Calverton Manor Restoration Home


Calverton Manor

Following the restoration of crumbling properties. This episode features Calverton Manor, a collage of different architectural styles with its very own legend.


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Transcript


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All over Britain, hundreds of precious, historic buildings are in danger of being lost for ever.

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The tragedy is that these buildings are far more than bricks and mortar. They are the keepers of our past.

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I love the idea that people stood here discussing the Battle of Waterloo and the Battle of Britain.

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I'm following the fortunes of six properties.

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Each of these six fragile buildings has found a would-be saviour -

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new owners desperate to breathe life into these crumbling ruins

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by creating their own 21st century dream home.

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-She found it.

-I think it's an adorable building.

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There's a lot of work to be done, but it needs to be cared for and will be cared for.

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As our owners get down to work, architectural expert Kieran Long

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and historian Dr Kate Williams will help me unearth the fascinating secrets hidden deep

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in each building's past.

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I love old buildings and I always have

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and I've spent many years restoring various different properties

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to try and create the perfect family home,

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so I know from personal experience the hard path that our families have chosen to follow.

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-Oh!

-I don't think we'd ever buy another listed building. Ever.

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It's Restoration Home.

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Welcome to historic Britain.

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This time, we're in a region up to its neck in history,

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the very heartland of Heritage Britain.

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Welcome to Milton Keynes.

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It might not be the first place you'd associate with a rich past,

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but when the new town was laid out in the 1960s,

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it engulfed three old towns, 13 ancient villages and a variety of historic properties.

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So here, just on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, is our restoration home - Calverton Manor.

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There is evidence of some form of hall or manor here at the time of the Domesday Book,

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though the oldest parts of this building appear to be Tudor,

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so not surprisingly, Calverton Manor is a listed building, Grade 2 star.

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That's only one grade down from places like Blenheim Palace and Westminster Abbey.

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But unlike those national treasures,

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today, Calverton is neglected and ruined.

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The manor has ended up a broken-down farmhouse,

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uncared for and on the verge of collapse.

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Enter our restoration champions, David and Jeanette Lock.

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Three years ago, they were facing the terrifying prospect of a quiet and comfortable life.

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Retirement loomed.

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We weren't going to sit on our arses and just go on cruises

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and go round boot fairs or whatever it is people do when they retire. We're not that sort of person.

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We could have taken the easy route.

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We don't do that.

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They've both had successful careers in town planning.

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In fact, David was awarded a CBE for work he'd done nationwide

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and on modern Milton Keynes.

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They've also raised three daughters

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and after they left home, David and Jeanette wanted a big, new challenge.

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We stumbled over the advert. As soon as I saw the photograph,

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an aerial photograph, I went, "It's obvious. We'll have to do this." It was clear.

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-We came up here one summer's evening. We walked across the fields.

-It was absolutely gorgeous.

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We said to each other, "We're going to have to give this wheel a spin."

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The property came with 45 acres, three dilapidated cottages

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and several old farm buildings.

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David and Jeanette paid 2.2 million and they moved straight into the manor house,

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even though it was in a pretty terrible state.

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We wanted to get the feel of the house.

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We didn't want to just, um...

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renovate it without knowing how to live in it.

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And it is an extremely frightening project.

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There were a couple of nights when we both lay awake, wondering what we'd done.

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As well they might. They'd blown their budget just buying the place.

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It's taken three years of hard work just to raise the money for the restoration.

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We've had to convert the cottages and sell those, get permission to convert the barns and sell those,

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but we converted this one ourselves, so we've got somewhere to live while the house is being done up.

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Taking this wall down is just going to...

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At least while all that was being done, they've had time to sort out the plans and building permits.

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David and Jeanette want to create their dream home

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with five bedrooms, modern comforts

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and plenty of space for all the children and grandchildren to visit.

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But because it's a listed building,

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all proposed work has to be cleared by conservation officers from English Heritage.

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Everything must be done in keeping with the historic building.

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Some people find the regulations a hindrance, but for David and Jeanette,

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the history is the reason they bought the place.

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In a way, we'd like to find a few problems. We'd like to find a bit more archaeology.

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It would be exciting, even if it was a pain.

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The restoration budget is set at just over a million pounds

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and the schedule is 44 weeks, so they should be finished by Christmas.

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The most vital work is going to be simply repairing the structure and fabric of the building.

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Modern plastic windows are going to be replaced and crumbling stone ones restored.

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In the attic, a team of conservation experts are starting to stabilise the crumbling plaster.

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Most of this area will then be left alone,

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but David and Jeanette plan to turn the largest gable into a study.

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The biggest change to the layout will be downstairs.

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The plan was to remove a Georgian wall between the room called the snug and the dingy entrance hall.

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David and Jeanette will get a huge and gracious reception room

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and at the same time, they'll recreate what is probably the oldest space in the house -

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the original great hall.

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But the plans and details could change as things come to light.

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They've already discovered a Tudor fireplace lurking just behind the wallpaper.

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We've discovered by dropping small pieces through

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that the floor of the fireplace probably collapsed some time ago

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because those bits appear to be landing in the fireplace downstairs.

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Calverton Manor is a time capsule

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and we'll be investigating the architectural and social history literally hidden in the walls.

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Anything we find out we'll share with David and Jeanette.

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While I keep an eye on the restoration,

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our private eye of the past Dr Kate Williams will be revealing the people who have lived here,

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while architectural expert Kieran Long tries to unravel the DNA of the building itself.

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His first lead is hard to miss.

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So it's hard to say how old this building is,

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but we have a pretty good clue above us

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that 1659 was the moment where this element, this kind of portico entrance, this porch was built.

