Sally Codrington had not planned to do this when she set out for North Yorkshire in search of some good slabs of stone. She rang a few likely places until she happened upon Ron Moverley from Crayke, a farmer, cum demolition man, cum anything which requires a bit of labour and machinery.
Yes, Mr Moverley could help her. He was pulling down a 16th century barn on the moors. There was bound to be some good York stone in it.
They drove up to Sutton-under-Whitestone to find the barn, complete with cows, and Mrs Codrington decided to take the entire structure. She called her husband in America to break the news of her impulse buy and went back home to Richmond-upon-Thames.
The Codringtons were living in Manor Farm, at the foot of Richmond Park, where it meets the bend in the river. The farm had once been attached to Ham House and had kept a few acres of ground.
This prime green-belt territory, backing on to water meadows, is not the easiest place to get planning permission for a barn. Nor is it the kind of thing to endear you to the neighbours. But the Codringtons had a stroke of luck.
They discovered that Manor Farm had originally had barns in exactly the corner of land where they wanted to erect their Yorkshire purchase. Some line drawings from 1899 proved their case.
There is nothing like historical authenticity to persuade the English and once the Codringtons had hawked their drawings and plans for the barn around all their neighbours and the local council, they got their way.
Initially the family planned to put up the barn and sell it off. However with their three children growing up and the bills for the house not getting any lower, they decided instead to make the barn their home.
At the time an advertising campaign was running for the brick industry. Sally Codrington was looking for bricks which would meet with the council's approval, but finding some was proving a near impossible task.
'I kept driving past these adverts which said Keep Britain Beautiful with Bricks,' she said. 'But I couldn't get any bricks anywhere.
'I even drove to an old ammunition depot by the Thames barrage to find the right thing. In the end I got them - like everything else - from Mr Moverley.'
The Codringtons sold Manor Farm to someone who was living abroad. Their daughter got married there one Saturday and the builders arrived to put up the barn the following Monday.
Luckily the new owners did not want to move in immediately, so the family could stay on until their new home was completed. It took just six months.
A team of Mr Moverley's farm workers drove the barn down, brick by brick, on a fleet of trucks. Old beams from the barn went into the ceiling of the living room at a third of the cost of an RSJ.
Old tiles were laid on the roof with a ridge of York stone running down its centre.
The entire cost of the project was a little over pounds 100,000, with the Codringtons not having to pay anything for the land. At the time - this was 10 years ago - the money would have bought you precious little in this prime patch of London.
When Mr Moverley came down for the Smithfield Show that autumn he promised to call in on the Codringtons and see what they had made of his old barn. 'I told him he'd need some directions,' Mrs Codrington said. 'He said not to bother. He'd recognise it when he saw it.'
In fact the house is very difficult to spot from the road, despite being very close to it. To get in you drive through the entrance to Ham Polo Ground and the barn is tucked in on the right.
The main building is a single-storey L-shape, running around two sides of the central garden. On the third side are the old stables, where Mrs Codrington used to keep horses, but which she now uses as a pottery studio.
The focal point of the house is the garden, which almost every room looks on to. Its centrepiece is a vast trough which Mrs Codrington wangled out of Mr Moverley as a house warming present.
The house has one large living room, kitchen, three bedrooms and a hall which doubles as a study. Because of the stables, its setting and the age of the materials used, it feels more like a country than a town house.
Mrs Codrington went to school in Whitby and many of her family live in North Yorkshire, which was what took her there in the first place. Now, after 10 years in the barn, the Codringtons have decided to go north one again in search of another house. This time, however, they intend to leave the house where they find it.
The barn, known as Manor Farmyard is being sold through Lane Fox (071 225 3866), for pounds 475,000.
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