There are parts of the Castle that I love and parts that make the hair on my neck prickle.
The rooms I love look over the sea: the curved walls of the drawing room, with doors to the elevated stone terrace, William de Morgan tiles in the dining room fireplace, round turret rooms with arrow-slit windows and ironically the rooms of the dentist surgery, soon to be my sea front kitchen, with quirky angular fireplaces and lovely narrow terrace doorway down to the garden.
Less harmonious is the back hall, the 1902 entrance to the surgery, with its clumsy back stairs of little charm. But primarily I am uncomfortable in the basement floor, ‘below stairs’ which is almost as big in foot print as the house above. I intermittently dream of finding dead bodies down here and weirdly, once, an arsonist. I know what a therapist would say about this. Try as I might, I cannot impose the jolly ‘below stairs’ atmosphere of Downton Abbey down here. It is damp, it is cold, the daily grind of chores is apparent in the layout: butler’s strong room with safe and large copper sink, laundry room with original dressers, veg room with ice cold slate slabs, vast, cumbersome dumb waiter, coal hole with sliding hatch which fills with water after heavy rain, staff sitting room (at least there is a fire here, with dour black slate surround), back wash room with its grim high flush ( see ‘Garrya elipitica and an Ugly Loo’) and staff entrances from the front drive that are so narrow they are for miniature people with a low protein, low carb, low everything diet. Although the house is only Victorian, the outside steps to these doorways are worn to a deep groove. ‘What will you do with it? ‘, is the common question of visitors. Let it be, is my reply. Keep its exposed pipework, black and red tiled floors, original dressers and cupboards. I cannot over write the house’s history and superimpose cinema rooms, gyms or ‘man den’ for here.
But what I can do is dry it out (major construction required to achieve this), add cast iron radiators, restore the safe to working order, use the veg room for Christmas fare, turn the staff sitting room and adjoining lighter rooms into a flat for family and friends, including an art studio in the beautiful morning room that overlooks the garden (yes the original family ventured down here for breakfast). It all looks so simple in writing. Ask me how I am getting on in a year’s time.
The narrow trademan’s entrance