Following the restoration of crumbling properties. City high-flyers Gina and Simon battle to save Stanwick Hall, one of the country's most endangered structures.
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All over Britain, hundreds of precious historic buildings are in danger of being lost forever.
The tragedy is that these are far more than just bricks and mortar. They're the keepers of our past.
I love the idea that people stood here discussing the Battle of Waterloo and Battle of Britain.
I'm following the fortunes of six properties.
Each of these six fragile buildings has found a would-be saviour,
new owners desperate to breathe life into these crumbling ruins
by creating their own 21st-century dream home.
-She found it.
-I think it's an adorable building.
There's a lot of work to be done, but it needs to be cared for and will be.
As our owners get down to work, architectural expert Kieran Long and historian Dr Kate Williams
will help me unearth the fascinating secrets hidden deep in each building's past.
I love old buildings and I've spent many years restoring various properties
in an attempt to create the perfect family home.
So I know from personal experience the hard path that our families have chosen to follow.
I don't think we'd ever buy another listed building. Ever.
It's Restoration Home.
Number 10 Downing Street, probably the most famous door in the world,
the nerve centre of British politics for nearly 300 years.
Some of the most important people on the planet have stood on this very spot.
it may surprise you to learn that this house was built
by what can only be described as a very dodgy property developer.
The builder of Number 10 was George Downing,
a 17th-century courtier, spy and get-rich-quick developer.
Perhaps not the most salubrious start for a Prime Minister's home.
Downing set about building this to make a quick profit.
He used the cheapest materials on boggy land with poor foundations.
He even painted lines on the front of the building
to make it look like it was made out of posh bricks.
Downing's thrifty building methods contributed to it being
on the verge of collapse by the 1950s. It was only saved
by a massive restoration project that took three years to complete.
But Number 10's dodgy original construction gives it much in common with our restoration home -
Stanwick Hall in Northamptonshire.
It's a fine-looking building, but parts of this house
also seem to have been built on the cheap.
Just one of the reasons why it now faces an incredible battle for survival.
This Georgian listed building is serene and beautiful... on the outside.
But inside, her beauty is no more than skin deep.
Years of neglect have left fungus growing on walls running wet with damp,
roof tiles broken and timbers so rotten that one good storm might bring it all down.
Bad times, then, for Stanwick Hall.
And seemingly getting worse.
That is until the day that Simon and Gina Russell first arrived looking for a house.
I remember the first time I drove into the drive.
It was almost surreal, thinking how perfect the shape was and the chocolate box look of it.
It just made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and it was just love at first sight.
The bit I remember most is we walked round the garden.
Only when we got to the gate and looked back
and saw the house with the sun reflecting off it against the stone, it was like a sledgehammer. Wow!
"That's going to be our home. That is our house."
So they bought it for just over £1 million.
And now they've got another half million to turn Stanwick into their dream home.
In just over a year's time,
Simon and Gina want to move into a beautifully finished family home
with seven bedrooms,
and five reception rooms.
Plus all the extras, like a gym and a wine cellar.
They also want to demolish the ugly Victorian extension and replace it with a huge new kitchen.
It's going to be a lot of work.
It may be tough because the Russells are already very busy people.
They run financial services businesses, managing the money of the super-rich,
and in their spare time they also run a charity for children.
And Simon and Gina live in East London, with 18-month-old son Jude.
To project manage the restoration, they'll have to commute 70 miles each way.
But Simon has two other children from a previous marriage - Harry and Madeleine -
and they already live in Northamptonshire, so the move will make seeing them much easier.
I think we should start with the Harry Potter front door.
If you look at it from here, it just looks like a normal front door.
But then when you go and stand next to it, it suddenly...
..becomes an enormous front door!
I don't think we'll get a replacement in B&Q easily.
Simon and Gina bought Stanwick Hall in 2007,
but as an historically important house, this is a Grade Two Star listed building.
So they have to get their plans approved by the heritage authorities. That took two years.
Now, at last, they're ready to go.
The budget for the restoration is half a million pounds,
but will that be enough?
A lot of that money is needed just to make the essential repairs and stabilise the building.
For example, it's going to cost £120,000 just to make the roof safe and watertight.
In fact, Stanwick is on the Buildings At Risk register,
as one of the most endangered structures in the country.
'It's in an absolutely appalling state. There are big cracks,
'lots of damp.'
Actually, it's in worse condition than it might appear at first sight
'and it's only when you start to tour the interior that you realise just how bad things have got.'
Christ! You can hear the floor.
That would be a good bit of footage if I plummeted through the floor.
