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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All over Britain, hundreds of precious, historic buildings are in danger of being lost for ever.
The tragedy is that these buildings are far more than bricks and mortar. They are the keepers of our past.
I love the idea that people stood here discussing the Battle of Waterloo and the 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 cared for.
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 always have
and I've spent many years restoring various different properties
to try and 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.
Welcome to historic Britain.
This time, we're in a region up to its neck in history,
the very heartland of Heritage Britain.
Welcome to Milton Keynes.
It might not be the first place you'd associate with a rich past,
but when the new town was laid out in the 1960s,
it engulfed three old towns, 13 ancient villages and a variety of historic properties.
So here, just on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, is our restoration home - Calverton Manor.
There is evidence of some form of hall or manor here at the time of the Domesday Book,
though the oldest parts of this building appear to be Tudor,
so not surprisingly, Calverton Manor is a listed building, Grade 2 star.
That's only one grade down from places like Blenheim Palace and Westminster Abbey.
But unlike those national treasures,
today, Calverton is neglected and ruined.
The manor has ended up a broken-down farmhouse,
uncared for and on the verge of collapse.
Enter our restoration champions, David and Jeanette Lock.
Three years ago, they were facing the terrifying prospect of a quiet and comfortable life.
We weren't going to sit on our arses and just go on cruises
and go round boot fairs or whatever it is people do when they retire. We're not that sort of person.
We could have taken the easy route.
We don't do that.
They've both had successful careers in town planning.
In fact, David was awarded a CBE for work he'd done nationwide
and on modern Milton Keynes.
They've also raised three daughters
and after they left home, David and Jeanette wanted a big, new challenge.
We stumbled over the advert. As soon as I saw the photograph,
an aerial photograph, I went, "It's obvious. We'll have to do this." It was clear.
-We came up here one summer's evening. We walked across the fields.
-It was absolutely gorgeous.
We said to each other, "We're going to have to give this wheel a spin."
The property came with 45 acres, three dilapidated cottages
and several old farm buildings.
David and Jeanette paid 2.2 million and they moved straight into the manor house,
even though it was in a pretty terrible state.
We wanted to get the feel of the house.
We didn't want to just, um...
renovate it without knowing how to live in it.
And it is an extremely frightening project.
There were a couple of nights when we both lay awake, wondering what we'd done.
As well they might. They'd blown their budget just buying the place.
It's taken three years of hard work just to raise the money for the restoration.
We've had to convert the cottages and sell those, get permission to convert the barns and sell those,
but we converted this one ourselves, so we've got somewhere to live while the house is being done up.
Taking this wall down is just going to...
At least while all that was being done, they've had time to sort out the plans and building permits.
David and Jeanette want to create their dream home
with five bedrooms, modern comforts
and plenty of space for all the children and grandchildren to visit.
But because it's a listed building,
all proposed work has to be cleared by conservation officers from English Heritage.
Everything must be done in keeping with the historic building.
Some people find the regulations a hindrance, but for David and Jeanette,
the history is the reason they bought the place.
In a way, we'd like to find a few problems. We'd like to find a bit more archaeology.
It would be exciting, even if it was a pain.
The restoration budget is set at just over a million pounds
and the schedule is 44 weeks, so they should be finished by Christmas.
The most vital work is going to be simply repairing the structure and fabric of the building.
Modern plastic windows are going to be replaced and crumbling stone ones restored.
In the attic, a team of conservation experts are starting to stabilise the crumbling plaster.
Most of this area will then be left alone,
but David and Jeanette plan to turn the largest gable into a study.
The biggest change to the layout will be downstairs.
The plan was to remove a Georgian wall between the room called the snug and the dingy entrance hall.
David and Jeanette will get a huge and gracious reception room
and at the same time, they'll recreate what is probably the oldest space in the house -
the original great hall.
But the plans and details could change as things come to light.
They've already discovered a Tudor fireplace lurking just behind the wallpaper.
We've discovered by dropping small pieces through
that the floor of the fireplace probably collapsed some time ago
because those bits appear to be landing in the fireplace downstairs.
Calverton Manor is a time capsule
and we'll be investigating the architectural and social history literally hidden in the walls.
Anything we find out we'll share with David and Jeanette.
While I keep an eye on the restoration,
our private eye of the past Dr Kate Williams will be revealing the people who have lived here,
while architectural expert Kieran Long tries to unravel the DNA of the building itself.
His first lead is hard to miss.
So it's hard to say how old this building is,
but we have a pretty good clue above us
that 1659 was the moment where this element, this kind of portico entrance, this porch was built.
