Historic mansion's restoration drama

This is a house which has trees in its gardens planted by Royal guests, including King Edward VII. Current owner Ian Price took it on it as major restoration project - and just look at it now.

This is a house which has trees in its gardens planted by Royal guests, including King Edward VII. Current owner Ian Price took it on it as major restoration project - and just look at it now. CAROLINE CULOT reports.

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It really has been a labour of love to bring back to life what was a sad, fading grand dame of country houses.

But Ian Price and his Norwegian wife Unni so firmly believe in ensuring beautiful houses remain for future generations that they invested time, hard work and a lot of money into making Marham House, near Swaffham, the exquisite English treasure it is today.


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The original Marham House was enormous, boasting about 30 bedrooms and built by the first Henry Villebois, who had co-succeeded in his great-grandfather Sir Benjamin Truman's brewery business.

It passed to his son, also Henry Villebois, who was high sheriff in 1840 and an MP for West Norfolk.

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He entertained Royalty including King Edward VII (when he was the Prince of Wales), Prince Alfred (the then Duke of Edinburgh) and “Kipling's General” Lord Roberts VC, all of whom planted trees in the grounds and their plaques remain.

It also came to light that King Edward VII wrote a letter to his mistress Lillie Langtry when he was staying at Marham House.

The majority of the house was demolished in the early 1930s and re-built using materials from the original in 1937.

Having been requisitioned during the second world war and allowed to deteriorate, the then owner was too old to restore the property and sold it on.

The Prices had great vision for Marham House, a handsome and imposing country house of brick elevations under a slate roof.

The couple used interior design companies to achieve the look they wanted, taking the property back to Georgian elegance.

In the drawing room, one of Mr Price's favourite rooms, magnolia coloured paint and heavy drapes using Laura Ashley fabric help create the elegance of the Georgian period.

Big comfy sofas fill this room, which has no television or audio equipment, because Mr Price likes to sit and read the newspaper there.

Another favourite room is the plush, terracotta-coloured dining room, one of the few rooms in the house with its original fireplace - Art Deco with an American oak surround. The floor, as in many of the rooms, uses the original pine stripped floorboards and the Prices decided to hang as a centrepiece a rare lacquer Vietnamese picture with a mother of pearl inlay. Again the drapes are Laura Ashley fabric.

But perhaps one of the most stunning features of the house is the large orangery.

When the Prices took on the house, this was falling apart, so they replaced the roof and employed timber specialists to rebuild it as it would have been in its heyday, with 140 panes of glass and traditional ironwork.

Mr Price heats it with a woodburner, but has also installed specially made radiators and an off-white and black ceramic tiled floor to complete the look. It was a mammoth task - but you can see just how much it was worth it.

The kitchen is also a room used frequently by the Prices, who like to cook and entertain. They have installed an Aga in the original fireplace and put preparatory areas on one side and necessities, such as the fridge and freezer on the other.

Outside, the grounds amount to more than 11 acres, including a Marie Antoinette cottage and a folly which formed an original rotunda.

Mr Price decided to leave the folly without a roof because it provides a home for barn owls.

t Marham House is for sale with Strutt and Parker for £1.65m.

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