Me And My Home: Drinks are on the house

Gwenda Brophy talks to Deborah Nichol about her converted 18th-century pub

Deborah Nichol lives with her partner, Mike Lawes, in an 18th-century pub she converted in the village of Great Bromley, Essex.

When I bought this place I was the archetypal Eighties yuppie. Like my partner at the time, I was working in the City. I suppose we were the typical "Thatcher children" of that era - we worked hard, and felt if you wanted anything you should just go for it. It was a massive investment and needed total renovation, but it was also full of character, with its timber frame, and dormer windows peeping out from the roof, topped off by an old redbrick, off-centre chimney. We bought it in mid-1988 and it hadn't been occupied for well over a year. There was something of the Marie Celeste about it - the Christmas decorations were still up. I think most of our friends and family thought we were totally mad to be taking it on.

"We worked solidly for a year, only taking one weekend off. During the restoration, I continued to work full-time in London which was hard-going. Although the property was derelict, some of the original features had survived. We were keen to retain the original form of the property as much as possible, so we kept internal changes to a minimum.

"Upstairs, we turned an old pub lounge into a fourth bedroom and downstairs we converted the old beer-barrel storage room into a bathroom. We were keen to reuse any original artefacts left behind, and in the small room just off the former saloon bar, which we made into a library, we were able to use part of the original bar when we were fitting it out. The original Shove Halfpenny board was still attached to the top of the bar. All the internal soft furnishings inside the place had to be destroyed, though, as they were in a terrible state.

"I can still remember the excitement of discovering that there was a vaulted ceiling in the former public bar. That is now our drawing room. One thing about buying a pub is that there is no shortage of reception rooms. We use the old saloon bar as our lounge. The door has a sliding peephole which I presume was used to keep an eye on the locals to check they weren't getting too rowdy. The majority of doors in the house still have their original furniture.

"What we really liked about this room was the large inglenook fireplace. When there is a big log fire roaring away in the grate during the winter months, it is very easy to become a hermit. I give quite a few dinner parties, and a real fire creates a very cosy, welcoming atmosphere for guests, many of whom come from London. It amuses me that they often seem terrified of driving in the country, but are fine doing it in London.

"In the summer months we spend a lot of time in the conservatory. Because this is a Grade II-listed property, before you carry out work you have to comply with the appropriate regulations, and it took nearly a year to get permission to erect the conservatory. The garden is naturally picturesque and even has a little brook running through it. There is also a magnificent old yew tree. When you buy a former pub you are not always so lucky - you can end up with a car park for a garden. We were also spared the pleasure of dealing with pub urinals, as the toilets were situated at each end of the detached stable block, so these were removed when we had the stable restored.

"Even though the Spread Eagle is no longer a pub, there are still several pubs in Great Bromley if we fancy a drink. If we want to eat out, we tend to drive to Colchester, which is a few miles away, or to places like Dedham or Wivenhoe. The nearest Tesco is about five miles away, but Great Bromley still has its own village shop which also incorporates a post office, as well as its own primary school, which is quite good nowadays for a village. It means that the infrastructure a village needs to survive and thrive as a community is still there. I still commute into London, which takes about 50 minutes into Liverpool Street, and though I was tempted to move to London in my mid-twenties, I have always preferred to live out of the capital. I am now definitely a country girl.

"We are planning to move to Suffolk to buy a property with more land, as we want to buy horses in the not-too-distant future. I am also learning to carriage drive at the moment which is a totally new venture for me. I'll be sad to leave the Spread Eagle. The Eighties seem a long time ago now. Recently I found a book by a local historian, entitled Where the Broom Grows - Great Bromley in Old Post Cards and Photographs. It features a lot of old photographs and background information on the Spread Eagle. On one of the old photos, c.1904, the sign on the front of the former public house says 'Nicholl & Co. Ltd, Fine Ales'. Spooky or what?"

The Spread Eagle, Brook Street, Great Bromley, available for sale through John D Wood and Co (01245 344222) at £360,000.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones