A house with history in Staindrop, Co Durham

PUBLISHED: 16:24 01 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:13 20 February 2013

A house with history in Staindrop, Co Durham

A house with history in Staindrop, Co Durham

Overlooking the village green in the heart of Staindrop Conservation Area in County Durham, Malvern House comes with a colourful background Words and pictures by Sarah Willcocks



The print version of this article appeared in the November 2011 issue of North East Life

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Malvern House in Staindrop has an interesting history. An early resident was Attorney General John Lee (known as honest Jack Lee), the premises later had a stint as a sweet shop and in recent years it was run as a guest house.


These days this versatile Grade II listed property is a beautifully appointed family home to Collette, Julian and their two boys Adam and Joe.

Founding partners of www.tellthebride.com Collette and Julian Clamp both worked in IT before getting married. It was also the internet that introduced Collette and Julian to their current home, when they were trawling estate agents websites.

We saw the house advertised for sale online, says Julian. As soon as we saw it we fell in love.

But they had reservations. The eighteenth-century property lacked a kitchen and needed a new roof. The advert disappointingly described the six bedroom house as having a yard to rear. But a viewing revealed outdoor space that in places was 15 foot wide.

The house dates to the early 1700s and is believed to have been designed by Georgian architect John Carr, a Yorkshire man who became one of the leading architects in the North. Carr was involved with Raby Castle and Malvern House was part of the Raby Estate until the Eighties.

It is the only house in the village with a red brick faade and creates a striking impression in a street of stone builds.

We were fooled by the trompe loeil windows on the frontage, says Julian. We thought there must be another floor to the property!

Unusually the front door is at the side of the property and opens into an impressive hall. It features original flagstones and the open fireplace is quite a talking point with visitors. The contemporary colour scheme balances the old and the new. Restful lilacs and mellow yellows in the kitchen complement the propertys character. Modern oak flooring has been smoked to give it a suitably worn appearance.

Aging is also a natural feature of the quirky upper landing where
the floors lean to one side. As you walk across the guest bedroom, known as the pink room, you actually feel slightly intoxicated. Period properties do not get more authentic than this.

Collettes flair for design is visible at every turn but notably in the kitchen, which was once just a shell.

When we moved in, our kitchen consisted of a camping gas stove for the first six months and a microwave, recalls Collette. It was the first room to tackle and the most rewarding.

I did a lot of research on the web to find the right units, door fronts and surfaces, says Collette. The worktops are irrocco, a water-proofed wood that holds its colour.

Collettes detective work led her to Custom Designs in St Helens Auckland and Collette collaborated closely with the firm to get the right look. Custom Designs lived up to its name and even made the table with its solid oak top. The chairs were sourced online and spray-painted to blend in with the colour scheme. The brass chandelier keeps its vintage look by not being polished.

The biggest challenge was having the roof done. There was no ceiling on the upper floor, just tarpaulin strung up. A makeshift loo on the galleried landing was about the most one could hope for in terms of modern conveniences. And with six working fires, the local chimney sweep was not short of work.

Weve been soot-bombed three times, says Collette. Years of soot, bird nests and debris fell through the stacks, exploding out into the rooms and up the walls.

We rang a cleaning firm who claimed to clean up anything, recalls Collette. They came out to the house, took one look and promptly left. So we cleaned it ourselves. The blue bedroom which we call the music room took eight hours to clean and we filled 13 sacks with debris and soot.

Collette and Julian have also worked their magic on the outside space, transforming 70 foot of gravel into lawned gardens with water features, arched trellises and raised flower beds. Julian did all the woodwork himself, even steaming the wood in an old drainpipe until it was malleable, so that the shape of the trellises would mirror the arched feature window of the house looking over the garden.

To the rear of the garden Collette has created a private courtyard area for al fresco dining which really comes into its own in the summer. The setting is idyllic, with Langley Beck running adjacent to the rear boundary and beyond are the grounds to Raby estate and some rather special neighbours, a herd of red and fallow deer.

With the house restored, the interior dressed to perfection and the garden flourishing, this creative couple turned their considerable talents to a new design concept www.tellthebride.com. The venture is a happy marriage of Collettes eye for design and Julians technical coding capabilities.

Inspired by their experience of sourcing items for the house, Collette and Julian wanted to create an interactive site that was more than just a wedding directory, where brides can find things they love by the features they like best.

When you are at home bringing up the children, you find yourself looking for an outlet to design and create, says Collette. Malvern House is quite an outlet, and thanks to the Clamps it can now more than live up to its promising faade.

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