Hitting the jackpot
Laura Cartledge discovers an historic home in Old Portsmouth which has proved a sound investment.
In Old Portsmouth, where Grand Parade meets High Street, sits No.60 – a property with an unremarkable name but a rich history.
Since it was built in 1786, it has mostly existed as a bank and signs of its heritage can still be seen today.
“The study has the original strong room doors,” reveals owner Jane Ward, who along with husband Mike, has called the property home for the last 13 years.
“The floor is a suspended floor, underneath where Mike sits is an identical room where they used to keep all the money.”
Despite there ‘not even being a penny’ down there now, there is no doubt the three bedroom home still radiates a wealth.
The stone staircase, at the rear of the property, bears well-worn treads that show how brisk business once was here.
While an ancient tunnel in the cellar, which has long been blocked off, was once believed to provide a means of escape for customers wanting to avoid the ‘pressgang’.
“There is certainly a feeling you get when you are down in the cellar,” says Jane.
“Maybe it is more apparent because it hasn’t been modernised, but it’s a feeling of the past.”
Back above ground the sitting room in particular swaps stories for style, thanks to the talents of a painter and decorator.
“He restored a lot of the character,” Jane admits. “My husband was a bit weary because he couldn’t see the potential here.
“When we moved in there was shag-pile carpet and flock wallpapers. All the mouldings had been glossed so they looked like they were just plastic which had been stuck on the wall.”
What a difference five months of work can make, now the beautiful barrel ceiling is tastefully transformed with subtle shades really showcasing the detailing and the decoration, particularly above the fireplace, is ornate and elegant.
“This room was the banking hall they used to line up in here,” Jane explains.
“The owners before us came back and they were really hacked off. She said ‘if I knew it could look this good I wouldn’t have sold it’.”
There is an overwhelming sense, when speaking to Jane and Mike, that they feel incredibly lucky to live here.
“We had a holiday place about a quarter of a mile away and I used to walk past this house to get a paper,” smiles Mike.
“I used to always look in the windows and think ‘I wonder who those lucky people are’.”
“A lot of people who walk past, and people who have lived in Portsmouth for years, say it is an iconic building,” Jane agrees.
“For us it has always had incredible presence.”
This presence does come with pressure however – something Jane feels particularly strongly as the festive season begins.
“At Christmas time I have to make sure the decorations are 110 per cent,” she confesses.
“We have had people taking pictures of the tree through the window – so even when we are sitting here having beans on toast we have to make sure it is respectable beans on toast.”
Occupying the ground and first floor of the original three storey house, there has since been another built on top, meaning all of the rooms have a fantastic sense of space.
“Old Portsmouth, as an area, got quite heavily bombed in the war and because accommodation was needed a lot of terrace houses were put up,” says Mike.
“As a result there are only a few grand houses like this left.”
The location makes it even rarer, despite the interior of No.60 feeling like it is a country mansion – so much so you wouldn’t be surprised to see the rolling grounds of an estate outside the window. Instead it’s a good stone’s throw from the seafront.
As well as plenty of pubs and restaurants nearby, just ten minutes down the road will bring you to bustling Southsea and it is an easy walk to reach Gunwharf Quays.
“Our old house was beautiful but it was in the middle of the countryside, here you are so much part of the community,” Jane enthuses.
“Some people might say ‘you don’t have a garden’ but it makes up for it being part of Old Portsmouth. We have a dog and if we walk across the road we are on the seafront.
“You are not buying a conventional house,” she adds. “Here you are buying into a lifestyle, and I have to say it is wonderful.
“In some houses you shut the door and feel shut off,” says Jane, “or you can feel like you are in a goldfish bowl.
“But here you feel safe and at the same time we get all the neighbours waving to us.”
This begs the question – why are the Wards moving on?
“We have a place in France and we are spending more time there,” replies Jane.
“That is the only reason we are moving. But we are not in a rush. We want someone who will love the property as much as we have.”
No 60. High Street, Old Portsmouth is on the market for a guide price of £800,000 leasehold with Marina Life Homes, 50 Bryher Island, Port Solent. For more information, call 02392 373 446 or visit www.marinalifehomes.co.uk
October 27, 2014 Interiors and Property