A relocation to Melbourne, Australia was cancelled six days before we were due to fly out. It was easy to unpack our bags, but much more difficult to unpack our mind set. We had mentally moved on from our flat in Tunbridge Wells, Kent but now we had nowhere to go. We decided moving to a house in London was going to be our next adventure. I spent hours, days, and weeks trawling websites. I looked at, and discounted, many houses for various reasons without stepping foot in any of them. Disheartened we decided to rent by my husband’s office for a year, enjoying the free time the short commute gave us, while keeping an eye on the homes coming onto market. That was our plan, until a house dropped in price and entered my search criteria.
For the first time in 60 years our future home came onto the market and in the estate agents opinion did require ‘some updating,’ which was an enormous understatement. The agent showed me around and I saw all the problems – the damp, the wood worm, limited central heating, the uneven springy floors, tiny bathroom, leaking roof – to name a few, but overwhelmingly I knew this house would make a wonderful family home. I saw potential everywhere!
We came, we saw and we bought. After collecting the keys we ran around pulling up layer upon layer of carpet before the removalists arrived. The backing on the carpet had disintegrated making it very dirty work. We were astounded to discover the oldest layer of carpet dated back to 1924, as the newspaper used as underlay showed.
The removalists placed all our furniture in one room so we could continue stripping out all we didn’t want. We assumed most of the Victorian features such as doors, banisters and fire surrounds had been removed but on closer inspection we realised some had only been boarded over – a trend in the 1970’s. I set to work with a hammer and chisel, prising off all the panelling. Underneath, I found lots of buried treasure!
We have six fire places in our house. Most had been remodelled in the 70’s but I was excited to see, what appeared to be one original cast iron fire surround. Even if it did look a little pale and glossy.
That first evening, overwhelmed by the dirt and dust everywhere, I sat on a solitary chair in the dining room not wanting to touch anything. Despite the lovely features we had uncovered throughout the day, I was in a mild state of panic. Most would say the house was in an unlivable condition, yet we had no choice but to live in it. What had we done? We were now the proud owners of a house with countless problems and we had used ALL of our money to get it!
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