It's not going to be a walk in the park.
It's a combination of excitement and fear.
Excitement that we can now start after two years of waiting
and fear that we can now start after two years of waiting!
The first priority is the roof.
It's not just leaking, but also sagging dangerously.
The heavy stone tiles must be stripped off to repair the timbers.
The roof is completely wrecked.
As the stain shows us, the water simply pours through. Mother Nature's doing its damage.
So I do worry. I hope now we're just about going to nip it in the bud in time.
The house hasn't been helped by a previous owner coating historic oak panelling with white gloss.
And some other unusual interior decoration.
OK, this is the room that we like to keep our mushrooms in.
Much easier to have them on the ceiling than in the fridge.
This room is an absolute winner(!) I want to keep the bold orange. Particularly good for hangovers.
And the hand-painted pheasant. Awesome.
There's nothing more to do here!
I'm joking about it now. I won't be when I get the bill for the plastering.
'While I keep tabs on Simon and Gina's ambitious restoration,
'our investigators are going to help me uncover the remarkable story behind their building.'
Historian Dr Kate Williams will be digging deep in the archives
and trying to track down the hall's original owner,
while architectural expert Kieran Long heads straight to Stanwick
to search for clues in the DNA of the building itself.
I think it's just the most charming little early Georgian house.
There's something very modest about it. It has the simple brick domestic architecture
that English people love to imagine speaks so well of our nation,
but it's mixed with things that scream out quality
and that's the stones on the corners.
Just a few touches that show that whoever built this building wanted to make a beautiful home,
but was in touch with fashionable architectural tricks.
At the back of the building, Kieran discovers an odd mix of rural domesticity
and high architectural fashion.
An elegant Georgian window is in the style of a grand country house,
while elsewhere the workmanship suggests more humble origins.
Not the highest quality stone, not cut that beautifully.
So this isn't the finest masonry you'll ever see.
It has more of the farmhouse than the chi-chi London palace of the same era.
Kieran's also finding tell-tale clues that Stanwick Hall was once devastated by fire.
So we can see some strange discolouring of the limestone,
up here where it's gone red.
It suggests to me that there's... there has been a fire here and the stone has suffered accordingly.
We don't know. We'll have to do a lot more digging to find out.
Digging deep into local history, we found a lady born and bred in the village
who remembers Stanwick Hall as it used to be.
In Betty Morris's day,
the hall was very much the centre of Stanwick village life.
We used to have parties along there and things going on in the gardens, you know, fetes and that.
We did have brass bands and we used to have quite enjoyable dances.
That was good fun.
And Betty can remember when the fun stopped at Stanwick Hall.
She was there on the night the hall caught fire in 1931.
There was nothing in our way then. We could see quite clearly.
We may have stood on this gate. There were no apple trees then,
so we had a very good view.
It was blazing quite fiercely.
The two bottom windows to the right here,
they're where we saw the flames. A horrific sight.
Must have been awful. And I remember it quite vividly.
Armed with Betty's childhood memories,
Kate has unearthed old newspaper cuttings that reveal the true horror of that night.
"Georgian home gutted in fierce early morning fire.
"The occupants awoke to find the bedroom filled with smoke and the heat unbearable.
"They escaped in night attire with their hair singed,
"a short time before the old oak staircase collapsed.
"A blackened shell, only the bare walls remained."
Look at this - 1931, picture from the local newspaper
about how Stanwick Hall appeared after the fire.
It has been utterly decimated. It's ruined. It's a blackened shell.
Amazingly, no one died in the destructive 1931 blaze.
But, as Kieran's discovering for himself,
the biggest casualty was the original Georgian staircase.
So we're in the most incredible stair hall here
with really amazing light coming from 45 degrees above me.
But what we're faced with is the most abject piece of joinery that you've ever seen, really.
A really poor quality staircase which is clearly nothing to do with the Georgian roots of this building.
Who knows where it comes from? It's not right here.
A crucial piece of evidence is still missing.
To understand the roots of Stanwick Hall, Kieran needs to discover what the original staircase was like.
You can bet your life that there was a magnificently crafted, turned staircase
that has been lost. It's really important to look at what that may have looked like,
but also to think about how one might do that today.
The more he explores the inside, the more worried Kieran is becoming.
I'm looking upwards now and I can see the sky. That's not a good sign!
Back on the ground floor, Kieran's discovered something that might just be an original feature.
I somehow feel like it's in its place here. It has the right character for the room.
It's really difficult to understand what's original and what's been added later.
By the end of his initial investigation, Kieran's been left with more questions than answers.
