Riverside home of two Norfolk writers goes up for sale for £675,000
- Credit: Allgood & Davey
A six-bed home overlooking the River Tas has come up for sale - and it's perfect for literature lovers, as it's been the home of two prolific writers for 50 years.
There’s an undeniable sense of place to The Mill House in Tharston, which is on the market with Allgood & Davey for £675,000.
On the day I visit, I’m welcomed by birdsong and the sound of the water rushing pleasantly underfoot. You have to use a footbridge to get to it, walking past the neighbour’s white, weather-boarded mill – now also a home – and over the race.
Two ducks swim back and forth on the river as I pass, and the sun dapples the surface of the water. It is idyllic.
For the past 50 years, the property has been a much-loved family home. It is where authors Ann and Anthony Thwaite raised their four daughters, where the family shared meals and memories, and where their grandchildren played game after game of hide-and-seek in the garden.
Amazingly, Ann and Anthony paid around £14,000 for the home when they first bought it. The property had just been converted and, along with its three neighbouring properties, was part of the original mill complex. Ann says everything was white, although it still had original features like the timber beams and the alcoved storage cupboards which, to this day, still take pride of place in the living room.
At the time, Ann says she and Anthony wanted a family home outside of London – somewhere that their daughters, then at school, could grow up safely.
They had just been gazumped on another property, a “more impressive” sort of manor house in Suffolk, she says. But after that had fallen through, Ann spotted a small advertisement in the newspaper. It was barely a paragraph, words without photographs, but it was enough to pique Ann’s interest.
She booked a train from London to Norfolk and bought The Mill House almost as soon as she saw it. “It was exactly what we were looking for,” she says.
Since then, it has been integral to their personal stories – and housed a few, too.
Anthony, who died last year, was “brilliant”, Ann says. He was widely known as the editor of his friend Philip Larkin’s collected poems and letters – who often stayed at the house using the guest suite in the former “granny flat” – but Anthony was also a celebrated poet and critic in his own right.
Ann is perhaps most famous for her book Goodbye Christopher Robin, which inspired the hit 2017 film starring Domnall Gleeson as Milne and Margot Robbie as his wife Daphne.
She has also written children’s books, as well as award-winning biographies of other notable figures, including Edmund Gosse, Emily Tennyson and Frances Hodgson Burnett.
For 20 years, Ann converted what is now the TV room into a children’s library, inviting local children to come in and borrow books. The house and gardens are also where the couple hosted the East Anglian Writers’ summer parties, complete with punting on the stretch of river.
Today, the house is for sale and offers a charming mix of period and more modern living spaces, with timber beams, a winder staircase and lots
of free-flowing accommodation.
It was extended in the 1970s to create the self-contained flat, which now forms part of the main accommodation, but could be reinstated. The whole layout of flowing, interconnecting rooms is something of a time capsule.
A beautiful split-level living room sits at the heart of the house, where a large open fireplace dominates one wall and a lovely bay window overlooks the river. Open the door at the side and the space suddenly changes: it is even more light and airy, with a glimpse of the lush riverbank outside. It invites you to stop and pause – it’s almost impossible not to.
Elsewhere, the main kitchen is modern and well-fitted, with quartz-effect worktops and a separate dining space. Towards the rear lobby there is a cloakroom, which doubles as a boot room, and access to part of the garden which wraps around the home.
The Mill House is ideal for home-workers – partly because it has been the home and office for two prolific writers for half a century. It currently has two well-used – and well-loved – studies, as well as plenty of shelving and storage space.
Most of the rooms are generous in size and all are full of character. It has six bedrooms in total, many of which are double aspect, and all have big windows offering panoramas over the river or the garden, framing them like rich and vibrant watercolour paintings. One of the bedrooms, which was once Anthony’s study, also has a balcony.
Ann is the first to admit that the property needs some work, which its price reflects. It needs a new central heating system and some cosmetic updating, but you can’t deny that it’s got great charm and even better bones.
Despite its age, it isn’t listed, which offers new owners even more flexibility – although there is also a lot to be said for its rustic aesthetic, which could still be retained with some updating.
Of course, buying the house also means buying its unique riverside setting. The half-acre garden follows the line of the riverbank, which has a small landing stage, before meandering off into different areas of interest. It is apt, some might say, for a writer so closely entwined with the work of Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden.
The garden includes a wealth of mature trees – some of which Ann and Anthony planted – as well as a small orchard, paved paths and a patio. There is also space for a vegetable garden.
It is clear, speaking to Ann, that The Mill House has served the family well over the past 50 years, providing a safe haven for their family to grow and inspiration for her and for Anthony’s creative endeavours.
Now, reluctantly selling, Ann hopes it will do the same, providing the perfect setting for another family as they begin a new chapter.
For more details, call Allgood & Davey on 01603 861961.
Would you like to stay up to date with the latest property news in your area? Sign up to our Eastern Daily Press newsletter for our pick of the best local property stories.