Inside the home of The Great British Bake Off
PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 January 2014
In their superb Georgian property Linda and Charles Hill have created a comfortable home for their family in what is one of the more unusually-splendid B&Bs in the country, as well as a television set for a well-known, tasty-looking programme
WORDS AND PHOTOS: Johanna Sheldrake
What we used
The Little Greene Paint Company Limited
Farrow & Ball
Golden Hill Design Workshop Ltd
Unit 21 Bristol Vale Trading Estate
Aztech Floors and Walls
St Matins Business Park
Moorend Farm Avenue
Beds supplied by:
Bower House Construction Ltd
Holland Farm Cottage South Brewham,
ptree Court was the location for series three and four of The Great British Bake Off.
Many years ago, when my future husband brought me to visit Harptree Court for the first time, I never envisioned that I would be living here myself one day. But, after living elsewhere in the village for 18 years and helping support my in-laws from a short distance away, we made the move 13 years ago.
Built in 1797, the house has changed hands several times. The Waldegrave family owned it between 1802 and approximately 1850 until Lady Frances Waldegrave, an ambitious political hostess, found it too small for her.
The Kettlewell family owned it between 1875 and 1920. Mrs Kettlewell was a great believer in ‘good works’, helping the women of the village to set up a knitting circle to supplement the men’s meagre mining wages. She was also a friend of Cecil Sharpe, the renowned collector of folk songs and music, who stayed at Harptree Court whilst collecting folk songs from the Mendip Hills.
Location location location
Johanna says: “We have also been the location for a few more television programmes, as well as Bake Off. There was Skins, Mistresses, Casualty and a BBC series In Love with Barbara.
“Bake Off was probably the most exhausting, but most fun I have ever had over 10 weeks! It was lovely getting to know all the contestants as we tried to give the bakers as much TLC as possible as they were usually so exhausted having started early and leaving late.
Mary and Paul were delightful and Mary became a frequent visitor to our kitchen as she liked to thaw herself out in front of the Aga after the seemingly arctic conditions at the start of the Bake Off.
I have never met anyone as funny as Mel and Sue, they have to be the most natural comedians one could ever meet, you couldn’t help smiling when they were around.
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The house was bought by my husband’s grandfather, a Bristol shipowner, in 1920, and he lived in it in some style for a few years.
He was keen on tennis and a good player so when Bristol used to host an international tennis event he used to invite the Australian team to stay.
When I moved here with Charles and our children 13 years ago, his parents were still in residence and we had to come to an agreement on how to share the house.
Over the next few years we gradually took over more of the house as my in-laws’ needs reduced.
My father-in-law used to think that once a room was decorated, it stayed decorated. As a result most of the rooms were last decorated when my in-laws moved in 1957. Some work was needed to make the house a more modern home for a growing family!
The first room to get a make-over was the kitchen. I banished the brown formica and old electric cooker with broken rings and kept only the Aga, and using a local kitchen designer, Chris Holland, we created a bespoke kitchen that suited me and the way I live.
The dresser contains some of my favourite things - I just love the Emma Bridgewater china and glass.
After grappling with the rising costs of living at Harptree, it was my mother-in-law who suggested that I tried bed and breakfast.
I rang a friend who ran a computer training business. “Great,” she said, “your first guests arrive on Tuesday.”
In the next few days I re-carpeted, renovated and bought in new beds and linen and we were in business.
The style of our guest rooms is in keeping with the house, but with modern luxuries!
I always feel that in a bed and breakfast, although the house, gardens and ambiance is all important, the quality of the beds and the breakfasts seem to matter most.
Lighting is a mixture of old, refurbished and new. Worn carpets that were down since 1957 or before have been replaced. Old, deep and comfortable baths have been kept, but some showers have been added for the convenience of our guests.
I have always had a most particular eye for curtains and materials, and in all the rooms I decorate I start with the curtain materials that fit with my vision for the room. From that I find a paint colour, usually from Farrow and Ball or the Little Greene Paint Company.
Whilst I don’t always mean to go back to these two companies, the colours seem to always work. After my father in-law died, my mother-in-law decided to move to a self-contained flat in the back part of the house.
I project managed the transformation of some lightly-used rooms in much need of an overhaul.
We used our village builders for the work. They have done a terrific job so it is nearly impossible to tell which window is the new one.
We also have a luxurious treehouse and yurt in our grounds, which are self-catering.
We used to go on wonderful camping holidays with our extended family to Cornwall every summer, and I like to think that we were some of the first glampers.
There was something of a competition between the three families each year as to whose tent would be the most decadent, we took Persian rugs, candles, lamps, duvets, a hammock and proper furniture, all be it folding. One year my sister in law had to hire a transit van because she wanted to take a table which could seat the whole family- 20 people!
I am not a natural camper, and I very much did not want the treehouse or yurt to feel like camping, or even glamping! They both have gorgeous furniture, flushing loos, woodburning stoves, roll top baths, comfortable beds and kitchens with ovens and dishwashers.