Such a mix of things going on here at Stanwick. A very strange hybrid of a house.
It's hard to tell what the original plan was. The next step is to find out about who commissioned it.
I want to know who this guy was, who the landowner was.
I think when you look at Stanwick Hall you see a building that's been through so much in its history.
It's held together with very little. It'll be a lot of money to replace all the fabric that is crumbling.
Yet it's just about standing.
My real concern is that it's only just standing
and is this just one restoration too far for this building?
Only time will tell if it is a restoration too far,
but for now it's a restoration in the nick of time.
Just a few weeks after work started,
the country was hit by heavy snow.
Luckily, they'd already taken the heavy stone tiles off the roof.
If they hadn't, the combined weight might easily have been too much for the ageing timbers.
It was said that one good snowfall might have brought the roof down
and last night we had one good snowfall! That could have been it, had the tiles remained.
At last, it's becoming weathertight, waterproof and progress is being made.
But removing the roof slates has revealed that more of the timbers will need to be replaced
than originally thought.
Even with my limited structural knowledge, this isn't right.
The weight of the roof has pushed down on this and split it in the middle there.
I mean, this is major work. The contract for the roof alone is £120,000.
If we stay on budget...
then £600,000 for the whole refurbishment will be...will be a result.
But as everybody knows, numbers don't always pan out as you think.
Even worse, Richard Whitehead, a builder who has been on the project since day one,
finds evidence that walls carrying the weight of the roof are far, far weaker
than they ought to be.
This is the construction of the wall underneath. It's just rubbish, really. It really is.
It's just like mud and odd bits of stone mixed in with a bit of hay.
And you can grind it into... into dust.
Quite a bit of cutting of corners done on this building, I think.
You've just got to worry with the weight of the roof bearing down on these walls,
it would have got to the stage of collapsing like a pack of cards
and it could have been a major collapse of the top of this building.
Not good, really.
It's a potentially disastrous combination, which could be blamed on the original Georgian workforce.
A huge heavy roof pushing outwards on poorly-constructed walls.
For the first time, everyone's realised this house is truly teetering on the brink.
Of course it's scary. Financially, it's scary. Emotionally, it's scary.
Spinning all these plates and not dropping them is scary,
but, like I say, if you over-analyse you just become paralysed,
so...we'll just decide to get on with it.
And with costs mounting,
the family now faces an added, but very happy complication to their frantically busy lives.
We have a baby on the way. It's coming in about six months.
Um...so that was an interesting development.
Obviously, we're overjoyed,
but I do feel slightly fearful about how much we've got on our plate.
We've both got busy careers, we've got a family to look after,
and in addition to all of that
we've got a pregnancy, a birth and a new baby to handle as well.
It's fallen apart!
Despite mounting problems, Simon and Gina remain convinced
the restoration is on track.
Fingers crossed, OK, a year from now, I'll put my life on the line and say,
we would be preparing
to have Christmas in the hall.
We have Christmas next year firmly in our sights.
Back in London, Kieran is trying to identify the architect who designed Stanwick Hall.
If the house was built by an unrecognised provincial architect,
this could well be mission impossible.
It might look like a needle in a haystack, but we're lucky to have the Buildings of England books,
better known by the name of its author Nikolaus Pevsner,
who wrote this encyclopaedic account of all the important buildings in every county of England.
And Stanwick Hall. Here we have a mention, very brief.
"Stanwick Hall, quarter of a mile southwest, also early 18th century,
"five bays, two storeys." That's all we get from Nikolaus Pevsner on our building.
Despite the fact he was encyclopaedic in some senses, he had his tastes.
He's clearly less interested in Georgian houses in the countryside.
Maybe it was a bit too far for him to walk.
Undaunted, Kieran switches tack
and searches lists of architects working in the early 18th century.
Let's hope it's a bit more factual and less dismissive.
Here we are. Stanwick Hall. Under the entry for William Smith.
The eldest surviving son of Francis Smith of Warwick.
Architects and master builders.
So here we have the individual who designed and built Stanwick Hall.
I've never heard of them, but maybe I should have done. There's a long list of works here.
Churches, large houses. It suggests the architect is somebody of note
and makes the building that bit more important.
With further investigation, Kieran even manages to find the architect's 18th-century bank records
from the 1740s, which reveal a key piece of our Restoration Home jigsaw puzzle.
Under the entry for Stanwick Hall, it mentions who the client was.
He's found a payment was made for work on Stanwick Hall in 1742.
What we see is the first payment from James Lambe. Here it is on March 12th.
£200 here is quite a substantial amount of money.