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It might seem completely obvious that the entrance to a building is important

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and should be celebrated in architectural detail, but it wasn't always obvious.

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Buildings on sites like this wouldn't necessarily have had a grand front door,

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but at a certain point in the 17th century, you start to get people interested in making an impression.

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You need to arrive at the entrance facade and be impressed.

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Along with the date, there's also someone's initials.

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Round the back, there are no easy clues.

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The whole thing is kind of, to be honest, a complete nightmare.

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It's totally confusing, impossible to date in one singular way,

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but that's the quality of it, that's what we've got to enjoy about it.

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It's a collage of so many different eras.

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Many of the doorways and windows in this building have timber lintels.

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What's interesting is that the timber lintels that were older and no longer needed

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have just been left in the wall.

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So above here, we see a broader lintel and you see a stone here and a stone over here,

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so there was once a much bigger doorway here.

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As a result, you're left with this wall with literally the history of the building written into it,

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kind of embedded in it and kept there.

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The interior is even more of a collage.

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From the outside, we know that it's at least partly a 17th century house,

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but when you look at the thickness of these walls, you start to suspect something much more ancient.

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Normally, you would expect a wall this size to be an external wall.

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If it is solid masonry, you'd expect it to be the former external wall perhaps of a much older building.

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It's clear the house has been altered and adapted by almost every generation that's lived here.

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For example, the drawing room has Georgian windows and a Tudor fireplace.

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Strangely, the only really grand room is the servants' hall

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which was built on the back like an extension.

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Every time you walk round a corner in this house, you find another thing that poses yet another question.

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Why did they build this quite large hall?

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At what point did they need this size of accommodation which is nearly as big as the ground floor of the house?

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The windows and the architectural details of the servants' hall appear to date from the mid-1600s,

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the same period as the portico round the front.

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So it looks like the mysterious SB played a big role in the architecture of Calverton Manor.

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But what about the date - 1659?

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Our historian Dr Kate Williams knows it as a very significant year.

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The 1600s were years of strife and revolution

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and 1659 was the year in which everything changed.

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Since the Civil War, Oliver Cromwell had ruled the country,

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but he had just died, throwing everything into chaos.

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People were desperate for stability, so in the following year,

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Charles II returned from exile to be crowned King.

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One thing is clear. Whoever this SB was,

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he was someone who was very confident and sure of himself to embark on this expansive building project

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in a time of chaos and change.

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But now, back with our own restoration,

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a discovery has been made.

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-Are you down at the bottom yet?

-No.

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When the builders began to take up the floor, they chanced upon something very strange.

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We have found beneath several layers of building work,

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inside the building, but once which was outside,

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some steps leading down into the ground.

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The steps seem to be going down underneath the servants' hall.

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Another step, so it's definitely leading to another room.

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The steps just wouldn't finish at the bottom of a wall.

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I would think there's probably another two steps down, looking at the height of that.

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The restoration has its own professional archaeologist, Paul Woodfield.

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David and Jeanette brought him on to the project when they were first making plans.

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-Now he'll be recording everything that's revealed.

-He's got something else.

-Bones.

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Look at that. That's a corker!

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Look, it's a... It's a butchered bone.

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And sawn through.

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Now the steps are clear, they're going to make a small hole in the wall

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to see what's on the other side.

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I can't resist discovering where this is headed.

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This is really very exciting.

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This must be just how Howard Carter felt when he was in Tutankhamun's tomb, you see.

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Is the seal broken? Is the seal broken?

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But behind the wall is just more earth.

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There must have been a cellar there, but it's been filled in.

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Now the only way to discover more is to dig down into the servants' hall directly behind where the steps are.

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Yeah, I can see the light.

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Yeah, I can see the light through.

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My inclination would be to do a little bit of excavation here now

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from the floor of the servants' hall, so we ought to find the edges of whatever that chamber was.

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It might be a little thing or a bigger room, but we might find the edges of it.

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They're keen to investigate the cellar as it might help with one of Calverton's unanswered questions -

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where's the water?

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Long before water mains, a house this size would have had a well,

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but there's been no sign of one here, so maybe the well was in the cellar.

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David has had a closer look at those steps.

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Each step has been worn down by a couple of inches,

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so you have to think what activity would take place that you would go up and down the steps so often

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that you would wear it out that much.

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The way the steps are worn, if you're a right-handed person carrying something,

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perhaps a bucket full of water, that's exactly how you would come up those steps.

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You would turn, so the wear would all be to the outer edge here as you would turn.

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While the location of the well is forgotten,

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there is one historic detail of Calverton Manor that everyone round here remembers.

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300 years ago, there was a murder.

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The victim was the lady of the house -

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a rich widow named Grace Bennett.

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She wasn't at all liked. She'd done some bad things in the village, upset people.

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And the butcher from Stony Stratford and his apprentice decided she must have some money up here hidden away,

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so they came up for it and she insisted there wasn't any.

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One thing led to another and they murdered her in this hall somewhere.

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They caught the butcher and his apprentice in a wood near Beachampton, not far from here.

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They were both hung at Galley Hill, about half a mile away.

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Their bodies were put in gibbets hanging on Gib Lane, which was the old lane past the village,

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and then their skulls were exhibited on our garden wall

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where there's a carved gallows as a warning to other people.

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But how much of the story is fact and how much is folklore?

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Kate has gone to the county archives to find out.

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This book here about murders and mysteries and plots of the time has a big piece about Grace Bennett,

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saying she was miserable, she lived by herself

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and had so much money in her house that a butcher artfully got into the house and barbarously murdered her.

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But there's a few problems here. There's no footnotes. We don't know how reliable this source is.

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He says the murder took place in 1691.

