This timber house built in the 1400s was dismantled and kept in a Buckinghamshire barn – a medieval flat-pack home that’s for sale at £100,000…
- The house was originally built in Wiltshire in the late 1400s
- It was dismantled and kept in dry storage in a Buckinghamshire barn
- This is what fell into the hands of Colin Mantripp, a master woodcarver
Mention a ‘flat-pack’ home for sale and you might imagine a latest offering from Ikea, or perhaps something destined for the centre of Tokyo.
You’re less likely to imagine a 15th-century former merchant’s house, painstakingly dismantled and kept in dry storage in a Buckinghamshire barn.
This is what fell into the hands of Colin Mantripp, a master woodcarver whose clients include Mick Jagger and Elton John. Mantripp considers himself to be custodian of the flat-pack rather than owner, having looked after it since the Eighties.
Grand designs: Colin Mantripp with a piece of the original timber
‘I kept thinking I’d have time to reassemble it myself, but running my studio, Lillyfee (lillyfee.co.uk), and being consumed by other commissions, I now feel the time’s come for someone else to take it on.’
The house was originally built on Edward Street in Westbury, Wiltshire, in the late 1400s. Given its quality and complexity, it would have been built for a wealthy individual — probably a merchant.
It spanned 4,500 sq ft on two levels. As is often the way with old timber-framed buildings, brick and plaster had been added over the years. Only when demolition was under way in 1982 did the original structure reveal itself.
‘The construction type is significant in Westbury,’ says Steven Hobbs, a retired archivist at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. ‘So few timber-framed buildings of that age have survived. Thank goodness the essential elements were dismantled and preserved.’
English Heritage found out about its importance mid-demolition, later commenting that, had the original structure been discovered sooner, there would have been a compelling case for retention in situ, and possibly a Grade II* listing.
Mercifully, the key elements were snapped up by Stanley Seeger, the American art collector who’d acquired Tudor manor house Sutton Place in Surrey, previously owned by oilman J. Paul Getty.
Seeger had a plan to erect the timber-framed building in the grounds to display his art collection.
Yet Seeger sold Sutton Place before that vision could be realised, and Mantripp, who’d been commissioned to make picture frames and furniture for Seeger, was given the dismantled medieval home.
Plans for the flat-pack merchant’s house
‘It would make a fabulous venue for a collection yet,’ Mantripp says. ‘It could house books, anything. You could even fit classic cars in the great hall.’
Aside from the wooden frame and roof timbers, the kit includes large stone fireplaces, doors, windows (including a Venetian stone one) and various fitments.
Plans were drawn up once the structure was dismantled and have space for five bedrooms and five bathrooms.
‘It is common knowledge that these timber-framed buildings could be moved. It was just a question of removing the roof tiles and the lath and plaster walls, lifting the floorboards, driving out the oak pegs and then dismantling the frame for re-assembly elsewhere.’
Mantripp muses: ‘It’s the ultimate Lego kit for someone with means and vision.’
Supplemented by modern building materials and insulation, Mantripp’s flat-pack could make a comfortable and stylish home today.
For the intrepid buyer able to negotiate the planning rules, it could become valuable in the right location. Cobb Farr is selling a 4,600 sq ft (cobbfarr.com) 16th-century Grade II-listed house near Bradford-on-Avon for £1.3million. Such a scenario makes the £100,000 asked by Mantripp for his flat-pack look reasonable.
‘Historical recreation is fascinating and can fire the public imagination,’ he says. ‘You only need to look at projects such as the Globe Theatre in London.’
To be or not to be? It needs one person to say yes, and the rest of us should stay tuned, for the onward journey of this home may make engrossing TV one day soon.
On the market… Terrific timber