The entire budget for the project was £750,
so £200 is probably enough to complete drawings and start building.
What's really exciting is Simon and Gina can really say this is when their house was conceived.
So now we know the original owner of Stanwick Hall was a man called James Lambe.
We also know that in this period £750 was a lot of money.
So where might it have come from?
To answer that question, Kate is on the money trail, tracing the source of the Stanwick Hall riches.
Amazingly, she's uncovered evidence linking the modern-day financial services jobs of Simon and Gina
with the hall's original owner, James Lambe.
I found a really fascinating piece of evidence on where the money to build Stanwick Hall may have come from.
Stanwick Hall, it appears, was built on what was
the biggest financial scandal and stock market crash of the early 18th century -
the celebrated South Sea Bubble.
The South Sea Company's investors lost fortunes when the slave trading company first boomed
and then bust.
Robert Walpole, then First Lord of the Treasury, knew just who to blame.
Robert Walpole suggested that bankers should be put in sacks full of snakes
and then thrown into the Thames. A really horrific fate.
The South Sea Bubble was the sub-prime banking crisis of its day,
but after the crash the South Sea Company started up again, shipping more slaves to South America,
and this time it made fortunes.
This little document here shows us that James Lambe bought stock
from the South Sea Company in 1729.
Nearly £3,000 worth, which is an incredible sum.
This is really interesting. The South Sea Company was a disaster,
but James Lambe is a very canny man.
All the stock was finally sold to the Spanish Government at a great premium,
so he was one of the few who made money out of the South Sea Bubble.
Rather like the owners today, James Lambe had an eye for financial success.
One of the costliest elements of this restoration
will be reinstating a staircase fitting of this beautiful house, and work has finally begun.
It's a lovely smell. Real old timber.
There are big changes happening in London, too.
Simon and Gina are moving house.
That's my handkerchief collection.
We are no longer going to be London residents.
Jude, are you going to take your cards to Daddy?
The baby's just about to be born at any moment, maybe even today!
So we want to be in Stanwick for all time.
With the hall still far from finished, Simon and Gina are moving into a two-bedroom cottage
in the old stables that came with the house.
It's a tight squeeze when all the children are there.
But as our historical sleuth Kate is discovering in the National Archives,
too many children is a problem the first owners of Stanwick Hall would love to have had.
She's found the last wills of James Lambe and his devoted wife, Esther.
And these wills tell such a moving story.
The desperation of James and Esther Lambe to have children. They had everything, but not a child.
James's will makes it clear that even late in life he still hoped for a child.
He writes here that he leaves everything "to my said dear wife,
"unless I shall have a child by her at the time of my death or born after my decease".
He's hoping so much that he'll have a child, which really is very unlikely by this point, 1753.
The lack of an heir was a serious problem for any wealthy gentleman of the time.
Childlessness was not an option.
A man of great property and stature would expect to have a huge family of children.
Children were a way in which a man proved his virility.
But for wealthy couples like the Lambes, desperate to have children,
the 18th century offered them a few things they could try.
Most of them now seem odd and even lurid.
Respectable couples were sometimes drawn into a strange world based in London's West End
of sex therapy, fertility cures and the very quackiest of quack doctors.
One of them being the great Dr James Graham.
He sold electrical ether, electrical pills
and he also sold a night on the celestial, electrical bed.
The celestial bed, surrounded by tubes of so-called liquid electricity and erotic paintings,
claimed to guarantee conception.
It sounds absurd now, but Dr Graham had some famous and influential followers,
amongst them, the leading socialite of the day - Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire.
The electricity and the magnets inside the bed would fuse and the bed would give a great jolt
and convince you you'd had great pleasure.
Needless to say, it's unlikely that Dr Graham's bed ever helped anyone have a child.
'But back in the 21st century, Simon and Gina have a happier problem.
'Their baby's arrived almost too quickly.'
-Hello, Lily. Say hello to everybody, Lily. They know you already.
So come on, how's it gone? Tell me the truth. Tell me the truth.
-God, it's been seriously hectic, hasn't it?
Gina stopped work on Thursday and we moved here on Friday, then Lily arrived on Monday.
And you appear to be upright. That's absolutely awesome!
-How are you feeling?
Any moment when you thought we might have done this differently?
Maybe when I've knocked a cup of coffee all over myself
and there's food all over the floor and nothing's done and the builders are asking questions
and someone's ringing from the office and the children are screaming.
Just those moments. Apart from that, no.
Apart from that, it's fine. The odd plate is getting dropped. We can't get them all spinning, but we're OK.
And things do seem to be moving very swiftly over the way.
