Monday, 17 December 2018

Spacious semi is right on the Marks for craftsmanship and convenience

St Mark's is known as one of Henley's top roads. With Reading Road at one end, and Green Lane at the other, this is an attractive, tree-lined street that goes uphill, with large, character houses on either side

St Mark's is known as one of Henley's top roads. With Reading Road at one end, and Green Lane at the other, this is an attractive, tree-lined street that goes uphill, with large, character houses on either side. One of the houses - at the bottom end - is called Helstonleigh. And it's for sale.

Helstonleigh is a fantastic example of Victorian craftsmanship from the late 1800s. Full of character features including bay windows, ornate fireplaces and terracotta tiled floors, this was a house built on a large scale to impress. It certainly impressed owners Peter and Carole Burness-Smith, both in their 60s, who moved in 28 years ago and raised their family here.

Mr Burness-Smith, known locally as an art publisher and music businessman, says he still has the houseâ??s original wax paper deeds from 1896. He added: â??Some of these houses had their names carved into the stonework, but weâ??ve got ours in the stained glass window over the front door, and painted on a plaque on the side wall. Itâ??s details like this that Helstonleigh is all about.â?�

The property may be semi-detached, but it still has heaps of room over three floors, with four bedrooms, a bathroom, a utility area/WC, and three large reception rooms. There is also a sunny and welcoming kitchen/ breakfast room, as well as a lovely back garden and off-street parking at the front.

Unusually for a Victorian property, Helstonleigh has not been extended, which means thereâ??s the possibility of doing so, subject to planning permission. Not that this is really necessary, as the house is spacious enough. That said, most modern-day families will probably want to update or move the small-ish family bathroom which does not have a toilet (this is still on the same floor, but separate). To compensate for there not being a second bathroom, four of the bedrooms have basins.

Luckily, the downstairs more than makes up for the older-style layout of the second floor.

â??The living room and dining room back on to each other. With the front bay window and back double glass doors, this makes the space double-aspect,â?� said Mr Burness-Smith, who says he likes the fact that the downstairs rooms are all laid out as well-defined areas.

â??I simply love this part of the house. The living roomâ??s still got the original fire and plasterwork, and the bay window looks lovely with a Christmas tree in it. On Christmas Day, it looks like Dickens is coming for lunch!â?�

Itâ??s the historical side of the house that the owners fell in love with when they first saw the property nearly thirty years ago. â??There are so many intact features,â?� said Mr Burness-Smith.

â??Almost all the Arts and Crafts fireplaces work, and thereâ??s marble and tiles everywhere as well as the original plasterwork. The vestibule is particularly interesting â?? thereâ??s a glass screen and terracotta tiles on the floor.

â??Even when we moved in and brought the house up-to-date, we tried to keep the history intact where we could. We even kept the 1920s light fittings from when the previous owners tried to up-date the house with electricity. Hopefully weâ??ve managed to keep a bit of every era in the progression of the building.â?�

In keeping with his love of history, Mr Burness-Smith is also a fan of former St Markâ??s resident George Orwell, whose poems (under real name Eric Arthur Blair) were originally published in yours truly, the Henley Standard.

â??The Blair family lived at number 36, you know,â?� said Mr Burness-Smith. Some readers will familiar with Mr Burness-Smith being responsible for negotiating with the local council to take over an unused memorial chapel and turn it into an Orwell tribute.

Mr Burness-Smith continued: â??Weâ??ve been all around the world, but we love it here. For me, I like the idea of being from somewhere and staying true to my roots.â?�

Speaking of roots â?? the back garden is amazing and has three distinct sections â?? lawn, orchard and vegetable garden.

â??Itâ??s very large for a town garden,â?� said Mr Burness-Smith. â??My wife loves to sit in the garden room and gaze out at it. Youâ??re not overlooked at all and itâ??s so quiet. No one can see into our garden, either. Apart from greenery, all we can see is the Christ Church steeple.â?�

Along with the character and the size of the house, itâ??s the location which makes Helstonleigh special. â??Watch out Kirstie and Phil, itâ??s all about location, location, location!â?� said Mr Burness-Smith.

The property provides easy access to the centre of Henley as well as the River Thames. As Mr Burness-Smith says: â??Here, weâ??re just far enough away from the Reading Road to get away from the noise, but everything is within walking distance. The train station takes me only three minutes. Plus, we are at the bottom of the hill so itâ??s an easy, flat walk. It takes us seven minutes to Waitrose and 10 minutes to Tesco.â?�

As mentioned earlier, the house comes with off-street parking (the former garage has been converted into a study), but the street has plenty of unrestricted parking, should you have guests come to stay. However, being so central, the Burness-Smiths find that they can easily do without transport anyway.

â??We just donâ??t use our cars because we can walk everywhere,â?� said Mr Burness-Smith.

Unsurprisingly, the couple are not moving far â?? just a few streets over. â??This area is so convenient,â?� continued Mr Burness-Smith. â??My parents lived in Henley before me, and their parents lived here before them. My wife and I even had our wedding reception at The Angel on the Bridge pub. Our son is the next generation, but heâ??s moved out and so now we need to downsize â?? hence the move.â?�

Helstonleigh is on the market with Romans at a guide price of £1,385,000. Call (01491) 526010.

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