A lovingly-restored, six-bedroom Victorian mansion is now on the market. Carolyn Bointon takes a closer look.
AS you wander through the immaculately decorated rooms of Field Head, it is hard to believe that, less than 15 years ago, it was a ruin.
Weeds and brambles ran wild in the garden, and there was even a tree growing through the ceiling of the main living room. No wonder really, as the floorboards then resembled mulch.
It was a shameful fate for such a magnificent country house, which for many years had been the home of Hugo Johnson, general manager of Mayfield Mill, and his wife Muriel.
But for one man it was the perfect building project he had been looking for.
Paul Fordsham, from Derby, had a vision of restoring the late Victorian mansion, but he was determined to keep the original features and design.
He bought the property in 2000 for just over £420,000, and began the daunting task of rebuilding the house.
He was five years into his restoration project, and had completed all the major structural work needed, but he felt it was time to hand over the reins to a new owner – one who would take his vision to the next level and create the perfect family house.
Nicola O'Halleran was just that person.
She said she fell in love with the house as soon as she saw it, and knew exactly what she wanted to do and how she imagined it would look.
She said: "I asked Paul if he would continue working on the house if we bought it, because I really liked the sympathetic way he had restored it so far."
Paul agreed and, in 2005, Nicola and her husband, James, bought the property.
Nicola's first priority was to start work on the empty shell that was to become the kitchen and snug. She said: "I wanted somewhere for friends and family to congregate, centred round a big log fire, so we could all talk and be together, while I indulged my passion for baking and cooking.
"I told Paul what I was thinking, and we came up with the idea to have an open-plan lounge with a couple of sofas, a dining table and then a big, well-proportioned kitchen. We added recessed store cupboards to maximize the space available."
The cupboards were fronted with glass, to reflect the views of the garden from the kitchen window and, wherever you are in the kitchen, you can catch glimpses of the colourful flowers and lush green shrubbery outside.
Nicola knew exactly how she wanted the lounge fireplace to look, too. She said: "All the brick is reclaimed and so is the big beam across the top. In fact the wooden beam was three times as long as we needed, but I only wanted the very middle part of it as the mantle.
"It was a lot of work to cut it exactly right and to the correct size but I'm delighted with the result."
Next project was to get the six bedrooms habitable, and Nicola was determined to give each room an en-suite bathroom.
She said: "We had to knock through some of the smaller upstairs rooms, but I knew it would be worthwhile.
"The smallest guest bedroom on the third floor was a challenge as the en-suite space was so small – but I had an idea to put in a glass wall, which works perfectly.
"Guests can see out into the garden, but no-one can look in at them. It's one of my favourite quirky spots in the house."
The second-largest bedroom, decorated in a light pastel blue, has a secret too – a hidden space with two single beds. "When my daughter, Ali, was at school she would have all her friends come for sleep-overs, and this was a real highlight for them all," explained Nicola. "The entrance is in the ceiling, and it just looks like a normal attic, until you pull down the hidden step-ladders."
The cream master bedroom has stunning views overlooking the garden lawn and fields beyond. But Nicola said that this room needed the most work to get it right, as it was completely open to the elements, and had no floorboards in place as they had completely rotted away. She said: "All the windows needed to be replaced, but it needed to be in keeping with the original style – so I ended up going to a small specialist glass-maker who could create them double glazed, but keep the lead-pane look."
The house has a self-contained annex, which is used as an office and sewing room, and overlooks the picturesque back garden, which is crammed full of pretty herbaceous borders, flowering shrubs and a large vegetable patch.
The property also has planning permission to add a triple garage and leisure complex, including a swimming pool.
There is no doubt the whole house has been renovated with much love and great attention to detail but Nicola said she felt the time was right for her to move on.
She said: "It's been the most amazing project for me to take on and I have loved every minute, but now the house is exactly as I imagined it when I first saw it 10 years ago, and I'm itching to start again and create another beautiful home.
"But, on reflection, I think I might pick a smaller project this time."
Field Head is currently offered for sale with Savills with a guide price of £1,600,000. It has six en-suite bedrooms, a self-contained annex and around two acres of mature gardens.