Friday, 24 September 2021

Former sweet shop hits the riverside sweet spot

WE had a warm-up with the Henley Women’s Regatta the other week, but now the main event is here

WE had a warm-up with the Henley Women’s Regatta the other week, but now the main event is here. The Royal Regatta (which runs until Sunday) means all eyes are once more on the River Thames — giving Standard Property an excuse to explore the wonderful world of riverside properties. This one has beautiful scenes both inside and out.

NUMBER 12 Thameside is a property rich in both history and location. For while it has no river frontage of its own, it is in a premium spot, directly facing the river by Henley Bridge, and moorings are available to rent right opposite the house.

Locals know it as the long-standing Barry Keene Gallery, with owner Barry working in the art world for the past 52 years alongside wife Jill, who runs the office and helps Barry with the framing.

With both of them set to retire — though the gallery is staying open for business until the building is sold — planning permission has been obtained for a change of use from retail to a residential dwelling “requiring minimal disruption to the interior structure,” said Trevor Michel at Simmons & Sons in Bell Street, which is marketing No 12.

The property currently offers two double bedrooms, two reception rooms, a kitchen (Simmons & Sons suggests the possibility of extending this, subject to the necessary consent) and a shower room with WC and washbasin.

Expect to find exposed beams, timber doors, different ceiling heights, antique pine panelling and open fireplaces.

Of the bedrooms, the largest has a vaulted beamed ceiling with river views. The second bedroom also overlooks the river and planning permission allows for the creation of an en suite bathroom here.

The building was sympathetically restored throughout when the Keenes bought the building in 1984 when the gallery moved from Queens Hall in Greys Road.

As far as Barry is aware, this was the first time the property had come on to the open market. It had previously been owned by an estate and was sold to the Jemmet family, who were already tenants.

The oldest part of the property dates back to the 16th century, and the Jemmets ran a sweet shop out of it from the 19th century. At that time, only the left hand side of the property existed.

Barry said: “The right hand side was then a lean-to structure that housed Mr Jemmet’s horse and cart. He was a coalman and kept his coal in the yard behind, after it had been delivered to him by barge on the river.”

In the Twenties the other part of the building was added and the property began to look more as it does today. This newer part became the Mary Earl Tearoom and was run by the Jemmet family alongside the sweet shop.

Barry said: “Many of Henley’s residents will probably still remember going to this sweet shop when they were a child, as I do. Sadly Miss Jemmet passed away in 1984, which is when we were lucky enough to be able to buy this amazing building.” And now the Keenes are retiring, it will be someone else’s turn.

The highlight of the property has to be the view both up and down the Thames. “The views from all the front windows, upstairs and down, are spectacular,” said Barry. “Especially first thing on a sunny morning.”

Apart from this, for Barry and Jill it’s the old beamed room downstairs with its lovely open fireplace — as well as the sunny courtyard garden — that gets their vote.

“This house has a kind of peace about it. A wonderful atmosphere,” said Barry. “You also feel this in the courtyard garden — it’s so quiet, you don’t realise you are in a town.” But let’s not forget the fact that living here means living with everything on hand.

“It’s so convenient. You don’t necessarily need a car,” said Barry, although parking is available for residents through the council’s residents’ parking scheme.

Barry continued: “There is so much going on here, too, particularly in the summer with the regatta and the festival [taking place from July 8 to 12]. You can hire a boat from Hobbs or go for a walk along the riverbank up to Mill Meadows, to Marsh Lock and beyond in one direction, or walk along the other way following the regatta course.

“There are so many pubs and great restaurants you don’t need to go anywhere else — and you don’t need to worry about having a drink as you don’t have to drive home! If you wish to go to London and elsewhere, the station is a short walk away. ”

Still on the subject of the regatta, Barry finds it the perfect opportunity for parties and people-watching.

He said: “Regatta is a great time to invite your friends to the house and entertain them with a barbecue and Pimm’s in the back garden. You just soak up the atmosphere! Over the years we have often been taken out in boats during the regatta, too — it’s so easy to just step across the road and hop in. If you have your own boat, there are moorings available to rent right opposite the house.”

The Keenes plan to stay living in the area, but selling the gallery means they will now be able to get away more often. “The coast, especially Cornwall, is such an inspiration for my painting,” said Barry, who will continue to run his business online at

“There is so much we will miss when we sell No 12. The pleasure of overlooking the river as well as missing all the people — the customers who have been coming here for many years, and those we have come to know, including our lovely neighbours.”

Number 12 Thameside is for sale with Simmons & Sons. Offers in excess of £795,000. Call (01491) 571111 for more information.

NEXT WEEK: Standard Property on the pick of local riverside property pearls, ranging in price from £575,000 to £6,500,000 — and all with moorings.

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