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Then we've also got the stone in the Calverton farm wall that says the murder took place in 1693,

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then it also says that the man was hanged in 1694.

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So there are certainly conflicting pieces of evidence.

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What we need to discover more about the history of Calverton are some hard facts.

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Which is what they're after back in the servants' hall and now they've found something -

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a floor.

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Well, I'm damned!

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We've got bricks there, then there's like a flagstone and then it's cobbled.

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And the well could be close by.

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That's wet. It's very wet.

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But now David is getting cold feet.

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The men would like to dig it out, the archaeologists would like to dig it out.

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I'd like to dig it out, but this is going to take another day.

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-It will.

-And, er...

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Oh, dear. Jeanette, what do we do?

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Eventually, they reach a compromise.

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They're going to carry on digging,

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but with mechanical help to speed things up.

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The plan is to excavate a couple of trenches to find the edges of the old cellar.

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Meanwhile, Kate has found the financial accounts

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of what was spent on the trial and execution of Grace Bennett's murderers.

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Curiously, the whole thing was paid for by the Bennett family

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and there's a clue that the victim really was quite unpopular.

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Grace Bennett was so hated by the people around her, the local people,

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that there was no sympathy for her.

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In fact, no-one would give evidence at the trial, it seems, so every witness had to be paid to testify.

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The Bennett family want a special gallows made for the murderer where he can be hanged.

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The bill for the building of the gallows - two guineas, 12. And they paid for the body to be taken away.

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After four days, the servants' hall dig has had to stop.

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If they go any further, it could undermine the walls.

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They haven't found any real proof of a well,

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but the archaeologist has dated the cellar floor to medieval times

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and they've worked out what happened next.

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So it goes something like this - the servants' hall made in about 1660.

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Probably the cellar was still there then with a wooden floor over the top of it. As the years go by,

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that floor rots and collapses.

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They level the floors up and decide to fill in what's left of the cellar,

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about 1810, 1820, we think, from the fill material.

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Now that's settled, the builders can go back to building.

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And they've just started a dangerous job at the top of the house.

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When SB made his alterations, there was a big window in the gable end that was later filled in.

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The plan is to open it up again

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to give their new attic room a stunning view.

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But for building conservationist Alan Walker, it's quite a challenge.

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It is a very tricky operation.

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We need an awful lot of supports, so we can retain as much of the original stone facade as possible.

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We've got about three-quarters of a tonne above of stonework

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and we can't take out a lintel without supporting it properly,

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so we can get a new lintel in its position.

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It's always a nerve-wracking job when dealing with historic buildings.

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They're putting in modern lintels of steel and concrete bedded into new mortar, but there's a snag.

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There's a real problem there.

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We might have to take this out.

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The scaffolding prop is in the way. They need to move it over a little.

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While they do that, there won't be anything to stop that stonework from collapsing.

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It's quite fragile. You really notice how fragile it is when you haven't got it supported properly,

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then obviously, you find out pretty fast.

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Now the only thing holding up the gable end is a few centuries of tradition.

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When the lintel is safely in position, the building can really move on.

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And as the building work proceeds, discoveries are coming to light everywhere.

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In the yard at the back, they've uncovered a medieval drain.

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When it was first exposed, everyone thought it was a foundation of a wall running out,

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but Jeanette and I levered a couple up and found this amazing conduit

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with clay tiles to form its base,

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lovely stones on either side,

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then flat stones placed on top.

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This then goes all the way through into the 13th century kitchen,

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so it suggests it's contemporary with the original house here.

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Behind the wallpaper in the drawing room,

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they've discovered fragments of newspaper from 1827.

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It was used as a liner.

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We've got an amazingly grim story here of a dreadful accident.

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"He was in the act of incautiously pushing a boat from the shore

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"with a large gun when it went off

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"and the charge tore one of his hands and shattered the arm so dreadfully

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"that it merely hung on by a small piece of flesh."

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Out in the barn, Jeanette is looking after the artefacts

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that are coming from behind the walls and under the floors.

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There's a Tudor wine bottle.

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They must have a good time drinking from that because they broke the bottle afterwards.

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And all kinds of crockery and china.

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Someone with some wealth had a plate like that.

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'High summer and the builders have been at it for five months.

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'By now, there should be some real progress.'

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David, Jeanette, how far have you got?

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The contractor assures us we're exactly halfway through the contract -

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22 weeks into a 44-week contract more or less exactly today.

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-Are you aching to move into the house?

-I really do want to see it moving on.

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-I really do want to get in.

-Can I come and have a look?

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-Yeah, we love to show people round. Come on, let's have a look.

-Lovely.

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Right...

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So you're exactly halfway through, you say?

0:24:480:24:52

Yes. It does look a mess, doesn't it, at the moment?

0:24:520:24:56

Well, it's...it's... It's got a way to go, hasn't it?

0:24:560:25:00

'I know the house is work in progress,

0:25:000:25:03

'but I didn't imagine it would be so bad.'

0:25:030:25:07

This room's not much further on, is it? This one's still quite...

0:25:070:25:12

-You need a great deal of imagination now.

-Yeah.

0:25:120:25:15

We thought this room was going to be the one that would need least intervention,

0:25:210:25:27

but it's been like pulling a thread on a jumper.

0:25:270:25:30

The architect wanted to take the 1970s plasterboard off

0:25:300:25:34

and that led them to the stud work to be pulled off, then we found a lot of the plaster came off.

0:25:340:25:40

It's like peeling the house back and tracing its history that way.

0:25:400:25:46

Now we have much more information about the house.

0:25:460:25:50

'For example, they have discovered why there are Georgian windows in a room with a Tudor fireplace.

0:25:500:25:57

'The windows weren't always Georgian.'