Have you got any idea when you're going to be in?
Um... Our original goal was the end of this year.
-But it's difficult to guess now.
-I don't know how much further behind than Christmas.
-I think we're probably in total four months.
So you'll be in here still for Christmas. Will that be quite a tight squeeze?
-It's a tight squeeze now.
It's a two-bedroom cottage and there's six of us some weekends.
It's disappointing, but as long as you can see progress,
you're getting closer to what we're trying to achieve.
-I can't wait to have a look inside. Is that OK?
-The scaffolding coming down will be a fabulous day.
-When is the scaffolding going to come down?
Any week now!
'As I set off to check on progress at the Hall...
'..50 miles away, Kieran is discovering more about its original architects -
'the Smiths of Warwick. Here in their home town,
'he found evidence of an astonishing architectural achievement.
'The Smiths didn't just design houses like Stanwick Hall.
'After a devastating fire in 1694, they re-designed the entire town of Warwick.'
What the Smiths did that was so revolutionary here
was to rebuild the centre of the town which had been medieval streets,
narrow lanes, half-timbered buildings with overhanging upper storeys, that medieval character,
and replace it with a completely new character of the Georgian city,
so the streets are wider, more ordered and straight.
Even at the time, people said, "This is the way our town should be."
It's not often in British cities that you have an opportunity to re-make a whole town centre and they did.
It seems the Smiths of Warwick were far more than mere provincial builders.
They must have had a huge reputation locally after that time.
They would have been the biggest name in, let's say, property in that era,
so they would have had many offers of different kinds of commissions.
Everywhere he looks, Kieran is finding buildings the Smiths created...
..and echoes of their architectural skill at Stanwick Hall.
This is intended to be one of the most special buildings on this street, the court house.
I think it's really interesting that the town is displaying proudly the name of Francis Smith,
the elder Smith of the Smiths of Warwick.
Stanwick Hall is a much more relaxed building, but you can see the stylistic relationship.
What a fantastic room! What's really nice to see is a complete interior.
At Stanwick Hall, they're all lost. We can only speculate about what the interior scheme was like.
Although this isn't a home, we still can tell a lot about their taste in terms of interior decoration.
But Kieran has spotted something that shows a direct link to Stanwick Hall...
..confirming his suspicions that not everything was destroyed in the fire.
The fireplace is almost completely undecorated.
That reminds me of one of the few original fittings in Stanwick Hall.
You start to think there really is a stylistic link between Stanwick Hall
and this kind of grand project of rebuilding Warwick.
The one thing Kieran hasn't found
is what the Smiths of Warwick's staircase might have looked like at Stanwick Hall.
Just five miles outside Warwick,
Kieran has identified another private house designed by the Smiths,
albeit on a slightly bigger scale.
This was the Smiths' crowning glory,
creating the west wing of Stoneleigh Abbey for their most aristocratic customer, Lord Leigh.
Here we see the Smiths of Warwick bringing out all the toys.
They're bringing all the architectural tricks they've learnt.
It's a grand house for a very prestigious client.
What's really exciting is that Gina and Simon have a house
that is connected through its architect to one of the major pieces of architecture in the country.
Inside Stoneleigh Abbey, Kieran at last finds the grand staircase he's been seeking.
It's an important moment because the staircase in any building
is far more of an architectural statement than simply a means of getting upstairs.
At Stanwick Hall, we have no idea what the staircase was. It was destroyed in the fire.
Here we have a Smiths' staircase, a real, original one
that we can make connections about what may have been there at Stanwick,
the shallow treads making this a kind of processional stairway.
You walk up this stair slowly. It's not just for getting you upstairs.
It's an experience. It's about the procession around this incredible double-height space.
The elegance and style of Stoneleigh Abbey enhanced the Smith dynasty's already glowing reputation.
Their grateful client even commissioned a portrait of the elder Smith,
now placed to forever gaze on the staircase he created.
When we looked at Stanwick, we thought maybe this is just the work of a pretty jobbing builder,
but clearly, standing here, seeing some of this work, we can see they are of a completely different order.
They were high quality, talented architects. They understood the architectural styles of the day
with elegance, style and a certain showing-off quality
which shows that they could deliver what rich people wanted,
as well as much more modest houses on the scale of Stanwick.
'Almost three centuries later,
'Simon and Gina's restoration of Stanwick Hall has made a significant step forward.'
Oh, the new staircase!
Oh, it's fantastic!
-It's really quite a major thing seeing this in place.
-This is the first time I've seen it in situ. I'm amazed. It's beautiful.
