A ‘spooky’ look inside Buckland Manor

PUBLISHED: 16:44 10 August 2016 | UPDATED: 16:44 10 August 2016

The elegant Georgian symmetrical frontage of Buckland Manor

The elegant Georgian symmetrical frontage of Buckland Manor

Buckland Manor

Do you believe in ghosts? Jamie Dutton Forshaw didn’t. Then he bought Buckland Manor. Emma Caulton visited

The gardens were a wilderness, but now feature formal planting, a sunken garden, lawns and a miniature railwayThe gardens were a wilderness, but now feature formal planting, a sunken garden, lawns and a miniature railway

There are ladybirds in Jamie Dutton Forshaw’s bedroom. Curiously, this is the bedroom where the poet Caroline Anne Southey was born, who is best known for her poem, The Little Ladybird. And, here’s a coincidence, Jamie shares the same birthday as the poet (6 December). But if past lives seem to linger in Jamie’s home, Buckland Manor, on the fringes of Lymington, he’s unperturbed.

“Before I moved here, if you’d asked me if I believed in ghosts, I’d have said that I thought ghosts were complete claptrap. I now know they exist.

“Every time I make some change to the house something odd happens. There is something here, but after 800 years there’s bound to be something left behind.”

There was the sound of someone approaching one of the attic rooms, the handle turned, but when Jamie opened the door no one was there. There’s the study where he and daughter Emily often work together (“with me parked at one end of the desk and Emily parked at the other”), where Bertie the spaniel refuses to stay and sit, no matter how much Jamie tempts him with treats. Then there was the time Emily phoned him up (mobile to mobile) at three in the morning from her bedroom just down the hall: “She sounded terrified, saying, ‘Someone’s in the room!’” Jamie sprinted to her bedroom, and Emily described seeing the figure of a boy cross the room and as he did so he grew and changed into a man.

The galleried landing is a showcase for the owner's art collectionThe galleried landing is a showcase for the owner's art collection

Jamie was worried about Emily’s reaction to these experiences. However, she’s as “potty” (Jamie’s word not mine) about the house as her father. Thank goodness. Jamie, by his own admission, is in the throes of a love affair with Buckland Manor. He bought it nearly four years ago – against common sense and the advice of his surveyor.

Jamie’s family is from the area and he used to live at Chequers Green, south-west of Lymington. For years he had driven past Buckland Manor, looking up the drive with interest and longing. So when he found out it was coming to the market, he felt compelled to view the house, exchanging contracts on it without selling his own property – “I thought someone would come from London and snap it up.”

It is an enchanting and important house. Jamie believes there has been a house on this site since the 12th century. Records indicate the core of the manor house dates from the reign of Elizabeth I. Documentation from 1673 show that it was the biggest house in Old Lymington at that time, and an early Ordnance Survey map shows that the avenue of limes leading up to the front of the house has existed since at least the middle of the 18th century.

When I visit, Jamie greets me with bonhomie - a man seemingly relaxed with life despite taking on a major project that would deeply stress the rest of us and the best of us. He admits: “It has become more of a project than even I envisaged - everything needed doing to it.”

The original Amdega conservatory dates back to 1886The original Amdega conservatory dates back to 1886

This from a man who, having owned a pub company, is accustomed to restoring and renovating buildings. The electrics and plumbing are all done. All the sash windows repaired or replaced. Ditto the shutters. You can see the attention to detail, and I can understand the love.

Buckland Manor is stunning. It has the charm of a classically symmetrical house with large central entrance door flanked by Tuscan pillars. Architecturally it’s a hotch potch. The heart of the house, including the vast, wonky brick fireplace that houses the AGA in the cosy farmhouse kitchen, is probably Tudor. That elegant and imposing frontage is Georgian. Other bits are an amalgamation including Victorian - such as a bracketed oriel bay window on the southern garden facade and the original Amdega conservatory from 1886. The then owner, local entrepreneur John Howlett, had the conservatory dismantled and moved to his new home in Lymington. However, unable to settle, he returned to Buckland Manor, bringing the conservatory back with him. Buckland Manor has that sort of pull.

Jamie relates his stories while we tuck into pastries and coffee at the big, gnarled farmhouse kitchen table that has been in his family some 200 years or so. On the wall an old bell system is an imposter from Jamie’s parents’ old home. Jamie has wired it up to two rooms and intends gradually wiring it up elsewhere. They are in vogue these days – let’s call it the Downton effect. The style of his home, country house, is very much in vogue, too.

As Jamie is divorced, he makes the design decisions, but is modest about his skills...claiming to be a magpie, pinching ideas from anywhere and everywhere: “I unashamedly steal ideas from all the restaurants and pubs I like.”

View into the garden with formal planting from the front roomView into the garden with formal planting from the front room

He is also happy to ask advice from friends, and local interior design business New Forest Interiors have been helpful, too. He even asks me my preference for a new scheme for the front room: what do I think of Farrow & Ball’s Lamp Room Gray? There’s a sample on the wall, but the sense of responsibility is unnerving.

He has made liberal use of Zoffany’s Chalk on the walls - “A really nice white” – and used to great effect in the drawing room - referred to by Jamie as his grown-up room, with its high ceilings, plumped up sofas and richly patterned rugs on natural sisal carpeting. Yet neither is he afraid of occasional bold colour, for example using rectory red in the winter room, or introducing eclectic elements. There is a bit of a quirky animal theme going on, including a moose head from one of his old pubs appropriated as a hat stand in the boot room, stag motif cushions, and a painting of a giraffe’s head by an artist friend, Diana Howorth.

In fact there is a collection of good landscapes, seascapes and portraits, while the occasional model warship and miniature steam engine is displayed as others would position sculpture.

Steam trains have been a passion for Jamie since he was a child, hence the latest addition to the garden – a miniature railway running along its perimeter.

The winter room or red room opens onto the conservatoryThe winter room or red room opens onto the conservatory

Jamie recalls, “The garden was in a state of disrepair. Half of it was impenetrable. It made for a very good Easter Egg hunt – although we lost almost all the eggs.”

With the help of his sister, a landscape gardener, the grounds (approaching five acres) are now under control, comprising kitchen garden, formal terracing, sunken garden, lawns, woodland and miniature railway running, in part, through a newly planted 60 foot willow lattice tunnel. It adds to the charm of Jamie’s home - that sense of magic. Coincidences or not…house and owner suit each other.

The plan is to fund the next instalment of the project through TV and photography work. So if you’re looking for an exquisite period property in acres of parkland for advertising, film and photographic work, you know where to come. Come and feel the love – centuries of it.

The formal 'grown-up' drawing room has views across to the formal sunken gardenThe formal 'grown-up' drawing room has views across to the formal sunken garden

Jamie’s Favourites

• Best purchase? - The railway, which was only finished in March - it is a five-inch gauge railway and 400 metres long.

• Favourite place in the house? - The kitchen: sunny in summer, warm in winter thanks to the AGA, great views over the garden and home to the spaniel.

• Favourite store for home buys? - Lots Road Auctions, Chelsea, their stuff is nice and eclectic.

• The one purchase you couldn’t live without? My fridge.

Buckland Manor is available for hire as a photography and location venue, www.bucklandmanorlymington.co.uk

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