Reprinted from Newsletter 96, dated 2000 July–August

Restoring Melrose

Nick Oliver

A large group of people in formal early-20th-century clothing stand and sit outside a large building.

A wedding party at Melrose about 1900. Can anyone name them?

We originally purchased Melrose, near the top of Coursing Batch on the Tor side, in 1993 from Mary and the late Brian Fletcher [a veterinary surgeon], who had lived there continuously for about 35 years.

Gradually over the years we carried out a number of works — re-roofing, rebuilding chimney stacks and replacement of various windows — but we always knew we had to look at the major project of renewing and repairing the two stone bay windows to the front. The one to the right of the property needed complete renewal due to erosion and severe frost damage but fortunately the left one was in the main sound and needed only minor repairs.

We saw the works to the windows as an opportunity of bringing back the symmetry to the Georgian house, which was the original intention, but clearly money did not allow this, as the right hand bay window was square onto the house as opposed to the splayed one to the left and as we had to renew this, it gave us the opportunity to make this improvement as we saw it. At the same time as these works, we were looking to replace the lead work and flagstone frontage and also renovating the cast-iron balustrading.

As the property is listed as Grade II, we had to seek the appropriate consent. Unfortunately Mendip council had one or two concerns about the alteration to the right-hand bay window and held the view that the window was designed for a purpose. We saw the situation totally differently, in that neither of the windows matched, they were probably taken from two different former dwellings and made to fit. We were successful in obtaining listed-building consent and were able to start work in the middle of November.

We eventually employed Jonathan Harbin, a local craftsman and builder, to carry out the work.

We commenced work in November when scaffolding was erected in order to cover the front of the house so that work could still continue during poor weather. Eventually it was completed by the middle of February.

Although we were anticipating major disruption, the parts of the bay window came away reasonably easily and there was not a tremendous amount of disruption caused although we did lose the use of our two front rooms during the period on which each respective window was being worked on.

Fortunately no unforeseen problems arose as a result of the works, which was something we had been worried about. At the same time we had the original shutter windows re-instated, which had been lost during the passage of time.