The detail I love is this little bevelled edge here. It's just like a little point. Beautifully made.
'OK, so it's not quite on the scale of Stoneleigh Abbey, but it is a Georgian design.'
So hit me with it, Simon. How much does a Georgian staircase cost?
A Georgian staircase for you? £40,000.
Which I'm just thinking is about £1,000 a step, as you go up it.
Probably slightly more. Which is refreshingly expensive. Great!
-It is lovely.
-It's worth every penny.
Oh, now, I know this space.
-This is the fungal museum, isn't it?
-Actually, no, this is...
-The former fungal museum.
-This is improving.
-This used to run with water.
-It ran with water and grew mushrooms.
-Was this due just to the roof being absolutely shot?
Again I hope not an indelicate question, but how much did it cost you to put that beautiful roof on?
An absolutely huge amount. You could have bought another house for it.
'The original budget for the roofing work was £120,000.
'But then this is no ordinary roof.
'It's covered not with slates, but with a special kind of limestone
'that gets its name from the local village of Collyweston in Northamptonshire.
'When Stanwick was built, it was widely used, but it's no longer quarried
'and virtually the only remaining source now is reclaimed salvage.
'Collyweston tiles are also really difficult to work with,
'not least because they're all irregular shapes and sizes.
'Richard Elliott is one of the few who are keeping the craft alive.
'He comes from a long line of Collyweston tilers.'
Sometimes you'll pick a slate up and you automatically know it doesn't sit next to that one very well,
so you put it down and get another one until you get the right... so the roof flows.
'So you can see, as we were saying, a roof like this doesn't come cheap.'
-More than that.
-I think we broke through the £200,000 mark.
-It's a great roof.
It is really beautiful
and it's actually saving the life of a very, very beautiful building.
-The house is in a more precarious condition than we had imagined.
It sounds like it was a kind of five minutes to midnight scenario for this place.
-You were just catching it before it collapsed.
-I think, without being too melodramatic, we probably were.
'For Simon and Gina, the new roof has taken a weight off their minds.
'How are the children feeling about the place?'
-Are you happy at Stanwick Hall?
-What's the best thing about it?
-What are you most looking forward to when you move into the house next year?
-Playing hide and seek.
'The children are getting excited at the thought of finally moving into the Hall.
'And it turns out, in one way and another,
'that children have played a big part in the history of the house.
'Kate's discovering that, although sadly they couldn't have a family of their own,
'James and Esther Lambe were still involved in caring for children.'
They were great philanthropists and particularly to children.
She gives a very sizeable donation here to the Orphan Working School.
Philanthropy was a very important part of the 18th century man. A good man was a philanthropist.
It was a responsibility of the upper classes to help the lower classes.
There were no state benefits, no state assistance, no state schools.
Often it was people like James Lambe who paid so much attention,
so much care, and this incredible donation here from Stanwick Hall.
The Lambes' help for poor children resonates through the centuries
to the charity work of Simon and Gina today.
-The absolute priority is Rajbiraj.
-Yes, we absolutely have to go there.
Simon has been involved with aid projects in Nepal for over ten years
and Gina has done voluntary work there too.
They now run a charity to help the country's poorest children.
Our lives are made up of segments, quite distinct segments.
There's the work segment, then there's the family segment,
then there's the house segment, then there's the Nepal segment.
There are four significant plates to keep spinning there and every now and again one of them wobbles.
Despite their over-busy lives, Simon and Gina have managed so far
to keep on top of what's happening inside the Hall.
If you half-close your eyes
and shake your head a little bit, this looks exactly as it would have done when it was first built
with the scaffolding and swarming with workmen,
but then it would have been divided up into small parcels of land
where people could grow a few crops to feed their families, a few chickens and sheep.
The lord of the manor would let them use that land, which is nice,
but in the 1800s, a new family was about to move into Stanwick Hall.
Things were about to turn nasty.
In the Northamptonshire Record Office, Kate has dug up the details.
80 years after James Lambe built Stanwick Hall,
it had a new owner from a different era in British history.
His name was George Gascoyen.
So I'm here in the record office with this amazing map of Stanwick before the Gascoyen family.
This is exactly how land was farmed in the 18th century
before the advent of the Enclosure Act.
The way in which the land was divided was very fair.
There were little strips of land. You can see them here.
And this is where the peasantry would cultivate their crops.
And that's how it had been for the past thousand years or so,
but to landowners in this era, tradition was nothing.
Because, strictly speaking, the land was owned by the lord of the manor,
all he had to do to get the peasants off his common land
was to apply to Parliament for an Act of Enclosure.
