IF you drive into Nettlebed from Henley the first house you’ll probably notice, on the left,
IF you drive into Nettlebed from Henley the first house you’ll probably notice, on the left, is a rather beautiful Georgian townhouse with Elizabethan bones (or should that be skeletons?).
Red Lion House is believed to date back to the 1400s, so it comes as no surprise to find it listed (Grade II).
The name comes from its former identity as a coaching inn (it formed one along with the Barn and Red Lion Cottage next door), although it’s had many uses during its 700 years, including a bailliff’s house, a tea house, a picture gallery, a bed and breakfast and an antiques showroom.
Currently home to Steve and Jane Carr, young son Hugo and two Labradors, Scout and Frank, Red Lion House has happily settled into its present incarnation as a comfortable family home, giving a nod of acknowledgment to its past with exposed beams, wooden shutters, fireplaces and more.
“Much of the history is still evident,” says Jane. “The original barrel drop runs down into the cellar and the inglenook fireplace has a bread oven. A beam exposed around 40 years ago revealed a hand-painted illustration believed to date back to Tudor times when travelling artists would visit local inns and paint the beams as a form of decoration, like early wallpaper.
”We had been looking for extra space and a more family friendly environment, whilst not feeling cut off or remote, and were lucky enough to find Red Lion House. It had been converted into a private home around 40 years ago, and we moved in in February 2006.
“The Georgian proportions offer high ceilings and large rooms giving a real feeling of space and light. However, the house was in need of some modernisation when we arrived.”
The Carrs were quick to get stuck into this, while ensuring the character of the house remained intact.
“As the house is listed we had to carefully update the kitchen, bathrooms, electrics, lighting and exterior of the house,” says Jane. “We had wooden shutters built to match the existing ones, and removed carpets to reveal the original wide floorboards.
“The house is full of charm and period features and we have tried to ensure that character comes through in every room.”
The accommodation runs over four floors, including a cellar (which has potential for further conversion), a first floor with a large sitting room, two double bedrooms and a bathroom; a second floor with three double bedrooms and a bathroom; and the all-important ground floor (more about that later).
Jane says: “We love the flexibility of the space in Red Lion House. Over the years the house has evolved with us and we have redecorated and reinvented rooms to suit our needs. For example the first-floor sitting room has been used as a playroom and home office but is currently a library and bar!
“What is now used as a dressing room used to be our son’s bedroom when he was younger and one of the bedrooms on the second floor is currently a games room/teenagers’ den.”
The ground floor has a drawing room (Standard Property loves the large inglenook fireplace) and a family/dining room which opens through to the kitchen, which is simply stunning. The Carrs have fitted it with iroko-topped handmade units, as well as installing an Aga. Like most Georgian houses the kitchen has a large walk-in pantry; unlike most, there is also a utility/cloakroom.
“Our favourite room is the family/dining room which leads into the kitchen,” says Jane. “We spend most of our time in here and you can be in the kitchen without being cut off from conversation.
“This is the room where papers are read, homework is done, emails are sent, meals are eaten, friends gather and dogs lie snoring in the corner!”
Outside, the garden is south-facing and backs on to woodland so it’s a lovely place to be.
“We redesigned the garden to make it more family friendly,” says Jane. At the end of the garden, double gates provide access to a parking area, which is currently used as a garden.
“When we first saw Red Lion House after leaving London, we instantly fell for its charms,” says Jane. “The flow of rooms works really well for family living and is a great social home for entertaining guests â?? in fact we will miss the social aspect of the house most of all.
“The house is in the heart of a very welcoming village and offers wonderful space for entertaining both inside and out.
“But with Steve working away from home during the week and Hugo now at boarding school we have decided to downsize â?? although we’ll stay as local to Nettlebed as possible.
“There is amazing countryside on our doorstep and I love being able to walk out of the house straight into the gardens of Joyce Grove and the wonderful footpaths beyond. We also benefit from many school buses stopping across the road, meaning it is easy to avoid having to do the school run!”
For sale with Savills at a guide price of £1million. Call (01491) 843000 for more information.
RED Lion House is thought to be one of the most historically important houses in Nettlebed.
It was once a gathering place for highwaymen including Curly Bill, who was apprehended for robbery in 1835 and transported for life to the penal colonies.
Local tradition has it that Joyce Grove, next door to Red Lion House, was where Cornet Joyce, apprehender of Charles I, met and had an affair with Nell Gwynne.
In 1782 Goethe’s protégé CP Moritz, touring England on horseback, came to Nettlebed where “the Red Lion, brightly lit, took him in and gave him a carpeted room with a very good bed. Pleased with his reception and surroundings, he prolonged his stay, seeming to be enchanted and unable to leave the village”.
It is also said King George III and Queen Charlotte stayed there on their way to Oxford in 1785.