THE British love their homes - it’s a national obsession.
THE British love their homes - it’s a national obsession. And for most of us, that ideal home is a detached character house in a rural/semi-rural position, with a not-too-large garden and a good local community, according to Strutt & Parker.
The estate agency, the nearest branch of which is in Pangbourne, also found that an Aga or Aga-style cooker is top of people’s most-desired list.
“It remains the single most longed-for feature in a home,” the agency said last year.
As luck would have it, the Old Laundry - a five-minute drive from Henley - has all of these things and a pretty village location to boot.
“We bought this house as we fell in love with the setting, right in the heart of Harpsden,” says Andre Jolly, who has lived at the Old Laundry with wife Ruth for the past 11 years. The couple chose to install the gas-fired Aga to create a central hub.
“We wanted to make a great focal point in the kitchen and the Aga is so cosy all the year through â€” it’s a wonderful heart to our home,” says Ruth.
“We sometimes use the Aga for hanging damp washing near it to dry through - with tea towels and pillowcases I don’t even need to iron if I hang them properly.
“Although I wonder what the original inhabitants of the house would have thought of our laundering skills? Maybe it would have made them want to get up on their soapbox?”
(Personally, Standard Property finds doing laundry makes her want to throw in the towel. You could say she’s a bit of a basket case.)
History buffs will find it interesting to note that, along with next door neighbour the Old School, this is one of the main street’s oldest residential buildings.
So, unsurprisingly, when the Jollys moved into the Old Laundry back in 2005, the house needed modernisation and alteration to accommodate their family’s needs.
They undertook a full and stylish refurbishment of the property, taking great care to preserve the character and features of the building.
Today’s Old Laundry has high, vaulted ceilings, polished wooden floors, two wood-burning stoves and a wonderful feeling of light and space.
Andre says one of the best things about the house now is the fact that you can always find somewhere to hide away.
“It has lots of different places to relax in, which really works for us,” he says.
With four bedrooms (one en suite) and a large family bathroom (with underfloor heating), the property is much larger than you’d imagine when seen from the front.
The downstairs gets a bit of an “airing” thanks to its semi-open-plan layout with snug-style sitting room, attractive family room with doors to the outside terrace, and an oh-so-pretty kitchen.
This last makes use of the property’s original side door and windows, which gives a really charming effect.
“Lots of people comment on that,” says Ruth. “It makes the kitchen area look that much cosier.”
Nooks and crannies and quirky period features like this only add to the character of the house. In the upstairs landing, the original laundry pulleys are still waiting for their next load of wet washing.
“Originally, the washerwomen would have hung large items such as sheets to dry from up here â€” there would have been a long drop right through to the ground,” says Vanessa Townsend, country and riverside manager at the Henley branch of Davis Tate, who are marketing the Old Laundry.
“It’s thought the property was built as a laundry to service nearby Harpsden Court â€” or possibly for the nearby rectory.”
The kitchen opens up to a breakfast room, making it the ideal set-up for families. The house also has a utility room/WC, cloakroom/hall, and garage â€” perhaps crying out for conversion?
Outside there’s a gravel driveway and surrounding south-facing gardens with several terraces, flower beds and a lawn.
“The garden is just the right size for us,” adds Andre. “It’s private and sunny with not too much work to do! There’s also a good view of the 18th hole of Henley Golf Club as the golf course is just behind us.”
Location-wise, this house takes some beating. It’s close to secondary school Gillotts and Henley Leisure Centre â€” with its swimming pool and gym â€” and five minutes from Henley, which of course is known for its river-oriented pursuits.
Nestling in a gentle valley in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Harpsden is a great location for anything outdoorsy.
“The house is a lovely spot to walk from,” says Ruth. “Some people think Henley is miles away, but it’s really not. We use paths by the village hall that lead up over the hill to walk to central Henley. That takes about 20 minutes with the dog.”
Talking of the village, you’ve probably spotted it on TV with its 12th century church, football and cricket pitches and ancient woodland dating from at least 1600. Harpsden’s played many an on-screen role, including in several episodes of Agatha Christie’s Marple.
Harpsden’s aforementioned village hall is nearly opposite the house and this offers extra “unofficial” parking for guests. The hall also plays host to many local events, toddler groups, and clubs such as bridge and amateur dramatics.
The Jollys say: “We have used the village hall for family occasions and there’s a fantastic snooker table too. The village hall is central to the great community spirit here. This really is a fabulous location to live.”
But of course that’s not the only thing the couple will miss. “What will we miss? Well, everything!” says Ruth. “With all the love and attention we have put into this house to make it a lovely family home, it’s going to be very hard indeed to leave it all behind.”
Vanessa Townsend adds: “The Old Laundry is a great family house that encapsulates our idea of rural England. The current owners are looking to downsize, but if I lived here I wouldn’t ever want to leave it.”
Would that be the end of the clothesline, Vanessa?
“I guess you could say it would be my final rinsing place.”
* The Old Laundry, Harpsden. Guide price: £900,000. Agent: Davis Tate. Call (01491) 313106 or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
AT A GLANCE
Reception rooms: two/three
Other: utility room, downstairs WC, hall, garden, garage and parking