Through the Keyhole In the manner of a manor

In the manner of a manor…

Sharon Chilcott

Sharon Chilcott

Sharon Chilcott visits a beautiful nineteenth century “manorial home” in the village of Gwernesney, near Usk.

Through the Keyhole In the manner of a manorIf an Englishman’s home is his castle, then the beautiful Georgian farmhouse which Glaswegian Vinny Gallagher has lovingly updated with his partner, Michelle Willett, is definitely their manor. 

The pair have made sure of that – in more ways than one. Not only have they decorated and finished their historic property to the highest standard, with more than a nod to the décor of a Highlands estate, Vinny has bought the title of Lord of the Mesne Manor of Gwernesney to accompany it! 

When, last year, the Manorial titles of Raglan, Kilgoygan, Usk and Gwernesney came up for auction, Vinny decided his home merited the title. “It has to be the most imposing house in Gwernesney, having been the farmhouse for Slough Farm. It’s a grand enough house to carry it off,” he says. 

Through the Keyhole In the manner of a manorSo, for a modest sum of £3,500, which also bought him a tiny sliver of manorial land, he now holds the legal right to style himself Lord of the Manor of Gwernesney, a title dating to medieval times and previously held by the Dukes of Beaufort until it was conveyed to Lord Raglan in 1903. 

With the house now up for sale, its new owner will adopt the feudal title as well as title to a stunningly presented family home – quite a combination! 

Renamed Brookwood Lodge, the former farmhouse, built in 1804, had been carefully restored and renovated by its two previous owners when Vinny and Michelle bought it four years ago. It fell to them to add the inspired finishing touches which make it such a desirable country property, combining historic features with contemporary styling. 

“It had been empty for two and a half years when we bought it so it needed quite a bit of attention,” says Vinny. “We put in a new kitchen, carpets, bespoke soft furnishings, lighting, decoration – the amount of work was scary!” 

The couple set about the task of modernising their home with meticulous attention to detail, using quality local craftspeople and suppliers. 

Designed and fitted by Quails, the bespoke, hand crafted kitchen is a masterpiece, with a range of tower and base units completed with pewter handles and granite worktops. “The layout is basically the same as the previous kitchen because we wanted to retain the lovely limestone flooring laid by a previous owner, but the flagstones didn’t extend under the existing kitchen cupboards,” says Vinny. “However, we added in a central island for which we chose a bespoke oak worktop, for warmth.” 

The central island is the pièce de résistance, specifically designed to reflect Vinny’s Scottish heritage with saltires (also known as Saint Andrew’s Crosses) formed on the end and side panels from Scottish black leather and oak. The same leather has been used for the handles for the drawers and in-built chopping boards in the island unit. The exceptional care in the detail extends to the matching oak and leather frame which Vinny had made for the wall-mounted TV, to hide the side-view of the cabling at the back. “I had to buy the slimmest TV I could find,” he says, illustrating, proudly, how, when the TV is switched off, it just looks like a beautiful blank frame on the wall. The kitchen has a full range of integrated appliances, including a fridge, freezer, dishwasher and dual zone wine fridge and also incorporates the oil-fired Aga which was already in situ in the open fireplace. The coving and detailing round the fireplace have been designed and painted to match the rest of the kitchen and a neat, oak wine rack has been built into a space alongside. 

Through the Keyhole In the manner of a manor Through the Keyhole In the manner of a manorThe kitchen’s planned perfection is completed by luxurious bar stools, upholstered in grey to match the painted units. These are placed around the central island which is lit by bespoke pendant lights for which even the flex is a carefully chosen co-ordinating grey. 

Next door to the kitchen, the utility room features matching units with granite effect work tops and provides space and plumbing for both a washing machine and tumble dryer. 

The kitchen flows into an open-plan living and dining area which also has limestone flooring. The focal point is a large, beamed open fireplace, inset with a cream-coloured wood burning stove – the colour carefully chosen to give the room a lighter appearance. This room also features an original oak window seat, made cosy with a padded cushion. The décor includes reminders of Vinny’s home city with subtle tartan upholstery and prints of Glasgow by Avril Paton on the wall opposite the fireplace. The impeccable styling also includes a stag’s head over the fireplace – one of several Highland stag-themed accessories scattered about the house. 