0:25:570:26:00

This is the original Tudor window opening.

0:26:000:26:04

Then when we get to Georgian times, Tudor windows are regarded as a bit naff,

0:26:040:26:09

so this window then gets filled in to about there,

0:26:090:26:13

so what you see is a series of interventions of the fashion of window openings.

0:26:130:26:18

Do you remember that period where people started to nail plywood on to pine doors

0:26:180:26:23

because they wanted them all smooth and modern?

0:26:230:26:26

-Then we've spent our last 20 years peeling them off again.

-Scraping the paint off.

0:26:260:26:31

-You love this house, don't you?

-Yeah, I do, I do.

0:26:310:26:34

It's just a very welcoming house

0:26:340:26:38

and it's full of interest.

0:26:380:26:40

We love our history as well. And I love architecture.

0:26:400:26:45

I love the idea that people were stood here like this,

0:26:450:26:48

discussing, you know, the Battle of Waterloo and the Battle of Bosworth and the Battle of Britain.

0:26:480:26:56

All these conversations have taken place in this very place.

0:26:560:27:01

And of all the occupiers of Calverton Manor,

0:27:010:27:04

the one who has made the biggest contribution to the architecture must be the mysterious SB.

0:27:040:27:10

But who was he?

0:27:100:27:11

Kieran is checking out a special collection on local history.

0:27:140:27:19

Our first step has been to consult a county history of Buckinghamshire.

0:27:190:27:23

And in this text, we've now found out who the SB was -

0:27:230:27:28

Mr Simon Bennett.

0:27:280:27:30

It turns out that this Simon Bennett was the husband of Grace Bennett

0:27:320:27:37

who was later murdered long after Simon died.

0:27:370:27:41

And it seems the Bennetts weren't always the lords of the manor round here.

0:27:410:27:46

They bought their way into the landed gentry.

0:27:460:27:50

It says here that in 1616 the Manor of Calverton was sold to Sir Thomas Bennett.

0:27:500:27:58

Then it says he was a knight, a citizen of London, and Lord Mayor in 1603.

0:27:580:28:03

Sir Thomas was the grandfather of our Simon Bennett.

0:28:030:28:06

My impression from this is that Sir Thomas Bennett was an entrepreneur,

0:28:060:28:10

along the lines of today the great kind of representative figures of British business,

0:28:100:28:16

a Lord Sugar or a Richard Branson. I think Thomas Bennett was one of these kinds of figures.

0:28:160:28:21

Like his grandfather, Simon was an entrepreneur and he must have done well.

0:28:210:28:27

Not only did he completely re-model Calverton,

0:28:270:28:30

but it seems the family also had another manor nearby -

0:28:300:28:34

Beachampton Hall.

0:28:340:28:37

Kieran has his next lead.

0:28:370:28:40

Meanwhile, back at the restoration, I've got a tricky question for David and Jeanette.

0:28:410:28:47

When are you going to move into this house?

0:28:480:28:51

Well, it should be ready for Christmas.

0:28:510:28:54

Um... I think when we're ready as well.

0:28:540:28:59

It would be really nice to move in for Christmas, but we don't actually think it will be ready.

0:28:590:29:05

There's a census coming up. When is that? That's next year?

0:29:100:29:14

Yeah, I think I'd like to be on the census here.

0:29:140:29:18

Don't you think?

0:29:180:29:20

-That would be a good date to go for. It would be really nice to be on the history of this house.

-Yes.

0:29:200:29:27

As having been the residents here in 2011. That's a good one.

0:29:270:29:32

We'll use that as a marker.

0:29:320:29:34

To be recorded for posterity as the holders of Calverton Manor,

0:29:350:29:39

David and Jeanette will need to be in residence on 27th March, 2011.

0:29:390:29:46

The National Archives at Kew in south-west London is where those census records are kept,

0:29:510:29:57

along with all sorts of historic documents.

0:29:570:30:01

Kate has just made a discovery.

0:30:010:30:04

What I've got here is the will of Simon Bennett of Calverton.

0:30:070:30:11

Simon has a lot to leave, but he's really most of all concerned about his daughters

0:30:140:30:20

because he's leaving them very wealthy women. He says, "I give and bequeath unto my two daughters

0:30:200:30:26

"Grace and Frances Bennett

0:30:260:30:29

"the sum of £20,000 to be paid to them on their 25th birthday or their marriage,

0:30:290:30:36

"whichever shall first happen." And on this he's very clear.

0:30:360:30:41

"Such marriage may not occur until they attain to their full age of 16 years."

0:30:410:30:48

If they marry before they're 16, they get half, half the £20,000.

0:30:480:30:53

They only get £10,000 each.

0:30:530:30:56

Even £10,000, by the way, is the equivalent of almost £1 million in today's money.

0:30:570:31:04

Just three years after writing this will, Simon died,

0:31:050:31:09

leaving his wife, Grace, and their two daughters.

0:31:090:31:13

Frances was still very young.

0:31:130:31:16

Frances was only 12 when this will was proved,

0:31:160:31:20

so what I need to find out next is what happened to her.

0:31:200:31:25

For David and Jeanette, discovering the building's historical secrets

0:31:310:31:35

is the best part of restoring Calverton Manor, but now less welcome secrets have been revealed.

0:31:350:31:42

Everything here is just totally... Well, it's gone, basically.

0:31:420:31:46

Hardly held up by anything.

0:31:460:31:49

There have been one or two surprises at the last minute. The main beam through the house -

0:31:500:31:57

an electrician lifted the floorboard and the last 3 feet weren't there.

0:31:570:32:02

Peter Howard, the restoration's architect, is taking a look.

