Before and after: The Markyate pub that’s been turned into a fabulous family home
- Credit: Archant
The Sun Inn in Markyate called last orders for the final time in 2013, and the Grade II listed building has now been converted into a family home. Jane Howdle paid a visit.
According to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), 14 British pubs are closing for good each week. Many, like The Sun Inn in Markyate, are then converted into private homes. But, in this case at least, not just any old private home. This place is seriously unique.
Now known as The Sun Inn Coach House, the pub closed in December 2013 after years of dwindling trade, and the site was bought by developer Jamie Noble.
He initially set about building three new two-bed homes on part of the car park, intending to sell the pub building on to another developer. When a buyer failed to materialise he decided to tackle the job himself, sympathetically transforming the building into a four-bed family home, a task he describes as "a real pleasure.
"It lay vacant for two years as the conservation officer was very exacting and the task was considerable," he adds. "However, we were lucky enough to find an amazing builder who knew how to use all the traditional materials and make it all happen."
This building has undergone considerable change over the years. It's believed that it began life as a hall house, or possibly an inn, in the 16th century.
Its rich history includes links to the Gunpowder Plot, the infamous Wicked Lady and Dick Turpin, who's believed to have slept at the inn.
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A refurbishment in the 1960s brought all sorts of fascinating features to light, including a pair of pistols within a chimney breast, seat cavities large enough to hide a man and a hidden shaft which led to a small, secret garret.
By 1967, around the time that a small cottage to the right of the carriageway was removed to widen the access point, the pub became Grade II listed.
Jamie was faced with a considerable task when the time came to renovate. Having lain empty for several years, the pub's windows were rotten and needed to be replaced, while roof repairs and improved drainage were also needed. A lean-to shed and a 20th century brick kitchen had to go.
Then there was the challenge of modernising the internal space without compromising its character.
The cellar has been transformed into a cinema room; steps lead down from the ground floor hallway and a trap door provides access to a hidden lower level space. A Velux window is now in situ where the beer drop doors once stood, and an original Sun Inn sign is on display.
Some of the 'false' beams in the bar area have been removed, as have many of the wall timbers which were found to be there for aesthetic rather than structural reasons.
In fact, very little original timber remained in this part of the pub; it's believed that much of it would have been replaced when the building's brick façade was built in the 1840s.
Oak engineered flooring is a new addition in the open plan kitchen/diner, with a contemporary counter now standing where the bar once stood.
The original flagstone floor in the snug area remains, however; following the removal of three layers of sticky carpet it was found to be in good condition.
The ladies' toilets have been turned into a tasteful space that could be used as a playroom or boot room, and the gents is now a study space with adjacent WC.
Upstairs, there's a swish new bathroom in what was formerly the kitchen of the flat above the pub, and the area that housed the dumb waiter is now a separate shower room.
One of the quirkiest features is the dressing room over the carriageway, which is accessed via a short flight of stairs from the third bedroom. Only the tiniest of people would be able to easily access this space without worrying about doing themselves an injury as the head height is limited, but once you're up there it's a good sized space.
If proof were needed that this historic house is very much down with modern times, there's a private garden laid with Wonderlawn artificial grass. There's also a parking area for up to two carriages - sorry, cars.
The Sun Inn Coach House, High Street, Markyate is for sale with Ashtons (01582 793555) and has a guide price of £600,000.