Living in a chocolate-box dream house
Date of Article
Aug 22 2011

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THATCHED cottages have become the aspiration for thousands of house hunters looking for a picture postcard retreat, but how does it feel to live inside the chocolate box icon of country living?

Having put their Grade II Listed home on the market 23 years after giving it a complete overhaul Julie and Brian Purcell-Smith reveal what it’s like to live underneath a roof made of reeds instead of a roof made of slate.

The Purcell-Smith’s bought Apple B Thatch in Appleton Road, Cumnor in 1988 but could not move in for the first 12 months as the home, believed to have been built in the 16th Century, needed major renovation.

Mrs Purcell-Smith said: “We lived in a caravan in the garden for about one year.

“We needed to do everything with the property as it was a shell of a house.

“The thatched roof was rather worn and leaked and the rising damp couldn’t rise any further because it had reached the ceiling.

“The inglenook wasn’t visible and there were no electric sockets upstairs just old Bakelite switches.”

Mr Purcell-Smith, a civil engineer, and his wife took on the mammoth renovation task themselves, fixing up their four bedroom home and tastefully extending it with a 13’9” x 11’ 5” orangery to the rear.

The detached cruck cottage now boasts a beautifully restored sitting room with a Clearview multi-fuel burner, original bread oven, beams and exposed stone wall, while the family room enjoys a wood burning stove, beams and exposed stone wall.

The only work the Purcell-Smiths did not complete was the plumbing and electrics and the roof itself, which was done by Minster Lovell Master Thatcher’s Russell and Buckingham.

The thatch is normal wheat reed and was put on using traditional methods before being re-ridged and top thatched four years ago.

Home insurance is generally more expensive for thatched homes but Mrs Purcell-Smith recommends using leading rural NFU who offer much better terms than mainstream insurers, with their only stipulation being that the chimneys are swept once a year and an electrical certificate is obtained every 10 years, as the main fire risk to thatch roofs is from electrical faults.

The Purcell Smith’s have a smoke detector in the roof and the multi fuel/log burners have a special fire retardant insulation to the lined flu to reduce insurance premiums.

In addition Mrs Purcell Smith said it is important to keep the thatch netting in good order to stop the birds from taking the straw.

Having put their home on the market for £875,000 the family now want to move to a smaller property, but the Purcell-Smiths are adamant their next home will be another thatch.

Mrs Purcell-Smith said: “We’re looking at another thatched cottage now; I just love old buildings and the character they have.

“In the winter the cottage is very warm due to the thatch and in summer it’s like having air conditioning in the house.

“Christmas is always magical in a thatched cottage – something out of a fairy tale book! I love it!”

Apple B Thatch comes with a beautiful landscaped rear garden, with raised lawn, three patio dining areas, a wide range of established shrubs, flower beds, climbers and trees.

The splendid outdoor space also comes with a summerhouse (currently used as a home office) , a pond and water feature, a pergola, log store and two timber garden sheds.

Apple B Thatch, which it is believed could have been used as a dowry in the wedding between the Earl of Abingdon’s daughter, Catherine Theresa Townley and Lord Norreys, has a guide price of £875,000. Contact agents Carter Jonas on 01865 511444 or visit the website