You know you're heading somewhere special when your satnav can't find the home you're looking for!
Every now and then we get to see a home that really stands out, one that gets you buzzing with excitement and has you hopping around chattering about it with glee.
This is one of those homes and it becomes hard to know where to begin the tale. Let’s just relate the story of our visit, a trip to a home tucked away out of sight.
Now, there is an informed group of people who are harbouring a secret. They are the people who know Mountfield, a lovely little place, a hamlet really and they keep quiet about it because they know what a good thing they are on to.
Driving to this home you wend your way through some delightful Sussex countryside, gently rolling fields with woodland around.
A delightful church marks your arrival and that is pretty much where technology leaves you when you ask it to find this home for you.
Fortunately, we knew to head down a private road to get to our destination. Bear round to the left and suddenly you are driving through one of the entrances to this intriguing home and its two and a half acres of Sussex countryside.
The property is believed to have been built around 1900 - 1902 for William Joel Kemp. He was a chemist and primary figure in the Sub Wealden Gypsum Co Ltd, founded in 1876.
Talking with our client, he met a relative of WJ Kemp some years ago who spoke of some of the sites history. Originally built as a home for Mr Kemp, he graduated to building another larger home nearby. That prompted a change of purpose into offices for the company. Other buildings were added as the company grew. The lawn behind the property was, at one stage, allotments creating produce to feed the workforce. The challenges of such a venture are clearly highlighted by graffiti from the nineteen fifties still evident in the 'Gingerbread Cottage'.
That is another item of interest, the 'GIngerbread Cottage', lift a panel on the floor and you will find holes in the concrete base, this room, the owner tells us, used to hold Avery Scales of industrial size and weights were slung through the floor, here loads were weighed. Remnants of tunnels are evident for accessing and maintaining the scales we assume.
The Sub-Wealden Gypsum Co grew, amalgamated and eventually became British Gypsum, now part of St Gobain. In the early nineteen nineties our client was incredibly fortunate to purchase this property. "I just had to have it," he told us. "It was such a perfect opportunity!".
For him it was about several things, the location is fantastic if you want to escape. Yes, you are amidst the British Gypsum Site but, surrounded by trees as you are here, there is little disruption to be aware of. There are very few places you will ever find in England that will allow you to truly escape, wherever you are there will be something that you notice passing. 'The neighbours are great', we're told, the offices are used Monday to Friday and we notice nothing really.
Wander down through the land, along a footpath that follows the left-hand boundary, there's a lovely circular walk to do around the countryside which will take around half an hour, you'll come face to face with a sign with a train on it. At that point you'll realise that there is a cutting on the other side of the trees and a railway line runs there. You'll come to a crossing where the British Gypsum spur heads into their site.
"I love it," the owner tells us, "I feel like a big kid with my very own train set at the bottom of the garden."
It's surprising how little you notice activity around you here, but that's the benefit of woodland.
Follow the driveway that runs parallel to that footpath and you will come to some fabulous workshops, one of the reasons our client has stayed here so long. Away from the home they can provide numerous functions and a degree of separation that allows you to forget they are there when you are in the main 'house'. As they, in effect, have their own driveway, comings and goings need not disturb the main home.
We've mentioned the 'Gingerbread Cottage', there's also Mr Morris' Office. This is the one we love! A brick building, it has a fireplace with wood burner and instantly conjures up images of a writer’s studio, picture the flames roaring and inspiration flourishing. Mr Morris would have been sat at a drawing board working to his hearts content and for anyone wanting a studio this is a dream come true.
Mr Morris was apparently a very important man, set the task of designing the electrical installation at the site a building was provided specifically for him to work in and slightly separate from the main run of offices.
Those are where the project awaits, the main run of what were formerly offices. Stripped back and requiring refurbishing this exciting building, connected only via the car port to the main home, has a total of seven rooms. Some refurbishment has already been carried out and an office at the far end and staff room with cloakroom are beautifully finished, hinting at what can be achieved.
All this talk and we haven't taken you on a tour of the main home, the star of the show!
This late Victorian/Edwardian home began life as a single-story dwelling. It has that charm that comes from period design, lovely windows, decorative roofing and finials, all project the air of refinement and class you expect from the turn of the twentieth century. The living room has a lovely bay window and features a fireplace with wood burner. A door opens to the patio and garden behind, looking across that lawn that was once allotments, toward the ‘Gingerbread Cottage’.
The kitchen beside has windows over the same scene. Into the hallway and you have rooms that can be purposed to suit your life, dining room, bedroom, office, use them as you will. Two toilets downstairs hint at the commercial purpose this home once had, male and female staff wc's.
A more recent addition, by the current owner, is a striking spiral staircase that leads to the loft rooms, two super ones that stretch out in front of you as you enter.
Back outside you can seek out the place where the tree house used to be, wander through the grounds and explore footpaths nearby.
The in-out driveway provides the opportunity to access the workshops without disturbing the main house. Will they stay as working spaces or become home to a private collection? There are endless opportunities here, the only limit is our imagination.Get in touch if you like this property.