0:32:020:32:06

We've discovered that the end of this major beam has been reduced to dust by...

0:32:060:32:13

worm of some sort or another.

0:32:130:32:15

And it may have been on the point of collapsing into the room below.

0:32:150:32:21

The woodworm is now long gone, so it could have been like this for decades.

0:32:210:32:27

But this isn't the only hidden problem that's come to light.

0:32:270:32:31

Conservation engineer Ralph Mills has been called in to look at the kitchen fireplace.

0:32:310:32:37

What's happened is with this being removed from there,

0:32:380:32:42

-it's weakened the whole construction.

-This is very serious.

0:32:420:32:46

The chimney is a supporting structure.

0:32:460:32:50

You can see here that the construction there is very, very weak.

0:32:500:32:56

This has been planted on to the original masonry...

0:32:560:33:00

The original masonry.

0:33:000:33:03

It seems that the cowboy builder is not just a modern phenomenon.

0:33:030:33:08

-It is on the point of collapse, really.

-They need to take off the surface masonry

0:33:080:33:13

to discover the full extent of the problem. And while they investigate the structural secrets,

0:33:130:33:21

Kieran is piecing together how the architecture fits into the historical landscape.

0:33:210:33:27

He discovered that back in the 17th century, the Bennett family owned another manor nearby -

0:33:270:33:33

Beachampton Hall.

0:33:330:33:35

So we're here at Beachampton Hall, if you like Calverton's twin.

0:33:410:33:46

Just across the valley, owned by the same family.

0:33:460:33:49

And it's absolutely beautiful, astonishingly beautiful 16th-17th century house.

0:33:490:33:55

What's even more satisfying to see is that this one's finished. It's complete, it's been cleaned,

0:33:550:34:03

the stone is new, in beautiful condition.

0:34:030:34:06

Architecturally, we can definitely see so many similarities

0:34:060:34:10

from the period of the building to details of the stonework.

0:34:100:34:14

We can see here the remains of the old stone window surrounds.

0:34:140:34:20

Very similar to the ones we saw at Calverton. This is much more grand.

0:34:200:34:24

Beachampton Hall is still a family home, though it no longer belongs to the Bennetts.

0:34:240:34:32

Their descendants sold the place in 1807.

0:34:320:34:35

This room is exactly what Calverton Manor doesn't have -

0:34:370:34:42

a grand kind of almost baronial hall-like space, higher than it needs to be,

0:34:420:34:48

all about a certain kind of grandeur, a certain geometry.

0:34:480:34:52

Maybe the Bennett family had this and didn't need another one at Calverton

0:34:520:34:59

and made a place of a very different character, more homely, whereas this was for showing off.

0:34:590:35:06

But if Simon Bennett owned the much grander Beachampton,

0:35:060:35:11

why call himself Simon Bennett of Calverton on his will?

0:35:110:35:15

So the next question for Kieran will be what made Calverton Manor more important?

0:35:150:35:21

The structural engineer was right to worry about that fireplace.

0:35:250:35:30

In fact, it's worse than anyone thought. Site manager Alan Houghton now has a big problem.

0:35:300:35:37

We started chopping the plaster off

0:35:370:35:39

and most of the wall has been repaired very badly. There's a lot of big cracks.

0:35:390:35:46

In fact, the whole chimney structure has been declared unsafe.

0:35:460:35:51

Well, obviously it's a load-bearing wall as it goes right upstairs to one of the chimneys as well.

0:35:510:35:58

He's estimated 50 tons above us.

0:35:580:36:01

The bottom two metres will have to be completely rebuilt.

0:36:010:36:07

When David and Jeanette planned the restoration, they allowed extra money to cover unforeseen disasters,

0:36:070:36:13

but still it's come as a bit of a blow.

0:36:130:36:17

I'm not depressed by it.

0:36:170:36:20

We did our homework, we knew it was going to be expensive,

0:36:200:36:25

but I would just like to get in,

0:36:250:36:28

get it finished and enjoy it.

0:36:280:36:31

The fact is, every week overrun does cost real pound notes.

0:36:310:36:36

Restoring any old property is an unpredictable process,

0:36:360:36:41

but maybe that's the price you pay to live in a house with real history,

0:36:410:36:46

let alone a murder from three centuries ago.

0:36:460:36:50

Having the lady of the manor brutally murdered in your servants' hall is something to dine out on,

0:36:510:36:58

but as is constantly the case with Calverton Manor, we've unearthed another story.

0:36:580:37:04

Grace Bennett wasn't the only woman to set tongues wagging locally.

0:37:040:37:09

Apparently, her daughter Frances also caused a bit of a stir.

0:37:090:37:14

Simon Bennett had two daughters and he was adamant they should not marry under the age of 16,

0:37:180:37:25

yet just less than a year after he died, that was exactly what happened.

0:37:250:37:30

Frances was married at age 13.

0:37:300:37:33

It would have been her mother, Grace Bennett, who arranged it

0:37:330:37:38

and she probably thought it was a perfect match -

0:37:380:37:41

Frances, the merchant's daughter from Calverton, married James Cecil, the Earl of Salisbury,

0:37:410:37:47

and came to live in one of the great palaces of England, Hatfield House.

0:37:470:37:52

She became the Countess of Salisbury and he got his hands on her money.

0:37:590:38:04

Kate's searching the Hatfield House archives for contemporary accounts to find out what he was like.

0:38:040:38:11

Well, poor Frances. What a tragedy. She's married off at 13 to a man who was the laughing stock of England.

0:38:150:38:22

James Cecil is fat, he's buffoonish. He is also incredibly greedy and quite cruel.

0:38:220:38:29

The day after his marriage, the Earl sets off on the Grand Tour

0:38:290:38:34

leaving 13-year-old Frances alone in Hatfield House.