It might seem completely obvious that the entrance to a building is important
and should be celebrated in architectural detail, but it wasn't always obvious.
Buildings on sites like this wouldn't necessarily have had a grand front door,
but at a certain point in the 17th century, you start to get people interested in making an impression.
You need to arrive at the entrance facade and be impressed.
Along with the date, there's also someone's initials.
Round the back, there are no easy clues.
The whole thing is kind of, to be honest, a complete nightmare.
It's totally confusing, impossible to date in one singular way,
but that's the quality of it, that's what we've got to enjoy about it.
It's a collage of so many different eras.
Many of the doorways and windows in this building have timber lintels.
What's interesting is that the timber lintels that were older and no longer needed
have just been left in the wall.
So above here, we see a broader lintel and you see a stone here and a stone over here,
so there was once a much bigger doorway here.
As a result, you're left with this wall with literally the history of the building written into it,
kind of embedded in it and kept there.
The interior is even more of a collage.
From the outside, we know that it's at least partly a 17th century house,
but when you look at the thickness of these walls, you start to suspect something much more ancient.
Normally, you would expect a wall this size to be an external wall.
If it is solid masonry, you'd expect it to be the former external wall perhaps of a much older building.
It's clear the house has been altered and adapted by almost every generation that's lived here.
For example, the drawing room has Georgian windows and a Tudor fireplace.
Strangely, the only really grand room is the servants' hall
which was built on the back like an extension.
Every time you walk round a corner in this house, you find another thing that poses yet another question.
Why did they build this quite large hall?
At what point did they need this size of accommodation which is nearly as big as the ground floor of the house?
The windows and the architectural details of the servants' hall appear to date from the mid-1600s,
the same period as the portico round the front.
So it looks like the mysterious SB played a big role in the architecture of Calverton Manor.
But what about the date - 1659?
Our historian Dr Kate Williams knows it as a very significant year.
The 1600s were years of strife and revolution
and 1659 was the year in which everything changed.
Since the Civil War, Oliver Cromwell had ruled the country,
but he had just died, throwing everything into chaos.
People were desperate for stability, so in the following year,
Charles II returned from exile to be crowned King.
One thing is clear. Whoever this SB was,
he was someone who was very confident and sure of himself to embark on this expansive building project
in a time of chaos and change.
But now, back with our own restoration,
a discovery has been made.
-Are you down at the bottom yet?
When the builders began to take up the floor, they chanced upon something very strange.
We have found beneath several layers of building work,
inside the building, but once which was outside,
some steps leading down into the ground.
The steps seem to be going down underneath the servants' hall.
Another step, so it's definitely leading to another room.
The steps just wouldn't finish at the bottom of a wall.
I would think there's probably another two steps down, looking at the height of that.
The restoration has its own professional archaeologist, Paul Woodfield.
David and Jeanette brought him on to the project when they were first making plans.
-Now he'll be recording everything that's revealed.
-He's got something else.
Look at that. That's a corker!
Look, it's a... It's a butchered bone.
And sawn through.
Now the steps are clear, they're going to make a small hole in the wall
to see what's on the other side.
I can't resist discovering where this is headed.
This is really very exciting.
This must be just how Howard Carter felt when he was in Tutankhamun's tomb, you see.
Is the seal broken? Is the seal broken?
But behind the wall is just more earth.
There must have been a cellar there, but it's been filled in.
Now the only way to discover more is to dig down into the servants' hall directly behind where the steps are.
Yeah, I can see the light.
Yeah, I can see the light through.
My inclination would be to do a little bit of excavation here now
from the floor of the servants' hall, so we ought to find the edges of whatever that chamber was.
It might be a little thing or a bigger room, but we might find the edges of it.
They're keen to investigate the cellar as it might help with one of Calverton's unanswered questions -
where's the water?
Long before water mains, a house this size would have had a well,
but there's been no sign of one here, so maybe the well was in the cellar.
David has had a closer look at those steps.
Each step has been worn down by a couple of inches,
so you have to think what activity would take place that you would go up and down the steps so often
that you would wear it out that much.
The way the steps are worn, if you're a right-handed person carrying something,
perhaps a bucket full of water, that's exactly how you would come up those steps.
You would turn, so the wear would all be to the outer edge here as you would turn.
While the location of the well is forgotten,
there is one historic detail of Calverton Manor that everyone round here remembers.
300 years ago, there was a murder.
The victim was the lady of the house -
a rich widow named Grace Bennett.
She wasn't at all liked. She'd done some bad things in the village, upset people.
