Property Secrets: Popular actor and St Albans resident Vincent Franklin
- Credit: Archant
Actor Vincent Franklin has starred in numberous Mike Leigh films, blockbuster The Bourne Identity and countless hit TV shows, including Cucumber and Happy Valley, A resident of St Albans for 16 years, he shares his property secrets...
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Haworth - home of Brontes and very long winters, but lived in Bradford from the age of 11.
What was it like growing up there?
Haworth is surrounded by moors, hills and reservoirs. It’s picture postcard bleak! My dad had the Bronte Cafe Restaurant, so between April and October he worked like crazy every hour that God sent and a few that really belonged to the devil. This meant we were left to our own devices a lot of the time - hey it was the 70s. So, I remember spending whole days on the moors with my mates, building dens, plotting plots and eating bilberries.
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Where was it? What was it like?
It was a railway cottage in Willesden Junction near Harlesden. There were about 300 of these little Victorian terrace cottages all huddled together. Two up (nearly three) and two down with a yard out the back and a brick privy.
What did you like and dislike about it?
They were really practical and fantastically well built - by railway workers for railway workers. And because it wasn’t trendy (no organic coffee shop for miles!) we could afford it. But our front door was opposite the entrance to the Eurofreight terminal, so there was a lot of noise and fumes too. But, a bit like Haworth, there was a sense of community. People knew each other - partly because the cottages were surrounded on all sides by railway, so it was like a little island. You’d only visit if you lived there. We used to rent the side-streets out for filming and then spend the money on Christmas parties for the local children, trips to the seaside for the old folks, and window boxes for everyone.
How long did you live there?
About four years.
Why did you decide to move?
We moved because we had an 11-month-old baby and the nearest park was a drive away. That park was also home to a used needle and noisy drunk exhibition, so maybe not the best place to learn to ride a scooter. My wife and I are both from the north, and our parents were very keen visitors once they had a grandchild, so we knew we had to move north, not south. We couldn’t afford swanky north London prices and so we looked at St Albans. It wasn’t as eye-wateringly expensive 16 years ago.
Which other areas have you lived in?
We’re still in the same house that we moved to in November 2001. But we did move out for six months while they took off the roof and the back wall to make space for a third bedroom.
Who do you live with?
There are five of us here - my wife Hilary, our two children and a rescue cat that runs away if you do anything scary, like cough or stand up.
How would you describe your home in three words?
Quirky, old, riverside.
What do you like and dislike about the area?
I like the good schools and all the other cliches that people like about St Albans, I dislike the terrible train service and the fact that St Albans feels a big smug.
What are your favourite local shops and why?
My favourite shop is Beelex Electrical on Verulam Road - because they always have the stuff you need and they know about it, and Buongiorno, the Italian deli, for the same reason.
Have you changed much about your house since you’ve lived there?
When we had our second child, we had to move out of our house and have the top half of it rebuilt. We’ve basically turned it into a tardis. There’s lots more room inside than there should be.
If you carried out any major renovation work, what did you do, how long did it take, and was it worth the effort?
We did the work rather than move because it was cheaper and because we love having the river at the bottom of our garden. There’s a kingfisher sometimes, which is worth more than a resident parking permit. A few years ago we put a summerhouse down by the river. It’s the best money we’ve ever spent. I now feel properly old.
Is there anything you’d still like to change about your property?
We don’t want more room, but I wish each one was 2ft bigger in every dimension - teenagers just take up a lot of room.
What have been your best interiors buys?
We like old things that have been knocked about by someone else first, so we feel less guilty when we ruin them. I hate ‘lifestyle’ shops, of which St Albans has a profusion. You can’t buy a lifestyle. You don’t need an ironic moose head made of plywood, a distressed rack for magazines or a wire cage in the shape of a pineapple for storing eggs. Walk away!
What’s the best thing about your home? And the worst?
The best thing about my home is the people in it. The worst thing is the tiling in the shower! Surely grouting should last more than six months.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
I’d live in the Lake District during the day and Manhattan at night.
Do you have a ‘dream road’ locally? Where is it if so?
No one has a ‘dream road’ locally - although a few of them are nightmares.
Do you see yourself moving on in the near future?
Where would you like to live next?
On a narrow boat.
What would your dream home be like?
I don’t have a dream home. But I do love places with big kitchens, real fires and a wing for servants.
Vincent will be playing Pendergast in Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall on BBC1 this spring,