0:38:340:38:38

And he's cruelly neglectful to her.

0:38:380:38:40

She has all this money and he forces her to live in utter penury.

0:38:400:38:46

And what was the Earl doing with all this money, this huge dowry?

0:38:460:38:51

Well, this teenager, he set off on the Grand Tour and he spent it all on gambling.

0:38:510:38:57

In the pleasure palaces of Paris and Rome, he had a whale of a time at the card table.

0:38:570:39:03

When he eventually came home in 1687,

0:39:040:39:08

there was a new king on the throne, the Catholic James II.

0:39:080:39:12

Cecil was soon a leading courtier.

0:39:120:39:15

He became Gentleman of the Bedchamber, he had a regiment of cavalry and, finally,

0:39:170:39:23

critically, he became a Catholic. But James II's Catholicism made him incredibly unpopular

0:39:230:39:29

and eventually a group of Protestant nobles requested William of Orange to come and be king.

0:39:290:39:35

James II fled, leaving Cecil in the lurch.

0:39:350:39:39

Cecil was accused of treason and imprisoned in the Tower of London.

0:39:390:39:44

But he did have one consolation.

0:39:440:39:48

Rich prisoners were allowed to take their wives and servants in with them.

0:39:480:39:53

So this is exactly the type of room that Frances Bennett would have been imprisoned in with James Cecil,

0:39:570:40:05

the 18-year-old girl living here in the Tower.

0:40:050:40:09

But it wasn't quite as grim as we might have thought. This was the Ritz of prisons.

0:40:090:40:16

James and Frances were rather a wealthy couple living here and they made the best of the Tower.

0:40:160:40:22

Almost two years after he was locked up, Cecil received a royal pardon.

0:40:220:40:29

Finally, her husband was released, but he died not long after from ill health.

0:40:290:40:34

For many, Frances's life then would have been bleak. To her, it was freedom and opportunity

0:40:340:40:41

and she left all this behind her.

0:40:410:40:43

Frances was just 24 when she was widowed and it seems she made the most of her freedom.

0:40:430:40:50

She's been recorded as one of the very first British women to go on the Grand Tour.

0:40:500:40:56

Back in the 21st century, winter's approaching.

0:41:010:41:04

The structural problems caused delays, so the plasterers are starting much later than hoped.

0:41:040:41:11

They're obliged by the Grade 2 Star listing to use traditional lime plaster.

0:41:110:41:17

But there could be a problem - it's temperature sensitive.

0:41:170:41:21

The cold's a massive consideration for lime work.

0:41:210:41:25

We've got to watch out for frost. If we have frost, we can get into trouble.

0:41:250:41:31

It'll probably delaminate and start peeling off, falling off.

0:41:310:41:36

Round the back, the conservation stone masons are already in trouble with traditional materials.

0:41:360:41:43

Glyn Horwood was using lime mortar to rebuild a wall.

0:41:430:41:47

The temperature's too cold, too damp.

0:41:470:41:50

And, basically, that means that the wall just won't go off quick enough.

0:41:500:41:57

This was laid two and a half weeks ago. If you actually look,

0:41:570:42:02

it's still soft. It can take anything up to three months to dry now.

0:42:020:42:08

Awkward. To say the least.

0:42:080:42:11

All they can do now is hope the weather doesn't get any worse.

0:42:110:42:15

Kieran is trying to find out why Calverton manor was more important to Simon Bennett

0:42:200:42:26

than his grander house at Beachampton.

0:42:260:42:29

Maybe it's to do with location, so he's checking out the old maps.

0:42:300:42:35

The local town is Stony Stratford and Calverton Manor is much closer than Beachampton.

0:42:360:42:42

In fact, one side of the town is marked Calverton End.

0:42:420:42:47

So we're on the high street of Stony Stratford. But this was the old Roman road.

0:42:540:43:01

About 50-odd miles in that direction is London and all the way there is Chester and the north-west.

0:43:010:43:07

This was a critical junction on that long route.

0:43:070:43:11

There were coaching inns, goods being transported and exchanged

0:43:110:43:16

and this street was effectively the motorway between London and the north-west.

0:43:160:43:21

The connection with this town and the Bennetts is

0:43:210:43:25

everything on this side of the street was in the parish of Calverton.

0:43:250:43:30

As lords of the manor, they were in charge of this side. It has the marketplace,

0:43:300:43:36

where all of that trade would have gone on,

0:43:360:43:40

and every time an exchange was made, the lord of the manor took a cut.

0:43:400:43:44

So hoping Calverton brought Simon Bennett money and power.

0:43:440:43:49

No wonder he put his initials on the front of the manor.

0:43:490:43:53

But now, coming up to Christmas, the weather has brought work to a standstill

0:43:570:44:03

and, round the back, the lime mortar that wouldn't dry...froze.

0:44:030:44:08

The face has gone. It's completely gone. This will all want raking out and completely repointing. 100%.

0:44:100:44:18

So now it needs redoing.

0:44:180:44:21

In 2010, we were hit by the second coldest December since monthly temperatures were first recorded,

0:44:210:44:28

which, coincidentally, was in 1659.

0:44:280:44:33

The lads plastered this ceiling last week. We're trying to keep the house warm. These heaters aren't coping.

0:44:380:44:45

I think it will all fail. It's more frost.

0:44:450:44:49

All the plaster that's failed will have to be pulled down and completely remade.

0:44:500:44:56

It's the end of a year which has been quite hard work and stressful.

0:44:560:45:01

We're fed up with living in cardboard boxes. There's not been a lot happening in the last few days.

