Industrial revolution

A relic of the coal-mining industry has been lovingly transformed into a spectacular and unique home
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The Independent Online

It is always exciting to see a derelict building imaginatively converted to a new use. The Winding House, in Coldred, a few miles from Dover in Kent, is a case in point.

"Docklands comes to Dover" is how Simon Backhouse of Strutt and Parker describes the Winding House. "In my time as an estate agent I have seen dozens of houses but this one is jaw-stoppingly unique."

The Winding House is a fascinating relic of the now all-but forgotten coal-mining industry that once dominated this area of Kent. The race to discover coal was Kent's low-key version of a Californian gold rush as borings were undertaken in many different locations at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The Winding House was built around 1906 for a private mining company set up to extract coal from seams surrounding Waldershare Park, the home of the Earl of Guildford. The Guildford Colliery, as it was called, closed in the 1920s without ever bringing any coal up because of difficulties with transport, a shortage of housing and flooding. The coal seam in Waldershare Park was eventually reached from the colliery at Tilmanstone.

The Winding House and another unidentified building that can be seen from it are all that remain of the colliery venture. For nearly a century the Winding House was abandoned, forlornly dominating its rural surroundings. New owner Tony Doyle bought it after seeing it advertised in a local paper. "I had always looked at it, wondering if anything was ever going to happen to it," he says. "Nobody else was interested because of the size of the building."

The Winding House was in a poor state, covered in graffiti. Inside there was a burnt out car, several old fridges and all the windows were bricked up. It had even been used as a setting for a horror movie.

Originally a bricklayer by trade, Doyle has worked as a builder for more than 30 years, and did most of the building work on the Winding House himself.

It is a breathtaking transformation. The house over five floors comprises 12,500 square feet and is remarkable for its loft-style interiors that are filled with light. Doyle unblocked the 18 5ft x 10ft windows himself. "On a sunny day it is as if you are walking on air," he says of the far-reaching views over farmland from three sides of the building. From the fourth side you can see the sea in the distance beyond the parkland that still surrounds Waldershare Park.

At ground level there are service rooms and a garage. On the next floor there is a heated 40ft-long swimming pool. This area is open to the ceiling which is about 70ft high. All the other floors overlook this area. Vast glass walls creating the feeling of a house within a house enclose the main living accommodation.

The remaining accommodation is arranged over a further three floors. The master bedroom, measuring 27ft x 13ft, is on its own on the third floor. It has a glorious view through a round window over the parkland. There are five other bedrooms on the second floor, two of which have en suite shower-rooms. There is also a bathroom.

The first floor is the principal living area, measuring 47.6ft x 31ft. It is connected to the garden by a bridge over the swimming-pool area. The second floor has a 31ft x 17ft dining area and a 41ft x 17ft kitchen.

"I've tried to maintain the industrial aspect of the building," says Doyle, "by retaining the steel roof structure, using steel columns to create the living accommodation and keeping the exposed brick walls."

The Winding House would now make an ideal home for an artist who could work from home or a "zany young couple who are not fazed by space" says the selling agent.

The Winding House is for sale for £850,000 through Strutt & Parker's Canterbury office, 01227-451 123

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