Rural Retreat Restored
PUBLISHED: 09:52 19 November 2008 | UPDATED: 11:38 28 February 2013
Nordrach House has been a sanatorium, and housed evacuees and refugees. It is now a beautifully restored Somerset home, which has helped its owners fall in love with the country. Photos by Paul Coleshill, words by Victoria Jenkins.
It was a huge jump for Natalie and Ben Paddick to move down to Somerset from Henley-on-Thames. "I'm a Londoner," says Natalie, a jewellery designer. "And before we came here I bought two six-foot-tall freezers as I imagined I was going to have to stock up to keep us all going. But it's been quite the reverse!"
In fact, everything Natalie buys is local. "The eggs are fresh from next door and all the meat comes from the local butcher three minutes away and is fresh off the Mendip Hills. The fish comes from Wells Market twice a week and the vegetables are grown locally. So the only things I have downsized are my freezers - they've both gone!" she smiles.
The Paddicks moved down to Somerset in 2005 because they wanted a better quality of life for their three children - Tallulah (12), Ruben (10) and Jude (6). "Not to mention Gipsy, our Tibetan terrier, our two cats, Bangers and Treacle, and an assortment of guinea pigs and mice," says Natalie.
They came to Nordrach House, near Charterhouse, which nearly 150 years ago was known as Willoughby's Farm. But in 1899 two English doctors who had been successfully treated for TB at the Nordrach Sanatorium in the Black Forest decided to pool their resources and open their own sanatorium in Somerset. "Their regime in Germany had involved wholesome food, pasteurised milk and plenty of fresh air, well away from cities," says Natalie. "And that's how they came to pick our house - we're about 700 feet above sea level here and it's like living at the top of the world, the air is so pure and clean."
So, just over 100 years ago the former Willoughby's Farm was reopened as the Nordrach Sanatorium. And apparently demand for its services was so high, even at £20 per week, that the doctors decided to open its doors even before they had finished altering the house.
The patients lived both in the house and in the many 'villas' dotted around the grounds but unfortunately one patient was observed leaving the nearby Wellsway Inn somewhat the worse for wear. "He returned to Nordrach to find his bags packed and a carriage ordered for him!" says Natalie.
Over the years Nordrach House was used to house child evacuees escaping from the bombing of Bristol and later for Hungarian refugees, but then was sold in 1958, when it nearly became a country club. Luckily a wealthy Bristol family bought it about 20 years ago and turned it into a family home.
"And we're the third set of owners," says Natalie. "When we bought the property it needed a great deal of upgrading, renovation and redecorating, which we have now completed. But as soon as I saw the house agent's brochure, which dropped through our letterbox in Henley-on-Thames (where we were then living), I knew the house was for us."
The big Victorian house has six bedrooms, an annex and wonderful period features such as a black-and-white marble-floored entrance hall, enormous rooms with high ceilings and a courtyard. However, the seven acres of grounds were waist high in weeds and brambles, while the woodland was full of junk that people had dumped. As for the courtyard it was full of old oil tanks that had accumulated over time and the Paddicks had to hire a crane to lift them out.
The house was habitable but over the months the couple found they had to rewire, install new oil-fired central heating and replace the rusty iron window frames and cloudy glass.
"The house had one family bathroom and three shower rooms so we turned the master bedroom into a suite of rooms including a new bathroom, a dressing room and a refurbished shower room," says Natalie. "We added a new en-suite shower room to one of the guest rooms where a huge row of cupboards had once stood, and we also remodelled the kitchen."
The existing kitchen had some attractive cabinets so the couple had more made in the same design, and added a central island and wooden worktops.
Fortunately Natalie can sew and made all the calico curtains herself - all 275 metres of them. "The windows downstairs have a two-and-a-half metre drop!" she says. Other curtains, cushions and soft furnishings have been made professionally using Zoffany, Sanderson and other high-quality fabrics.
However, despite all their hard work, the family are now selling up in order to move nearer to Wells for the children's schooling. They are also looking for another property to rescue.
"I can genuinely say from the heart that when I first looked at the brochure I knew that the property was going to be ours," says Natalie. "It has been an absolute pleasure to be part of its long history and to be involved in bringing it back to its full glory. Although we have modernised Nordrach we have done it in keeping with the house's character, paying special attention to the carpentry, joinery and original fireplaces.
"It's been a wonderful family home, allowing me to play host and cook to my heart's content. Life to me is about finding some inner peace and a sense of belonging and Nordrach has given me that."
Nordrach House is for sale through Hamptons (0117 923 9230) for 1.5 million. You can view Natalie's jewellery at www.natalie-paddick.com or call 01761 462846 for more details.