0:45:010:45:07

Despite the house being far from finished, David and Jeanette go ahead with their carol concert

0:45:110:45:17

in the servants' hall.

0:45:170:45:20

ORGAN PLAYS

0:45:210:45:23

Are we ready?

0:45:230:45:25

# Deck the hall with boughs of holly

0:45:270:45:30

# Fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la... #

0:45:300:45:34

With the schedule slipping and the costs rising, this is just what they need.

0:45:340:45:40

# Don we now our gay apparel... #

0:45:400:45:43

Because when things are looking dark, there's nothing like a good sing.

0:45:430:45:49

# ..ancient yuletide carol Fa-la-la-la-la... #

0:45:490:45:53

Six weeks into the new year and there's some good news and some bad news.

0:46:020:46:07

The good news is that the unsafe wall behind the fireplace is well on the way to being repaired.

0:46:070:46:14

They had to put in four massive steel joists to hold the upstairs up while the walls were being rebuilt.

0:46:160:46:22

It was even trickier than thought.

0:46:220:46:25

The wall was made up with such big stones and so many small stones,

0:46:250:46:30

it was just falling down. Nothing was tied in. It was just loose rubble.

0:46:300:46:35

But it's all back in and solid now.

0:46:350:46:38

That was the good news. And the bad news?

0:46:380:46:41

David and Jeanette won't be in residence when the 2011 national census is done

0:46:410:46:47

at the end of March. The builders have recalculated

0:46:470:46:51

and announced a finish date in early summer.

0:46:510:46:55

# I hear that you're building your little house... #

0:46:550:46:59

I can't tell you that it is a traumatic moment of awfulness,

0:46:590:47:04

and had led to us putting Leonard Cohen on and take a warm bath with some razor blades,

0:47:040:47:10

but certainly it was disappointing and irritating,

0:47:100:47:15

but we're not broken-hearted about it yet. If it slips again, we shall get very grumpy.

0:47:150:47:22

But now, little by little, bit by bit,

0:47:220:47:27

progress is being made.

0:47:270:47:30

Kieran is following one last lead to a country church a few miles away.

0:47:520:47:57

Somewhere here is the last resting place of the man who added more than anyone else

0:48:000:48:06

to the architecture of Calverton Manor - SB.

0:48:060:48:10

In fact, his memorial is the largest in the church

0:48:200:48:23

and the bust was done from his actual death mask.

0:48:230:48:28

It's unmistakable. Here he is, the man himself.

0:48:300:48:35

Simon Bennett. And this is just an amazing find, just an astonishing thing to see.

0:48:350:48:41

The face of the man that added all that grandeur and architectural excitement to Calverton

0:48:410:48:48

and, you know, is such an important figure for this landscape. I've been chasing around and here he is.

0:48:480:48:55

This amazing text brings together our whole cast of characters from the whole Bennett story.

0:48:550:49:02

Of course, Simon Bennett, the man who added so much to Calverton

0:49:020:49:06

and is the architectural driving force behind that building.

0:49:060:49:10

The evil Grace Moorwood is here.

0:49:100:49:13

And right at the bottom is Frances, who married the Earl of Salisbury.

0:49:130:49:18

'Before we find out if the new owners have managed to save the home of Simon Bennett,

0:49:260:49:32

'Kate and Kieran will fill Jeanette and David in on everything they've discovered about its history.'

0:49:320:49:39

The house was re-fronted in 1659.

0:49:390:49:42

We're trying to understand why. What were Simon Bennett's intentions?

0:49:420:49:46

Why does he, with a grand house like Beachampton, choose to put his name and improvements down here?

0:49:460:49:53

I can only feel it's something to do with the manorial boundaries of Calverton itself.

0:49:530:49:59

It's the perfect place for diversified commercial activity.

0:49:590:50:03

But the most intriguing discovery is the link between their home

0:50:030:50:08

and one of the country's grandest.

0:50:080:50:11

It became massive London gossip, a scandal.

0:50:110:50:14

He's used her money and gone.

0:50:140:50:17

Yes, particularly that he left her in such penury and deprived state.

0:50:170:50:21

We didn't know any of that. We knew there was this link.

0:50:210:50:26

This is the church at Beachampton

0:50:260:50:28

-and inside we found Simon himself.

-This is so exciting.

0:50:280:50:33

We didn't know he was there! We've had this property four years and didn't know his bust was there!

0:50:330:50:40

We're really happy to tell you. It's a really fine monument.

0:50:400:50:44

-He was a cool-looking guy.

-This is from his death mask.

-Yes.

0:50:440:50:49

That is a real find for us.

0:50:490:50:52

350 years ago, Simon Bennett transformed Calverton Manor

0:50:550:51:00

into a place of legend. Whilst the story's remained, the house became fragile

0:51:000:51:06

and in danger of complete collapse.

0:51:060:51:08

Whilst restoring the manor, David and Jeanette have ripped up the rule book,

0:51:080:51:13

but also the schedule. They were due to move in at Christmas.

0:51:130:51:18

That didn't happen. Then spring came and went and now it's summer

0:51:180:51:23

and I'm here to find out if the unpredictable restoration of Calverton Manor is finally over.

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This is how Calverton looked a year and a half ago.

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As efforts to save it progressed,

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it was discovered the whole house was on the brink of collapse.

0:51:370:51:42

This is how it looks today.

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-Hello!

-Hi!

-Hello!

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-It's looking really...

-I know.

-..really, really wonderful! Well done!

0:51:570:52:03

-Isn't it pretty?

-You've done it!

-I know.

0:52:030:52:07

-It's been a long, long haul, but we're so pleased with it. With the sun on it...

-It's smiling.

0:52:070:52:14

-It's beautiful.