There was a lot of money to be made from grazing cattle and sheep on big, modern farms.
And what happened to Stanwick was repeated all across the country.
The average village man, he had a rather miserable choice.
He could either work as a labourer on someone else's land
or he could go to the city.
There was nothing here in the village for him.
He was absolutely bereft.
The rich became much richer. The poor became much poorer.
Stanwick Hall itself is emblematic of the changes occurring in early 19th century Britain.
The medieval world of arable farming, the common ground, that was all over.
The early 19th century was a time of large farms and mechanised equipment, of big factories,
and most of all, of huge, extensive, beautiful houses.
The money George Gascoyen gained at the peasant villagers' expense
financed extensive changes at Stanwick Hall.
Today, other changes are still happening here.
The brick extension that was added in Victorian times
is being demolished to make way for the new kitchen.
But Gina has finally had to admit defeat with her plan to move in before Christmas.
I do remember sitting here last Christmas going, "Oh, Christmas next year is going to be amazing!"
But it's not like we've missed it by a whisker. We've missed it by a mile.
But you know... That's life.
Well done. And no-one got killed!
And as Christmas 2010 approaches, the finishing date slips further and further away.
One of the coldest winters on record brought building work to a stop.
But a couple of months later, progress is slowly being made.
This is the new kitchen. It's going to be a monster kitchen
with light pouring in from every direction.
Nothing about this property is a stress-free exercise and the kitchen is no exception.
At the moment, the big issue is finding stone to go on the outside of the kitchen
that matches the Hall.
Because Stanwick Hall is a Grade 2 star listed building,
every restoration decision has involved negotiations with planning officials.
The builders sourced some.
There were three different stones. The planner picked one and said, "I really like this one."
It's from a quarry 30 miles away, but he wants it from a local quarry.
The latest plan is we'll buy it from the quarry 30 miles away, bring it here, bury it in the field,
then dig it back up again and that should be local enough, hopefully.
So the latest challenge is sourcing local stone that matches the Hall.
Initially, I always wanted to stay in the cottage,
finish the Hall, make the Hall perfect,
every room, every carpet, every curtain, every piece of furniture,
have it completely perfect and then move in in a grand ceremony.
Now, a couple of years later, with six of us in a two-bedroom cottage on occasions,
it's cramped, it's difficult and now I want to be living in the Hall
and feeling it and being part of it, rather than making it all pristine and perfect and then moving in.
We're more pragmatic about it now.
You know, as long as the main elements of the project are finished, we want to move in.
It's now four months
since Simon and Gina's most recent restoration setback
and I'm on my way to find out what's been going on.
But first, our investigators Kate and Kieran are bringing Simon and Gina up to date
with all they've discovered about their building's past.
We found some bank ledgers.
These bank ledgers are ledgers of Francis and William Smith,
who were very significant builders, contractors, stonemasons and latterly architects.
They were the designers of your house.
But also in that ledger, we found the name of James Lambe,
the client for the job, the person who commissioned this house.
He's one of the few people ever to make money from the South Sea Bubble.
He didn't invest at the time. There's no record of him investing at the time when everyone else was.
He invests when it's at the bottom.
-Was he canny or was he just a bit slow?
-I think he was pretty clever.
The parallels are almost uncanny, that they were involved in financial services, as we are,
they were in East London and came to Northamptonshire, which we did.
-It's lovely to hear that they were great givers.
-There is a parallel there as well.
-We run a children's charity as well as our businesses, which is another bizarre connection.
The builders have commented that it was as if the money ran out when they got to the second floor
because there was a huge change in the quality of the workmanship.
I thought the same thing. There are lots of reasons why that might be.
It might be cost, it might have been a dodgy builder.
My feeling is maybe the Smiths were involved up to a point, then handed it over to a local contractor.
-When you see the quality of the materials, it's clearly not...
-There's quite a marked contrast.
-A firm that could build this, you don't feel would tolerate that kind of quality drop.
As tricky builds go, Gina and Simon had it all -
rotting wood, crumbling stonework,
not to mention the legacy of a fire that nearly destroyed the lot.
So, 18 months on, I'm here to find out
if Stanwick Hall and Gina and Simon are still standing.
-Lovely to see you.
-And you. How are you?
-Really well. I...
I'm just gazing up at your ceiling there and there's still a massive hole.
Come this way. Come to my office. I want to have a word.
I'm not a detective,
but I don't think this house is finished.
-Don't be fooled.
-What makes you say that?
-No, you're quite right.
-There are a few subtle clues. Have you made huge headway that I can't see?
