Revealed: Britain's oldest inhabited dwelling

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The Independent Online

The competition was as fierce as it was distinguished but a manor house from Saltford, near Bristol, which dates from before 1150, was named yesterday as Britain's oldest continually occupied dwelling.

From the Norman window in the bedroom to the grand Tudor fireplace in the sitting room, Saltford Manor House is adorned with a string of features that offer a rare insight into its 850-year history.

It was awarded the accolade after topping a list drawn up for Country Life magazine, which attracted hundreds of nominations from readers.

While the present owner of the Saltford Manor House, James Wynn, a former BBC producer, realised within minutes of first setting eyes on the property that it was unique, he did not immediately grasp the significance of its age.

"I was not surprised to find that we were one of half a dozen, but I was surprised that they thought we were the oldest - surprised and pleased," said Mr Wynn, 50, who lives there with his wife, Anna, and their two daughters. "It is an extraordinary thing."

The property was created during the 11th century and has historic links to the Earls of Gloucester.

A Norman arch that is still standing is etched with diamond markings that are similar to features in Hereford Cathedral, which was built by 1148. Other distinguishing features include an imposing Tudor fireplace, a Norman window in the main bedroom and a 17th-century kitchen.

Mr Wynn moved into the property in 1997 when it was in a near-derelict state and has lovingly restored it to its former glory over the past six years.

Describing the pleasure he derives from living in the property, he said: "It makes me feel part of some extraordinary time line.

"You can see the history - that is why I love the place."

Dr John Goodall, the author of English Castle Architecture 1066-1649, excluded certain categories of building as he judged the nominations for Country Life, including the principal royal palaces and church and monastic buildings converted to domestic use.

Dr Goodall's top three included Horton Court, Gloucestershire, and Hemingford Grey in Cambridgeshire, which he suggested dated to the 1160s and the 1150s respectively.

However, it was Saltford Manor House that topped his list due to its historical ties and stylistic similarities to the Norman architecture of Hereford Cathedral, according to Dr Goodall. "Dating buildings accurately in the 12th century is a complicated and often subjective task."