High Elms Manor - Country House Rescue

A Country House Rescued

New life breathed in to old Manor House

In with the New

A lick of paint and a touch of class

A recipe for success

With a little help from our friends

Ruth Watson visited Garston Manor, a Grade II listed Georgian house on the outskirts of Watford built in 1812. Headmistress Sheila O'Neill bought the house as a wreck for £500,000 from the local council with dreams of turning the decrepit building into a school.

The TV Weddings people came down and looked around. They said we werent quite right for them but they asked if they could pass on our details to their sister company who make the Country House Rescue series. As a result of the input from the programmes formidable interior designer Ruth Watson, Sheila has invested a further £80,000 on further improvements.

Sheila and her four daughters all the girls are involved in the family business carried out the experts advice to the letter and then some. Ruth said we were the best owners she had worked with. She said we surpassed ourselves. We exceeded her remit. I thought it was acceptable before but it didnt have the wow factor, Sheila admits. Now it has.

One of the main changes was to turn the previously underused school library into a ceremony room. The floor to ceiling heavy silk curtains and the fee for an interior designer for that room alone cost £8,000. Sheila looks a bit stunned. She says shes just as pleased with the curtains in the visitors lounge made by a friend for half the price.

In the dining room theres another new purchase: a mahogany boardroom table that can seat 20 while in the ballroom (or banqueting hall depending on the size of the party) the new chandelier in the centre of the ceiling sparkles with Austrian crystals. The girls, Catrine, Roisin and Lili became really enthusiastic about the improvements. They had so much energy. Ailise, my youngest daughter, commissioned a lighting designer. She had the tiny lights set in the ceiling running either side of the corridor leading from the hall through to the ceremony room. They add to the romance. The walls of the hall, like those in all the main rooms, are hung with paintings by Sheila, her sister Brigid and their mother Hilda. Outside, the terrace has been rebuilt and edged with a waist high stone balustrade which matches the existing first floor balustrade on the balcony outside Sheilas apartment.

Theres still a lot to do, Sheila says. We havent finished the cellars yet and we still have work to do on our flats. After 13 years you have to start again.

Follow this article from Hertfordshire Life - Country House Rescue in Garston

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