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An award-winning conversion in Strensall, near York
12:36pm Thursday 9th August 2012
ALL right you lot at the back, settle down and behave yourselves, turn off your mobile phones and concentrate.
This morning, class, we are having a history lesson. And it’s all about this wonderful building you are looking at...
Today, this might be a beautiful family home, but it was not so long ago that it was used for a very different purpose – educating the young minds of Strensall .
But let’s hand over to Wendy McKenna who, together with husband Shaun, owns the house as it stands today, to explain.
“Originally it started life as a barn and then the famous local farmer Robert Wilkinson donated the land and the building for it to become a school for the local parish. He put a thatched roof on the property to make it look nicer,” says Wendy.
“After that the original building was demolished and a stone building put in place for the school. That was in 1857 and there is a bell on the door outside engraved with that date – and the original bell tower has been reconstructed and is still part of the house.”
The school performed nobly until new purpose-built premises were created in the village in 1972. For a while the old building was left to moulder – although there are some in the village who can vaguely recall going to youth clubs on the site – until well-regarded York builder John Skelton bought the property and set about creating new life in the old place.
“And we’re very lucky he did,”
says Wendy, “because he created a beautiful house.”
He did indeed. So much so that his then-flagship project, which involved stripping the property back to a brick shell before it was remodelled, re-roofed and completely refurbished, won several design awards.
Wendy and Shaun, in fact, were the first people to live here once it was finished as a residential dwelling.
The Old School House, as it is now known, is on a private driveway at the bottom of a cul-de-sac opposite the church and the graveyard, and is a handsome house to look at.
Its cheery mellow brick facade runs along under the peaks and rolls of a sprawling rooftop, with a huge arched window dominating one aspect and with two entrance doors, the main one under a cute curlicue porch entrance.
But if the outside is pleasant, the real joy of this house comes the moment you step from an inner hallway into the awe-inspiring main space (room is too small a word for this area).
This is a combined open plan, rambling room with kitchen at the far end rolling down to a dining area and then on to a living area.
Overhead (and quite a stretch overhead), in a nod to the building’s history, there are large rolling beams and trusses around which light dances in from deep Velux windows.
Underfoot is handsome, warm and welcoming engineered oak flooring, and there is more light flowing from two sets of French doors to one wall, opening out onto a stone-flagged patio area. In all this great space is some 36ft long by 16ft wide – and the ceilings must stretch to (and it’s only a guess) some 20ft in height.
But it is not just about the amount of room on offer, it’s about the way in which it has been put to use that is equally impressive. The kitchen area is as attractive to look at as it is equipped for purpose, with a mix of chocolate and cream coloured units and granite worksurfaces around a highly contemporary range of integral units and equipment.
This is a stunning space, ideal for entertaining friends and family.
There are plenty of the latter in the McKenna household, Wendy proudly announces she has six children, three grandchildren and another two on the way (which is almost enough to start another school).
It has plenty of wall space, too, to provide a canvas for the various artworks which decorate the room.
Many of these, it transpires, are Shaun’s work – he’s a keen photographer and has taken some fine art pictures.
Off the main space, there is another living/family room. Bigger than many modern main lounges we have seen, this is another delightful area, overlooking the private lawned front garden and the churchyard beyond.
Shaun says: “You can come in here, shut the doors and just chill out.”
Chill-out spaces could also be supplied by the other two rooms on the ground floor. Presently set up as bedrooms (and there is a bathroom at the end of the inner hallway off which they are found), they could easily become further living spaces or home office areas.
Certainly there is plenty of bedroom space on the first floor, including two good doubles sharing a contemporary bathroom. And a third bedroom, the master, provides another wow factor spot. Its doors face an open landing which gives you views down over the living/ dining area below.
To the other side and looking outwards the top half of that characterful huge arched window not only lets in huge swathes of light, but also gives glorious views across open countryside.
“You can sit here and watch the sun go down over the fields,”
Shaun says, “it’s a lovely, warm room with great views. And it has such a lot of character.”
Just like the rest of the house, we’d suggest. A wonderful combination of character, charm and jawdropping design styles... a history lesson, if you like, in how to create an ideal home for the future.
AT A GLANCE...
The Old School House, Strensall
Reception rooms : 3
Bedrooms : 5
Bathrooms : 3
Gardens : Lawned garden and driveway to front, stone-flagged patio area to side.Detached double garage.
Wow factor : That absolutely stunning open-plan kitchen/living/dining area. Breathtaking...
Price : £625,000
Contact : Your Move Anscombs Premier
Phone : 01904 621532