And the butcher from Stony Stratford and his apprentice decided she must have some money up here hidden away,
so they came up for it and she insisted there wasn't any.
One thing led to another and they murdered her in this hall somewhere.
They caught the butcher and his apprentice in a wood near Beachampton, not far from here.
They were both hung at Galley Hill, about half a mile away.
Their bodies were put in gibbets hanging on Gib Lane, which was the old lane past the village,
and then their skulls were exhibited on our garden wall
where there's a carved gallows as a warning to other people.
But how much of the story is fact and how much is folklore?
Kate has gone to the county archives to find out.
This book here about murders and mysteries and plots of the time has a big piece about Grace Bennett,
saying she was miserable, she lived by herself
and had so much money in her house that a butcher artfully got into the house and barbarously murdered her.
But there's a few problems here. There's no footnotes. We don't know how reliable this source is.
He says the murder took place in 1691.
Then we've also got the stone in the Calverton farm wall that says the murder took place in 1693,
then it also says that the man was hanged in 1694.
So there are certainly conflicting pieces of evidence.
What we need to discover more about the history of Calverton are some hard facts.
Which is what they're after back in the servants' hall and now they've found something -
Well, I'm damned!
We've got bricks there, then there's like a flagstone and then it's cobbled.
And the well could be close by.
That's wet. It's very wet.
But now David is getting cold feet.
The men would like to dig it out, the archaeologists would like to dig it out.
I'd like to dig it out, but this is going to take another day.
Oh, dear. Jeanette, what do we do?
Eventually, they reach a compromise.
They're going to carry on digging,
but with mechanical help to speed things up.
The plan is to excavate a couple of trenches to find the edges of the old cellar.
Meanwhile, Kate has found the financial accounts
of what was spent on the trial and execution of Grace Bennett's murderers.
Curiously, the whole thing was paid for by the Bennett family
and there's a clue that the victim really was quite unpopular.
Grace Bennett was so hated by the people around her, the local people,
that there was no sympathy for her.
In fact, no-one would give evidence at the trial, it seems, so every witness had to be paid to testify.
The Bennett family want a special gallows made for the murderer where he can be hanged.
The bill for the building of the gallows - two guineas, 12. And they paid for the body to be taken away.
After four days, the servants' hall dig has had to stop.
If they go any further, it could undermine the walls.
They haven't found any real proof of a well,
but the archaeologist has dated the cellar floor to medieval times
and they've worked out what happened next.
So it goes something like this - the servants' hall made in about 1660.
Probably the cellar was still there then with a wooden floor over the top of it. As the years go by,
that floor rots and collapses.
They level the floors up and decide to fill in what's left of the cellar,
about 1810, 1820, we think, from the fill material.
Now that's settled, the builders can go back to building.
And they've just started a dangerous job at the top of the house.
When SB made his alterations, there was a big window in the gable end that was later filled in.
The plan is to open it up again
to give their new attic room a stunning view.
But for building conservationist Alan Walker, it's quite a challenge.
It is a very tricky operation.
We need an awful lot of supports, so we can retain as much of the original stone facade as possible.
We've got about three-quarters of a tonne above of stonework
and we can't take out a lintel without supporting it properly,
so we can get a new lintel in its position.
It's always a nerve-wracking job when dealing with historic buildings.
They're putting in modern lintels of steel and concrete bedded into new mortar, but there's a snag.
There's a real problem there.
We might have to take this out.
The scaffolding prop is in the way. They need to move it over a little.
While they do that, there won't be anything to stop that stonework from collapsing.
It's quite fragile. You really notice how fragile it is when you haven't got it supported properly,
then obviously, you find out pretty fast.
Now the only thing holding up the gable end is a few centuries of tradition.
When the lintel is safely in position, the building can really move on.
And as the building work proceeds, discoveries are coming to light everywhere.
In the yard at the back, they've uncovered a medieval drain.
When it was first exposed, everyone thought it was a foundation of a wall running out,
but Jeanette and I levered a couple up and found this amazing conduit
with clay tiles to form its base,
lovely stones on either side,
then flat stones placed on top.
This then goes all the way through into the 13th century kitchen,
so it suggests it's contemporary with the original house here.
Behind the wallpaper in the drawing room,
they've discovered fragments of newspaper from 1827.
It was used as a liner.
We've got an amazingly grim story here of a dreadful accident.
"He was in the act of incautiously pushing a boat from the shore
"with a large gun when it went off
"and the charge tore one of his hands and shattered the arm so dreadfully
"that it merely hung on by a small piece of flesh."
