Wednesday, 22 September 2021

‘The barn probably started as a stable’

bottom of the Welshes’ garden. It predates the main house by around 150 years.

bottom of the Welshes’ garden. It predates the main house by around 150 years.

“The barn probably started life as a stable or agricultural service building, but was later remodelled to house a hop kiln, which is why it’s a bit of a hotchpotch,” said Ruth Gibson.

“Looking up at the ceiling you can still see the perfectly surviving timber framing for the circular chimney opening — all that survives of the furnace and its superstructure. In reality, it is all that survives of the former substantial maltings on the two sites — an activity commemorated in the name given to number 59 Market Place, although ironically the small barn-like building itself, in its present form anyway, was far too small to be used for producing malted barley on a commercial scale.”

Owner David has cleverly adapted the barn to become his art studio and he regularly shows his oil paintings at local galleries including the Old Fire Station Gallery opposite the house.

“I love shutting myself away in the hop barn,” said David. “It gives such a great light for my type of work.”

David sells his paintings on his website

With so much history, you’d expect the house to come with its resident ghost.

“Funnily enough, one of the first things the previous owner asked us on moving in was, ‘Have you seen our ghost yet?’” said Jennie. “My eldest swears he saw an old lady sitting at the end of his bed — although he thought it looked like his late grandmother.”

Jennie also tells of the time the previous owner, an antiques dealer who ran a business out of the house, came downstairs for breakfast to find that all the paintings had been removed from the walls and placed face down over the floors.

“That was certainly spooky,” said Jennie. “However, I’ve never seen or felt anything myself. In fact, the feeling of the house is warm and welcoming — very happy. This atmosphere is part of the reason we bought the house in the first place.”

If it’s easy to fall in love with the house, the garden of the Malt House has a wow factor all of its own. Having once been part of a larger orchard, the remaining plot is large even by non-Henley standards (those living in Henley will know that postage-stamp-size back gardens are considered the norm).

“The garden is shown on the earliest maps of this area,” said David. Today’s incarnation, which has previously been included in the National Garden Scheme, is essentially made up of three parts — a top terrace that is ideal for entertaining, a long courtyard garden, and at the end, adjacent to the hop barn which is framed by a wisteria arbour, a large open lawn that is certainly large enough to kick a football around.

“I installed an automatic watering system throughout, so it’s easy to look after,” adds David. He is also responsible for the garden’s lighting system which has been implemented to show off the planting to its advantage — especially the long courtyard section with its series of ‘secret’ ponds and curving box hedges.

The area has an abundance of mature wisteria, multiple fig trees (indeed, bowls of ripe figs covered the kitchen counter when Standard Property visited) and whitebeams, which give clusters of white flowers in spring followed by speckled red berries in autumn.

The top terrace pond also has a water feature, which David says is extremely popular with the local frogs, adding: “We’ve had to put a ramp in for them so they can get in and out safely.”

Adds Jennie: “With all that we have done to this place, and all the memories we have created here, it will be with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to the Malt House.”

She hopes the next owners will be a young family. “The bedroom set-up makes this house ideal for families, as does the large open-plan kitchen/breakfast area. Plus, the garden is a proper family-sized affair.”

“And yet,” interjects David, “number 61 next door was recently bought by a ‘downsizer’. It’s a versatile house in a great location, easy to walk to the shops, river and more. It will tick many people’s boxes.”

“There is so much going on in Henley,” adds Jennie. “Of course the regatta and other river-related festivities, but also as a community, you can’t beat it.

“Apart from the fact that our boys and grandchildren live locally [granddaughter Libby is currently in a play at the Kenton Theatre], Henley as a location is why we will certainly be staying here when we move.”

For sale with Knight Frank at a guide price of £1,750,000. Call (01491) 817830 for more information.

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