Just what is the secret about this house of mystery for sale on Mundesley cliff?
PUBLISHED: 08:26 13 July 2018 | UPDATED: 16:21 13 July 2018
If you have driven or walked through Mundesley, you can’t fail to have noticed this mysterious residence in an elevated position overlooking the sea. But few know the history behind it. Property editor Caroline Culot went to visit Cliff House, Paston Road, for sale for a guide price of £625,000.
This is a house which you notice because it sits majestically at the highest point of the village, as you go through Mundesley, with its side windows facing out to the sea.
Believed to date from 1830, this late Georgian home boasts a cobblestone exterior and was built for Francis Wheatley, a vice admiral of the coast, who ran his own business importing coal in the mid 19th century when Mundesley was a small port importing coal and timber which was unloaded on the beach below.
Wheatley had a timber yard, coal yard and houses capable of containing 1000 tons of coal with an additional warehouse and granary.
In the house today, there is a framed illustration of Mr Wheatley standing in front of the house, which looks almost exactly as it does today, holding a telescope and looking out at sea at his fleet of ships, dated 1835. Built in an elevated position, the house was the perfect place for Mr Wheatley to keep an eye on his precious cargo coming into land.
It was a century later that the residence took on a very different use as a ‘Flak House’ - these were rest homes set up in England during the Second World War by the American Red Cross to provide centres of rest and recuperation for combat-weary airmen. These were usually situated in large country houses where pilots were permitted to wear civilian clothes and partake in a variety of sporting and recreational activities.
The house is documented as Mundesley Hotel, catering for 20-24 guests and as a Flak House, provided accommodation for the 466th Bomb Group, which was stationed at Attlebridge.
Descriptions by those who stayed there recount: ‘Three days of paradise, swimming, boating and fishing; golf and riding; luxurious rooms, hot baths and good food - breakfast at 10. Nope, not an ad, just an honest to goodness true description of the 466th Bomb Group’s new Rest Home at Mundesley on the North Sea.’
Another description states: ‘It is an old English hostel with an atmophere of antiquity savoured by England’s seafaring traditions.’ Another describes: ‘In each room there are big downy beds with thick mattresses and soft silky eiderdowns, dressing tables and clothes closets, soft rugs and porcelain sinks. There are bathrooms for every two rooms, each resplendent in its own particular colour scheme - pink (still exists) and lavender, ivory and buff....individual tables for four gleaming in white and silver, heaped high with wholesome hot foods...no chow line, no mess kits, no bare tables and benches, no wonder there is a deep reluctance at leaving.’
In 1945, when President Roosevelt died, an American flag was flown at Cliff House at half mast. Many of the servicemen returned over the years to recall their time there bringing with them photographs and even medals to show the owners.
The residence passed into the hands of the family who still own it in 1972 when the Ardleys purchased it, literally coming to Mundesley on holiday and falling in love with it. Cyril Ardley, the son of a hardware store owner, was a member of the Mundesley volunteer inshore lifeboat crew and moved there with his wife and their youngest daughter - and it’s been in their ownership since.
Mr Ardley even saved a young girl’s life when painting his window frames at the house one day - he looked out to sea and saw the girl in trouble. He apparently ran down to the beach and dived in the water, dragging her to safety.
The house now comes to the market for the first time in 46 years and as the agents say, there is scope to sympathetically modernise it.
However, it offers superb accommodation - little has changed over the years except it looks as if at one time there was a substantial, two storey side extension which housed the original kitchen and dining room but which was demolished after the war. At some point, probably very soon after it was built, the house also had a formal front porch added - other than that, very little has changed.
Inside, off a wide formal entrance hall there are the receptions; a sitting room and dining room and there is also a study, rear hall, day room and a shower room downstairs as well as a large kitchen/breakfast room which leads out to a little patio area outside.
Upstairs, you of course have those stunning sea views, with a master bedroom, guest bedroom and two more with a bathroom and shower room. Outside you have 0.4 of an acre and your own access down to the beach. There is a substantial garage and another suprise in the form of another little path leading down to the Mun Beck - or River Mun. I never knew this about Mundesley and how unusual to have a house with a sea view and on the river too. There is a little seat at the bottom where Mr Ardley used to enjoy the peaceful sound of the water, so special.
All this - and a new history is in the making.
Watsons’ Period & Prestige are selling this property and can be contacted on 01603 619916.
An open house event is being held on July 21 at 11.30am, by appointment only, so please contact the agents.