Sunday, 19 September 2021

Former pub is still warmly welcoming

The Old Basketmaker’s Arms is a beautiful, central Henley piece of history — with parking —

The Old Basketmaker’s Arms is a beautiful, central Henley piece of history — with parking — that would be great as a lock-up-and-leave, says LUCY BOON

A BIT like its history of rowing, Henley and brewing go together like Henley’s yummy mummies and their activewear.

At one point, our town had more than five breweries and 50 pubs, ale houses or inns. Of the latter, the streets they were on were even named after them — the most famous being Hart Street after the White Hart Inn.

Usually, a pole above the door, decorated with foliage signified a beer house. By the 14th century, this had changed to a pictorial sign — a simple way to identify places at a time when most people couldn’t read.

Today, Henley has a fraction of the pubs, ale houses and inns it once had, many having been converted into shops, offices and houses (the website henley.html has a list of some, if you are interested).

Take, for instance, a small section of road from Market Place, where bedroom shop Feather & Black was once the Rose & Crown, on up to Gravel Hill, where former restaurant Antico is in the process of being converted into a house, having earlier been beer house The Cannon. And further still, up the hill, there’s a home that was once the Basketmaker’s Arms beer house.

When it was still open, the ale house incorporated neighbouring property Basketmaker’s Cottage. And prior to this, the building was thought to be a well-to-do Elizabethan farmhouse. Back then, it would have been “on the edge of town”.

Ruth Gibson, a local historian and secretary of Henley’s long-established Henley Archaeological and Historical Group, says: “Its two timber-framed bays with the large central stack put it into the Elizabethan period, when much rebuilding took place. As a private dwelling of good quality timbers, excellent craftsmanship and a very substantial brick stack — bricks were very expensive to make, by hand, at that time — these are all sure signs of a well-to-do owner.

“Interestingly, this central stack made it possible to have several heated rooms at once, even in the upstairs chambers — a great innovation in comfort and privacy.

“The front door would have been on the street side in the centre of the north elevation of the house, accessing a small lobby in front of the stack. One can still see the lobby space on the property plans, but this was turned into cupboards when the house was converted into two cottages, as it is now.”

Today’s Old Basketmaker’s Arms shows its Elizabethan heritage somewhat more obviously than its neighbouring cottage.

“There’s a wow factor when guests walk in,” says the vendor, who has lived at the property for the past nine years. “They are always taken aback by the lounge and inglenook fireplace.”

Indeed, when Standard Property visited the house, this was the room that really stood out, with its oaky, beamy welcoming feel, and original brick fireplace fitted with a log-burning stove. You could say this room is the very essence of the house.

William Franklin, sales negotiator at Hamptons International in Hart Street, which is marketing the property, said: “Beautiful historical houses in Henley such as the Old Basketmaker’s Arms come on to the market rarely, so those interested in a historical property like this need to move fast. This is a particularly fine example of the current vendor creating a modern, comfortable, stylish home, while managing to preserve its listed history.”

The vendor has done quite a bit of work to the property in the time she’s lived there, including the downstairs WC, en suite bathroom, and the kitchen. She has also converted the cellar and modernised — as the vendor says “in a sympathetic way” — the rest of the house.

At the back of the house, the stylish kitchen has been thoughtfully fitted and offers plenty of space to cook and entertain. A half-island marble-top breakfast bar provides an area to shoot the breeze while chef is cooking. Directly next door, the dining room has French doors out to the low-maintenance garden.

This is a lovely looking well-designed space, that’s been planted with all kinds of plants and flowers. “I made sure this was a pure relaxing and entertaining space,” says the vendor. “Getting the sunlight all day long, I like to take full advantage of this for my summer dinner parties.”

After a couple of Pimm’s, guests can retreat back to the house, upstairs, to rest their eyes in one of the three double-sized bedrooms, including a master with en suite, which is at the back of the house overlooking the garden. The remaining two bedrooms are served by a family bathroom.

Parking-wise, the two parking bays are in separate places, with one being immediately to the front of the cottage and the other located off a private lane at the rear (at the back of The Henley College’s primary site).

“Living here means you can walk everywhere. However, it’s great to have the spaces,” adds the vendor.

“With the amazing, sunny south-facing town garden, lots of space, central location and two parking places — which are unheard of in Henley — I can really say the house offers the best of both worlds. It’s a versatile house that will tick many people’s boxes.”

(Standard Property thinks it would be good for downsizers, although prior to the current vendor the house was lived in by a family of four, so what does she know?)

“There has always been a friendly and positive feel about the house for me,” says the vendor. “Gravel Hill is also a very friendly road and I am not looking forward to leaving the property. I have thoroughly enjoyed living here.”

The Old Basketmaker’s Arms, Gravel Hill, Henley. Guide price: £895,000. Viewings: call Hamptons International on (01491) 260157.

• Thanks to Ruth Gibson of Henley’s Archaeological and Historical Group for her help with this article.

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