History Lesson

Buying and renovating a large country house which started life as a coaching inn has been a fascinating journey for Jo and Nigel Tutton.

A large country house, converted from an ancient coaching inn in 1861


Drawing room, morning room, study, kitchen, laundry room, pantry, dining-room, cloakroom, six bedrooms, eight bathrooms


‘We had lived in the USA, Mexico and Scotland and owned a converted Victorian police station nearby, before moving here,’ says Jo.

This beautiful property originally served as a coaching inn for a nearby 12th century Medieval church. It was converted into a home by a well-travelled sea captain, in 1861. He added a substantial wing with a number of extravagant features, including Italian mosaic floors, moulded ceilings, a ballroom, a Jacobean staircase and a fireplace dated 1621, all of which survive today.

When it came up for sale in 2018, it was in need of further restoration. It had been in the same family for three generations and was being run as a holiday let and tearoom. The owners held regular ‘open garden’ events throughout the summer. The Tuttons came here for a cup of tea and bought a ticket for the garden. ‘I could see how amazing the grounds were,’ Jo recalls, ‘and ended up chatting to the owner.  I came back on a guest changeover day to have a closer look round.’ The rest, as they say, is history! 

‘I had the vision that this tired and leaking country house would one day come back to life, a home that would be comfortable and welcoming,’ Jo explains. Jo and Nigel have four adult children and so far, four tiny grandchildren, so they have a lot of visitors and need a lot of space. ‘We had finally sold our home in the USA and wanted a home that would work for our growing family.’

The house, which had been the subject of an episode of Country House Rescue, was bursting with possibilities. Jo and Nigel have already restored the garden cottage for guests and there are also an old stable block, hay loft and grain stores. Plans are afoot for the restoration of the ancient courtyard around which all these properties are centred and work on the garden continues with the hope of reopening them to the public in the future. ‘As for a tea shop… well watch this space!’ Jo hints.

‘Nigel’s career took us all over the world, we have lived in some amazing places, and our travels have hugely inspired my work as an interior designer, but we were brought up in this area, so we feel as if we have come home,’ Jo shares. They bought it shortly before lockdown and took the opportunity during those tricky years to push ahead with the restoration. ‘It was always our belief that this house should have a gentle touch, there is not a straight wall or floor in the whole place. Thankfully our decorator also shared the same vision. We feel very fortunate that we were given that extra time to bring our dream to life.’

Jo really enjoyed discovering new suppliers during the renovation, favourites include the sustainability-conscious company, the Haines Collection, which sells surplus high end interior fabrics and makes beautiful cushions. ‘I designed schemes by searching in antique shops, auctions and salvaging and repurposing heirlooms,’ she shares. ‘I then blend my finds with the aim of creating soothing, restful interiors that are full of stories and interest.’

FEATURE: Alison Gibb

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