Why does anyone bother watching the first broadcast of a Restoration Home series, when, a mere nine months later, BBC2 shows Restoration Home: One Year On, featuring all the best DIY disasters of the original, plus revealing how the house ultimately turned out? Such flagrant time-wasting is best left to the professionals: meaning building contractors, of course.
In the first hour-long episode of this three-part run, we caught up with (or, preferably, met for the first time) Scottish couple Ralph and Evelyn who had lovingly restored Sandford House in Fife. Originally built as a family home in 1902, this example of the Arts and Crafts style had been used as a hotel for many years, and subsequently fallen into ruin. Not as much of a ruin as Abbey Lane in Warwickshire, however; a 17th-century wreck taken on by the insanely ambitious Stuart and Sally Forgan, and the second home to feature in this episode.
I believe there's a specific circle of hell reserved for people who appear on property programmes wielding infinitely flexible budgets, while whingeing about the missing "wow factor" of perfectly lovely homes. However, even in this theology, the participants of Restoration Home are assured salvation, since they chose to invest their time and money in buildings so special, they bring joy to us all.
It's up to historian Dr Kate Williams and architectural expert Kieran Long to help us appreciate the full magic of these renovations. In this instance, that meant tracking down the granddaughter of Sandford's original owner, so she could reminisce about the original swan-shaped window stays, and a visit to Halls Croft, the Jacobean home of Shakespeare's daughter Susanna, built in a comparable style to Abbey Lane.
Presenter Caroline Quentin's job was rather to gently remind us of the essential folly of any such renovation project, just in case anyone at home was getting any silly ideas. The Forgans' plan hinged on completing Abbey Lane in 16 weeks and on a budget of £150,000. That was before they stripped the plaster away to reveal a rotting wood frame beneath. "This structural beam appears to just be sitting on a cobweb," pointed out Quentin, helpfully.
They should have guessed it wouldn't quite go to plan. Don't the people on property restoration programmes, watch property restoration programmes?Reuse content