, it resembles a Tudor or Elizabethan manor – but in fact was built much later, just before the outbreak of the First World War, in 1914.
Mr Wilson, of Norwich-based Wilson Development, has planning permission to create 35 homes from the site in up to five phases, starting with the conversion of the manor house itself into three townhouses and five apartments.
The rest of the new builds wrapping around the house in 10 acres will be built over several years, with the aim of finishing about seven-eight a year.
And as part of the planning consent, Mr Wilson has to reinforce the structure of a listed momument in the grounds, the ruins of the original 15th century lodge which was built for a knight, Sir John Fastolf, (on whom Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff was based.) The structure was originally two storeys high with a tower at each corner. It was destroyed in the War of the Roses in 1465 and now just a few of its walls and the remnants of its towers remain. The work on the monument is estimated to cost Mr Wilson up to £80,000.
The main house, Drayton Old Lodge was built as a private house with a wall plaque bearing the date at the rear of the building. It wasn’t lived in as a private house for long and later became a home for nurses working at Hellesdon Hospital nearby.
In latter years it saw a 1960s extension added which was used as a business centre. The main house became a wonderful wedding venue with ceremonies held inside and then receptions in marquees in the grounds.
However, over the years, plans to transform the venue into a £6m, 30 bedroom hotel failed and after problems with gaining permission from the council to install a permanent marquee in the grounds, eventually the entire property came up for sale – and Mr Wilson bought it.
Last December the business centre officially closed and a sale was held of some of the old contents before building work started early this year, just before the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Wilson aims to retain as many of the original features as possible. Homes will range in price from £225,000 to £700,000 – with the top end apartment having the grand original entrance porch as its front door as well as a mullioned bay window above.
Downstairs it will also have the formal front reception with a grand oak staircase as well as a stone fireplace.
But all the homes being converted in the main house will have the original leaded windows, being retained but with secondary glazing added for insulation. Some oak wall panelling will be retained as well as a back set of servant’s stairs.
Jamie Perry, site director, said: “These homes would suit an older clientele, perhaps who are retired, former professionals. We’re looking at building just seven-eight homes a year and we’ve got a mix of townhouses and apartments.
“We’re working with a beautiful old building which structurally was brilliant, we’ve had to replace some of the roof but we are retaining the original features, it’s got wonderful high ceilings and of course the ancient monument which many of the rooms look out towards.
“One of the apartments gets the entrance as their front door but all get the leaded windows, really good space and luxury bathrooms and kitchens. The new builds will have two-four bedrooms with the first homes aimed to be finished in early summer 2021.”
Homes will have private gardens and there will be some communal grounds and plenty of parking.
Mr Wilson is renowned for his ability to transform old properties, reinvigorating them by putting them at the core of new communities.
He converted the Old Brewery House in Reepham back in 2013, creating a boutique style hotel, restaurant and retail space from the original building which he now no longer owns. He then went on to create an exclusive development of new homes at the rear of the property called The Dial.
He’s transformed many properties including the Assembly House in Norwich, Byford’s in Holt, the Pigs, Edgefield, the Ffolkes Arms, Hillington and the King’s Head in Holt.
A hidden gem: the ancient monument
Hidden but still bearing a sign for the public is a ruin of the original medieval manor house, dating to the 15th century.
The Grade II star listed building and a scheduled ancient monument, the original lodge was built in the 1430s by the English knight Sir John Fastolf (on whom Shakespeare’s Falstaff is based). The building is believed to have been a strategic lookout and hunting lodge, located on the brow of the hill overlooking the Wensum valley. In 1459 the lodge was left to the Paston family. At the time the Duke of Norfolk coveted Caister Castle while the Duke of Suffolk had designs on Drayton and besieged it with a view to taking it over. The lodge was annihilated by the duke in 1465, following a dispute with the Pastons.
It was allowed to fall into ruin and later used for shelter by shepherds and warreners before becoming a historic treasure in the grounds of Drayton Old Lodge.
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