A doorway leads off from the back of the room to an inner hallway and to the original, winding stone staircase leading to a master suite and a guest bedroom, each with its own contemporary, tiled en-suite shower room. To the side of the hallway is a study, where a feature has been made of an old Tudor window frame, placed along the back of the room and lit from behind. “It would have been from a previous house which pre-dates this,” says Vinny. “When the house was being renovated it was found buried outside and dug up and put here.” 

The snug is warmed by a wood burning stove placed in the original open fireplace and there’s a large old oak window seat on the opposite wall. “This room has great character,” says Vinny. “We’ve used it as a den, a snug, at the moment I am using it as my office.” He has furnished it with a leather desk from a favourite designer, Timothy Oulton and made it into a really stylish “man cave.” 

Through the Keyhole In the manner of a manor

Completing the downstairs accommodation and across the main entrance hallway is a formal living room with a large open fireplace housing a contemporary-styled log burner. Alongside the fireplace is a solid oak, built-in bookcase with oak doors. The beautifully styled room melds traditional and modern, with luxurious drapes made by a local interior designer, made-to-measure sofas, Timothy Oulten statement side lights and even a bespoke occasional chair ingeniously crafted from an old suitcase, which Vinny could not resist. 

Back in the entrance hallway, an oak staircase leads up to three more bedrooms, allocated to Vinny and Michelle’s three daughters. There’s one room on the first floor, with an en-suite shower room and two charming rooms in the eaves, each with an en-suite bathroom. The ground floor is warmed by underfloor heating and on the upper floors there are traditional cast iron radiators, painted grey to tone with the décor. Original oak floorboards throughout the upstairs have been left exposed on the landings but carefully carpeted in the bedroom areas for cosiness and warmth. This has been done in such a way that a new owner could easily remove the carpets if they prefer the more rustic appearance of the boards. 

Notable throughout the house are the beautiful solid oak ledge and brace doors, with traditional handmade black wrought iron latches and hinges. They complement the original doors, oak beams and window sills that remain in the property and Vinny and Michelle went to great lengths to match them up. “Every door, including for the built-in wardrobes and under-eaves storage is craftsman-built from solid oak, with matching ironmongery,” says Vinny. 

Outside, the couple have taken just as much care with the landscaping, using stone quarried from the Black Mountains and creating a flagstone terrace with reclaimed sandstone paving from Gallops Architectural Salvage and Antiques in Crickhowell. Vinny has made focal points of two large garden ornaments and a pair of deer statues which he also found at the reclamation yard. 

Across the driveway, the concrete double garage has been clad in cedar to give a softer and more natural appearance and the adjoining stable has been converted into multi-use accommodation, which Vinny previously used as an office but, with its adjoining shower room, can also be used as guest accommodation. 

The stag’s head above the fireplace in the family living/dining room is from interior design shop Number Forty Nine, 49 Bridge Street, Usk 01291 671151 The stunning kitchen was designed and installed by Quails, Bali Hai, Half Acre Lane, Whitson, Newport (by appointment only). 01633 271946 www.quailsinteriors.co.uk The industrial-style mirror in the main hallway is from the Timothy Oulton Outlet, 7 Mill Street, Abergavenny 01873 854173. The pendant lights over the kitchen island are from Fritz Fryer, 23 Station Street, Ross-on-Wye 01989 567416 www.fritzfryer.co.uk

GET THE LOOK

The stag’s head above the fireplace in the family living/ dining room is from
interior design shop Number Forty Nine, 49 Bridge Street, Usk
01291 671151

The stunning kitchen was designed and installed by
Quails, Bali Hai, Half Acre Lane, Whitson, Newport (by appointment only)
01633 271946

The industrial-style mirror in the main hallway is from the
Timothy Oulton Outlet, 7 Mill Street, Abergavenny
01873 854173

The pendant lights over the kitchen island are from
Fritz Fryer, 23 Station Street, Ross-on-Wye
01989 567416
www.fritzfryer.co.uk


Get the Lifestyle

Brookwood Lodge, Gwernesney, Usk is on the market for £799,950 as part of the Town and Country Collection
from M2 Estate Agents, 17 Bridge Street, Usk
01291 798077
www.tandcc.com