-It should be the happiest it's been since 1659 when it was last given a makeover.

0:52:140:52:21

-I think your initials should be above the door with Simon Bennett's.

-We've put ours on the chimney.

0:52:210:52:27

We'll show you later. We felt we'd earned our spurs.

0:52:270:52:31

-Can I go and have a look?

-You can.

-Can I see what's occurred?

0:52:310:52:36

'And we're lucky enough to be the first to see the house finished.

0:52:360:52:41

'David and Jeanette only got the keys from the builders this week

0:52:410:52:45

'and haven't moved in yet.

0:52:450:52:47

'When they started, this room had been split into two during the Georgian era.

0:52:470:52:54

'More worrying was the load-bearing beam eaten away by woodworm.

0:52:540:52:59

'Now the original hall has been reopened.'

0:52:590:53:03

-This is unrecognisable!

-It is amazing, isn't it?

0:53:060:53:11

Completely different. And this is a beautiful fireplace.

0:53:110:53:17

-It is, yes. And now it's in proportion.

-Yes.

0:53:170:53:20

'The once dingy hall is now also flooded with light

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'thanks to their discovery of an original window seat.'

0:53:250:53:30

You can sit on this window seat and look right out the front door.

0:53:300:53:34

And across the garden. And isn't it gorgeous?

0:53:340:53:38

'When I was here last time, the drawing room showed the size of the task ahead

0:53:400:53:46

'with its rotten floors and newspaper-covered walls telling of gruesome tales.'

0:53:460:53:52

I remember this room.

0:53:520:53:54

Well, look.

0:53:540:53:56

We have a floor.

0:53:570:54:00

OK, I'm going to come clean and tell you when I left here I said to the crew,

0:54:000:54:06

"They're never going to do it."

0:54:060:54:09

'By reopening the window at the gable end, as it would have been in Simon Bennett's time,

0:54:130:54:19

'they've created a beautiful attic room.

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'And on the first floor there are now five bedrooms and a series of stunning bathrooms.'

0:54:220:54:28

-Are you going to be inundated with people wanting to stay?

-Em...

-We'd like that.

0:54:310:54:37

Would you?

0:54:370:54:39

But I think we could become, or perhaps we have, serious bores about it.

0:54:390:54:45

We know so much, we could talk for hours on any aspect - ironmongery, lime plaster, paint,

0:54:450:54:52

joinery...

0:54:520:54:54

'But the part of the house that was most at risk was in the old kitchen,

0:54:550:55:01

'where they discovered the fireplace was seriously compromised

0:55:010:55:05

'and 50 tons of Calverton Manor could come tumbling down at any moment.'

0:55:050:55:11

It's on the point of collapse, really.

0:55:110:55:15

And this...this place...

0:55:180:55:21

-THEY LAUGH

-This is...

0:55:210:55:24

not the same room.

0:55:240:55:27

It's one of those what you'd call a close shave

0:55:280:55:32

and you lie awake in bed the next day and think supposing it had happened that night?

0:55:320:55:38

The bloke could have gone home early and the whole lot could have gone.

0:55:380:55:42

It would have pulled down with it the entire north end of the building, all the floors.

0:55:420:55:49

'Having narrowly avoided disaster and with their huge list of discoveries,

0:55:530:55:58

'the final restoration bill for Calverton Manor was £1.2 million.'

0:55:580:56:04

If you're embarking on a restoration project of this sort, you can't do it on the cheap,

0:56:060:56:12

-you can't do it quick, you can't cut corners...

-And you won't make any money!

-Yes!

0:56:120:56:20

What would have been lost to the nation, lost to the country id this house had gone?

0:56:240:56:30

Because it's a listed building, it would be reconstructed,

0:56:300:56:33

but the difference between a reconstruction and a conservation is what we have often spoken of,

0:56:330:56:39

the sense of the voices that have been absorbed into the plasterwork,

0:56:390:56:45

the hands that have touched the doorknobs. You can build a fake manor house and it would look right,

0:56:450:56:52

but it wouldn't have that absorbed DNA of many generations of people.

0:56:520:56:59

And the breath of ages, really.

0:56:590:57:02

Facing a quiet retirement, David and Jeanette took on a fragile old house,

0:57:090:57:14

but it was in much worse state than they ever imagined. But it was never just a restoration headache.

0:57:140:57:20

They fell for the history oozing out of every stone.

0:57:200:57:24

Saving Calverton Manor uncovered the exciting story of the Bennett family,

0:57:240:57:30

but for David and Jeanette, this wasn't a quiet archaeological dig,

0:57:300:57:35

this was a roller coaster.

0:57:350:57:38

For them, the adventure has only just begun because now they get to call this place home.

0:57:380:57:44

Next time, another restoration home.

0:57:550:57:58

Ohh!

0:57:580:58:00

-Right, come on.

-And another intriguing journey into Britain's past.

0:58:000:58:06

At least 40 people perished in a moment when the pit was flooded.

0:58:060:58:11

It's just amazing to see a building almost completely ruined. I'm really glad I'm not doing this restoration!

0:58:140:58:22

Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd - 2011

0:58:360:58:40

Email [email protected]

0:58:410:58:43

Calverton Manor is a collage of different architectural styles with parts thought to date back as far as the 14th century. And it comes with its very own legend involving a rich widow, the local butcher, pots of gold and murder.

As the building's architectural and historical secrets begin to emerge - including high treason and arranged marriages - owners David and Jeanette are faced with a renovation that is causing problems. A main beam holding up the house has been destroyed by woodworm - it's a miracle the building hasn't collapsed.

Whilst the building's past secrets are a constant fascination for the history-loving owners, the restoration process is proving to be much more testing than anyone predicted.


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