What have you been up to?
The cellars have all been dug out by hand which was a monstrous job
and the floor re-laid in there and the walls cleaned down.
We've put a back door in where a back door used to be.
Every window frame has been replaced.
The Victorian kitchen has been demolished and rebuilt, admittedly not finished.
The heavy structural stuff is done now. Once we get that cladding stone and the roof on,
we're into plumbing and plaster.
What happened with the stone? You had some issues...
-The stone rumbles on.
-It's still not settled?
-Which is one of our delays.
-Last Friday, the amazing builders managed to come up with...
-So we're hoping now...
-We're hoping the one on the right.
..that this is local enough for the planning officer to accept
and the right colour and cost for us to accept.
It's been some battle, but we're there.
-May I come and have a look at the rest of the house, she said...
-..nervously, I have to say.
Do I need to wear a hard hat?
-No, you'll be all right.
-I love what you've done with this hall. I really do.
-It is the new thing.
-Acrow props, always a good feature!
Oh, you've gone for the double use. That's very nice.
'The family are still living in the cottage in the stable yard,
'but there are definite signs of progress inside the house.'
-Now, the staircase, I was here shortly after it had gone up to the next floor.
-And we didn't have the next bit, did we?
-No, you didn't, but you have now.
-From cellar to children's bedrooms all in one go.
-Unfortunately, you can't see it cos it's all protected.
Quite right. That makes sense.
'When Simon and Gina bought the Hall,
'the true beauty of the grand panelled room on the first floor was obscured under coats of white gloss.
'Now they've prevented the house falling down, they've finally had a chance to remove it.'
-This is completely different. This is stunning.
-Do you know what period this panelling is?
-Apparently, it pre-dates the house.
-This was shipped in from somewhere else?
-Maybe Mr Lambe brought it.
-Will this be your bedroom?
-This is going to be our guest bedroom.
-What a treat when you go visiting! You'd feel quite special.
'Finally accessible on the top floor is what this restoration dream has been all about -
'a place where the four children can have their own space to play and sleep.'
-Whose room is this going to be?
-This is Jude's.
-And who will be in this one then?
-This is Harry's room.
-So where's Lily going to be?
-Lily's over there in the corner.
They've each got their room, their own bathroom, which is healthy.
A bit of open space. It's lovely. I really find it motivating, this floor.
-I wish we could show you the finished result, but...soon.
-Yeah, but you're nearly there.
'Restoring the house that James Lambe built in the 1740s
'continues to be an enormous and expensive task,
'but since buying it back in 2007, its present owners are in for the long haul.'
What's the greatest thing you've learnt from this experience?
-Don't buy a listed building.
It's not without its price, it's not without its consequences, it's not for the faint-hearted,
but the rewards are all there if you put the time and effort in.
It was in a terrible state. What do you think would have happened to it
if you hadn't loved it as much as you love it and...
-It would have fallen down.
-Nobody knew how bad it was.
-No-one appreciated how perilous the condition was.
-It was very frail, wasn't it?
-What was your budget when you started out?
-We said it would probably cost half a million.
-And has it?
Nowhere near as much as that(!)
In the broadest possible figures, a million to buy and a million to renovate.
-When do you think you'll actually be living in the house?
We're committed to that.
Do you love the house as much as when you first saw it?
-Beyond any doubt, yeah.
I still drive down that drive and think, "Wow! Do we really own that? Is that really ours?"
It hasn't lost its magic. Never in the whole process.
OK, so Stanwick Hall isn't finished,
but it is saved.
There are so many similarities between James Lambe and Gina and Simon
that I can't help thinking that perhaps they were the only people
who could stop this place from ending up as a pile of dust.
If anyone can finish this home, Gina and Simon can.
Next time on Restoration Home, the secrets of a house on the verge of collapse.
This must be just how Howard Carter felt when he was in Tutankhamun's tomb. Is the seal broken?
As centuries of historic artefacts come to light.
Someone with some wealth had a plate like that.
We investigate a story of family intrigue, treason
Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd 2011
Email [email protected]
Years of neglect have left fungus growing on walls running wet with damp and timbers so rotten that one good storm might bring down the roof.
Stanwick Hall is in appalling condition and faces an incredible battle for survival, which City high-flyers Gina and Simon have taken on. The Hall is on the buildings-at-risk register which means it is one of the most endangered structures in the country.
As the restoration throws up more and more serious problems, long forgotten evidence comes to light showing it was built on the biggest financial scandal of the early 18th century and was emblematic of the huge upheaval in the early 19th century that changed the landscape of Britain forever.