Cream of the urban crop

Former dairies and dairy shops are satisfying the appetites of townies who want a traditional exterior with lashings of modern interior style, says Gwenda Brophy
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The Independent Online

What the Victorians did for us, among other things, was to build swathes of terraced houses in our cities to house a rapidly growing and industrialising nation. The larger part of the urban dweller's milk came from local dairies but, sadly, the cows that initially lent themselves to an urban existence were also more susceptible to the cattle plague. As a result, country milk brought in by train was causing the demise of many an urban dairy even in the19th century.

What the Victorians did for us, among other things, was to build swathes of terraced houses in our cities to house a rapidly growing and industrialising nation. The larger part of the urban dweller's milk came from local dairies but, sadly, the cows that initially lent themselves to an urban existence were also more susceptible to the cattle plague. As a result, country milk brought in by train was causing the demise of many an urban dairy even in the19th century.

Yet their existence and that of their direct descendants, the dairy shop, lives on in the housing stock, often offering quirky, characterful properties where original features have survived. The original floor and striking wall tiles, as well as a panelled picture window, are still in place in the reception room at a former Victorian dairy shop in Calabria Road, near Highbury Fields, in north London. Currently used as offices, the agent Currell Islington is marketing it as a potential five-bedroom home, complete with a patio garden, as well as a conservatory on the second floor leading to a private balcony. It is priced at £899,950.

The dairy shop on the market at Shacklewell Lane in E8 also displays evidence of its former existence. A mid-terrace house over two storeys, the "Dairy, Butter, Eggs and Cream" sign as well as the moniker "Elliott's Dairies'' are still in place on the frontage of the two-bedroom, two-reception property, which also retains its original fireplaces and floors. There is additional converted loft space for storage. It is for sale for £319,950 through Currell East.

In Brighton, a sizeable urban dairy was constructed in Preston Park - now a conservation area - in the 1850s to provide milk to the local community. The building still survives, and the Victorian façade, all mellow brick, has recently been stripped of its later additions to reinstate the archway that was once entrance to clodding milk-cart horses, and the interior remodelled to provide five live/work units. The courtyard development being marketed as offering contemporary loft living has a two-bedroom apartment available at £265,000 (stamp duty paid) and a three-bedroom at £280,000. Mishon Mackay has more details.

This fusion of traditional exterior and contemporary interior, with original features, is typical of the new breed of dairy conversions which townies are seeking as they take their urban-inspired tastes out to rural dairies. At Warsash, in Hampshire, for example, a former dairy has recently been renovated to create a four-bedroom house that combines a thatched roof with a highly modern internal space - a reception room with a full-height window. The kitchen is located in the original part of the building and has a vaulted ceiling. There is plenty of off-street parking and a barn-style wooden garage, as well as a rear garden with a patio. It is on the market with Savills's Southampton office at £565,000.

Richard and Jacqueline West are typical of this new breed of dairy dwellers and set about fusing original and modern at their conversion of the former Pinks Hill Dairy in Surrey. "Richard is a land director and has much planning experience, which was vital in securing planning consent - previous applications had failed," says Jacqueline. Eighteen months on they have a five- bedroom, three-bathroom property. The open-plan living, dining and kitchen area at the rear overlooks fields, many of which still have cattle grazing there, and woodland.

"As the rear elevation is completely glazed it looks very much like a highly contemporary ski chalet," says Jacqueline. "Internally, in order to support the roof, we had special trusses with steel tie-rods made so we could also retain the vaulted ceilings." We also constructed a mezzanine floor in the vaulted entrance hall which will be a wine store, and the old hay-loft has become a bedroom."

Pinks Hill Dairy once encompassed a farmhouse, but the two properties have long since been independent. "When converted dairies are launched on to the open market, they always cause a considerable amount of interest," says Tim Harriss of agents Knight Frank in Guildford. "In the past 12 months we have sold two, both of which had been beautifully converted for modern living but also retained features such as vaulted and beamed drawing rooms and kitchen, as well as large fireplaces and original flooring from the dairy. Unconverted dairies, however, can sometimes appear as part of a broader estate or farm package."

That is the case at a dairy located at Shamley Green, also in Surrey, where Savills is selling Hallams Farm and dairy for £1.55 million - although the dairy is available separately if desired. It has planning permission until March 2006 to convert the building into a three-bedroom, two-bath/shower room property, a cart shed to provide garaging, and some unique features, such as an octagonal kitchen (the former milking parlour). "It offers an ideal opportunity for anyone looking for a project to create a very individual home," says Savills. The diary, which comes with a paddock, is available at £355,000.

Currell East, 020-7241 4111.

Currell Islington, 020-7226 4200.

Mishon Mackay, 01273 829300.

Savills, Guildford, 01483 796 800.

Savills, Southampton, 023-8071 3900.

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