Our houses are all privately owned. When we meet with the owners we often hear some great stories such as how the houses were found, why they were bought, renovated, inherited etc.
We thought a tour of a selection of the stories would be of great interest so here begins a monthly blog, ‘The story of our houses’.
We start with a Q&A with the owners of the charming white washed cottage Carreg Wen in Pembrokeshire.
We know Carreg Wen is a family property. Do you have any tales of it and your family’s history that we would find enchanting?
As a child I remember Carreg Wen having one of the best hide and seek spots on the whole farm! At the bottom of the old external staircase (which now houses the porch) there used to be a hollowed out space, accessible only through a little square opening. Presumably this was some form of old animal pen (geese?) but in later years it became a brilliant hideaway, particularly for myself as the youngest of 4 brothers!
The farm itself is steeped in history. Legend has it that beyond the fields by the cliffs, wreckers used to tie lamps to the tails of donkeys, to lure ships onto the rocks below. It’s also said that a secret tunnel led from a cave below called Ogof Tobacco (Tobacco Cave), up to the Manor House next to Carreg Wen. Some members of the family tried to retrace the route a few decades ago, but to no avail!
Difficult to be precise on this. Documentary sources indicate a settlement since at least the 12th century. The first time it’s mentioned seems to be in an inventory attached to the will of a Rev William Laugharne who died in 1784-5. We think that it then constituted the estate’s ‘malthouse’. It seems to have been modified over the years and by the beginning of the 20th century had been turned into stables.
How long did the conversion take?
We put the planning application in during 2008 and Carreg Construction, an excellent local firm of builders, started on site two years later. By September 2010 the build was completed and lettings commenced in January 2013.
Carreg Wen has a rare location with sea views in the National Park which protects local buildings to a far greater extent than the properties outside the park. Can you tell us about one or two restoration rules you had to follow that customers staying at the house would find really interesting.
We were passionate advocates of adopting the traditional local building methods using lime. So the stone walls have been rebuilt largely with lime mortar. They have then been hand-pressed with lime render, with horse hair used as one of the binding agents, and a white lime wash used instead of paint. This allows the building to breathe properly and avoids the problem of damp getting trapped behind modern cement renders. Gill Wickenden, a fantastic local conservation builder, led on this aspect of the project.
We wanted also to replicate traditional dimensions and detailing for windows and doors. The floor in the main living area and the roof are made of slate from North Wales.
Using the traditional lime method. A bit of a gamble, arguably, in such an exposed area but we’re really happy with the results.
Your house has a definite style. Did you always know you wanted this look or did it evolve as the house was restored?
3 places: Trehilyn Farm near Strumble Head (owned by Griff Rhys-Jones). Its restoration featured in the series ‘A Pembrokeshire Farm’ – which is how I got in contact with Gill Wickenden. The buildings on the farm have been brilliantly restored and proved hugely influential in our approach at Carreg Wen. Dolau Canol in the Teifi Valley, owned by architect Roger Clive-Powell. Another great source of inspiration. Gothic Villa, Ferryside: a wonderful property restored by Tim and Betsy Bowen. Great for ideas on furniture and decoration.
Upstairs bedroom with en-suite: We spent ages trying to configure the best design for dividing the bedroom and en-suite. Together with our superb architect Wes Spees, we ditched the simple idea of a straight dividing wall and tried something a bit different. We think it looks pretty good!
2 Buy the book ‘Save the last of the magic…’ (Traditional Qualities of the West Wales Cottage) by Martin Davies.
For further information about this charming and characterful pet free Solva holiday cottage with luxury accommodation for 6 guests in 3 bedrooms click on Carreg Wen