Property: Houses you can put your trust in

It would be a rare visitor to a National Trust property who did not at some point imagine themselves living there. A moment's idle daydream for most, but for others the prospect of living in an historic house is tempting enough for them to change their lives within a matter of weeks. The Trust has no shortage of people who want to take on a tenancy. Since last week, when the search began for new tenants of Lamb House in Rye, East Sussex , the Trust has received well over a hundred applicants, with more arriving each day.

The previous tenants of the former home of the novelist Henry James, and later E F Benson, gave up after a few months. The work involved in running the house and dealing with the public proved too much. James Cooper, the National Trust land agent for Kent and East Sussex, has the task of weeding out the applications. "A lot of those people will be romantics who imagine that it is an easy job. But the kind of person we want has to be practical, hard-working and full of enthusiasm." After a rigorous selection procedure he hopes to have new tenants in the house by the New Year.

It was just such an advertisement a year ago that stopped Catharine and David Boston in their tracks. Out of the blue they read that tenants were wanted for Quebec House, the childhood home of General Wolfe in Westerham, Kent. A few months later they were ensconced in a house they knew well and had always loved, their home in Blackheath, London, in turn rented out. "The house has the most wonderful atmosphere. Even though there are pictures of Wolfe everywhere it still feels like a family home," says Mrs Boston. Quebec House is open to the public and the National Trust regards them as their representatives - the welcoming face of the Trust.

The Bostons, on a 10 year lease, have strong connections with Canada and are well versed in its history. David Boston is himself a retired museum director and they have more than embraced the spirit of the enterprise by opening the house an extra half day, organising chamber concerts and making it more accessible to local people. What about the public, though? Mrs Boston is diplomatic: "There are those who come because it is included in their itinerary, but the enthusiasts more than make up for them. One of our regular visitors is a 12-year-old boy who is fascinated by Wolfe and his campaign."

In the past year, the trust has introduced a new agreement which entitles tenants to a rebate on the past year's rent if they are doing all that is required of them. In the case of Quebec House it is 30 per cent and for Lamb House half of the pounds 10,000 rent. James Cooper described it as a reward for a good "end of school report". Certainly, anyone aspiring to rent off the trust should have plenty of initiative and enthusiasm. Although a lease is drawn up for each property, generally the trust will be responsible for the structure of the house and the tenant for its day to day running costs and decoration. The level of rent will reflect the state of the house and the obligations of the tenant.

When Carrie and Anthony Weston and their baby Jack moved into Tudor Yeoman's House, Cobham in Kent, it had been empty for a couple of years. The 15th century timber-framed house was, in Carrie Weston's words, a bit of a mess. "We both had jobs but would work on the house at every opportunity. We put in a bathroom (the trust paid for the plumbing), did the decorating and took on the massively overgrown garden. We also opened it to the public for the first time."

Now, two years on they have moved out. "It was a lot of hard work - but wonderful. At Christmas we would have a huge roaring fire in the banqueting hall which went up to the rafters. We decided to move out when our daughter was born. The children slept the other side of the hall and during the night I would have to cross this vast freezing space to see to her. Heating the place was horrendous."

The Westons were also conscious of their costs and the fact that at some time they would want a house of their own. "We were paying pounds 550 a month rent and on top of that pounds 50 a month in insurance and pounds 800 a year to maintain the fire alarm. In winter it cost an extra pounds 200 per month to keep the storage heaters going." Now that they have moved into their own - old but not ancient - house is there anything Carrie Weston misses? The atmosphere, certainly, but not the cold. "The first thing we did was put on all the radiators, just for the hell of it."

National Trust rental enquiries: 0171-222 9251

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future