Medieval farmhouse being given new life as restaurant

PUBLISHED: 09:33 17 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:54 20 February 2013

Medieval farmhouse being given new life as restaurant

Medieval farmhouse being given new life as restaurant

A new restaurant and boutique guest house will open in the Spring in a rare medieval building on Exmoor, thanks to a £500,000 investment by the National Trust.

A new restaurant and boutique guest house will open in the Spring in a rare medieval building on Exmoor, thanks to a 500,000 investment by the National Trust.

The tenancy of Cross Lane House at Allerford has been taken on by Andrew Stinson and Max Lawrence who are making the final finishing touches to get their new business up and running.

The rare cross passage house is one of only a handful of medieval buildings to have survived on Exmoors Holnicote estate and it still has a number of historic features. The Somerset team at the National Trust were successful in bidding for the money for its restoration.

Andrew Lawes, the Trusts Rural Surveyor, stated that the challenge was to find a use for the building in the present day which would allow its sympathetic restoration.

This is a really important building which needed to be saved but it also gave us an opportunity to create a local amenity for the people of Allerford and Holnicote and the many tourists who come here, said Andrew.

It has been used before as a restaurant and guest house and, with the support of the local community who wanted it back as a restaurant again, were delighted to welcome our new tenants.

Andrew Stinson and Max Lawrence have been looking for a business in the area for several years, after many years of running a restaurant in Stratford-on-Avon and said they were carefully furnishing Cross Lane House to respect its history and the skilled craftsmanship that has been instrumental in getting the project to the final stages and ready to open in February.

Its a beautiful building, we have likened it to a gentile lady who has undergone major surgery and is about to get her glad rags on. Everyone who sees it is overwhelmed, and we are furnishing it to reflect how the building has evolved over time. It is a house which deserves to look stunning.

We will have three double en-suite rooms and a small restaurant open to non residents. It will be a simple menu representing the changing seasons and showcasing the excellence of the local Exmoor produce.

Cross Lane House was built in 1545 - the date was obtained from the tree rings in the oak timbers in the roof - and it would have been quite a large house of some status. Several medieval features have survived, including the original oak screens in the cross passage. Slate tiled floors have been conserved and ceilings either repaired or replaced in the same reed and plaster or lath and plaster style which was uncovered during the work.

The building was in such a poor state that the options for its use were limited. Even mothballing it would have cost as much as 20,000 a year, or the Trust could have let it in the short term or even sold the lease.

We decided the best option was to bid for the money to restore it to a high standard. The community are really supportive of having the restaurant open again - something which we feel stands a real chance of success, continued Andrew Lawes.

Originally single storey and thatched, the house has been extended and altered a number of times, including the insertion of the first floor when the chimney was added. Unfortunately some of the later historic work cut through the supports for the jointed cruck roof, this meant that a lot of structural work has been needed to make the building safe.

Where repairs were not possible, appropriate materials have been used, including recycled floor timbers on the first floor. An oak floor is to be laid in the drawing room.

We welcome Max and Andrew to the house and we know that they are the right people to help care for such an important building but it will also be a good place for them to develop their business. It is a unique opportunity to create a good business and something of relevance to the Exmoor community here at Holnicote added Andrew Lawes.

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