Out in the barn, Jeanette is looking after the artefacts
that are coming from behind the walls and under the floors.
There's a Tudor wine bottle.
They must have a good time drinking from that because they broke the bottle afterwards.
And all kinds of crockery and china.
Someone with some wealth had a plate like that.
'High summer and the builders have been at it for five months.
'By now, there should be some real progress.'
David, Jeanette, how far have you got?
The contractor assures us we're exactly halfway through the contract -
22 weeks into a 44-week contract more or less exactly today.
-Are you aching to move into the house?
-I really do want to see it moving on.
-I really do want to get in.
-Can I come and have a look?
-Yeah, we love to show people round. Come on, let's have a look.
So you're exactly halfway through, you say?
Yes. It does look a mess, doesn't it, at the moment?
Well, it's...it's... It's got a way to go, hasn't it?
'I know the house is work in progress,
'but I didn't imagine it would be so bad.'
This room's not much further on, is it? This one's still quite...
-You need a great deal of imagination now.
We thought this room was going to be the one that would need least intervention,
but it's been like pulling a thread on a jumper.
The architect wanted to take the 1970s plasterboard off
and that led them to the stud work to be pulled off, then we found a lot of the plaster came off.
It's like peeling the house back and tracing its history that way.
Now we have much more information about the house.
'For example, they have discovered why there are Georgian windows in a room with a Tudor fireplace.
'The windows weren't always Georgian.'
This is the original Tudor window opening.
Then when we get to Georgian times, Tudor windows are regarded as a bit naff,
so this window then gets filled in to about there,
so what you see is a series of interventions of the fashion of window openings.
Do you remember that period where people started to nail plywood on to pine doors
because they wanted them all smooth and modern?
-Then we've spent our last 20 years peeling them off again.
-Scraping the paint off.
-You love this house, don't you?
-Yeah, I do, I do.
It's just a very welcoming house
and it's full of interest.
We love our history as well. And I love architecture.
I love the idea that people were stood here like this,
discussing, you know, the Battle of Waterloo and the Battle of Bosworth and the Battle of Britain.
All these conversations have taken place in this very place.
And of all the occupiers of Calverton Manor,
the one who has made the biggest contribution to the architecture must be the mysterious SB.
But who was he?
Kieran is checking out a special collection on local history.
Our first step has been to consult a county history of Buckinghamshire.
And in this text, we've now found out who the SB was -
Mr Simon Bennett.
It turns out that this Simon Bennett was the husband of Grace Bennett
who was later murdered long after Simon died.
And it seems the Bennetts weren't always the lords of the manor round here.
They bought their way into the landed gentry.
It says here that in 1616 the Manor of Calverton was sold to Sir Thomas Bennett.
Then it says he was a knight, a citizen of London, and Lord Mayor in 1603.
Sir Thomas was the grandfather of our Simon Bennett.
My impression from this is that Sir Thomas Bennett was an entrepreneur,
along the lines of today the great kind of representative figures of British business,
a Lord Sugar or a Richard Branson. I think Thomas Bennett was one of these kinds of figures.
Like his grandfather, Simon was an entrepreneur and he must have done well.
Not only did he completely re-model Calverton,
but it seems the family also had another manor nearby -
Kieran has his next lead.
Meanwhile, back at the restoration, I've got a tricky question for David and Jeanette.
When are you going to move into this house?
Well, it should be ready for Christmas.
Um... I think when we're ready as well.
It would be really nice to move in for Christmas, but we don't actually think it will be ready.
There's a census coming up. When is that? That's next year?
Yeah, I think I'd like to be on the census here.
Don't you think?
-That would be a good date to go for. It would be really nice to be on the history of this house.
As having been the residents here in 2011. That's a good one.
We'll use that as a marker.
To be recorded for posterity as the holders of Calverton Manor,
David and Jeanette will need to be in residence on 27th March, 2011.
The National Archives at Kew in south-west London is where those census records are kept,
along with all sorts of historic documents.
Kate has just made a discovery.
What I've got here is the will of Simon Bennett of Calverton.
Simon has a lot to leave, but he's really most of all concerned about his daughters
because he's leaving them very wealthy women. He says, "I give and bequeath unto my two daughters
"Grace and Frances Bennett
"the sum of £20,000 to be paid to them on their 25th birthday or their marriage,
"whichever shall first happen." And on this he's very clear.
"Such marriage may not occur until they attain to their full age of 16 years."
If they marry before they're 16, they get half, half the £20,000.
They only get £10,000 each.
Even £10,000, by the way, is the equivalent of almost £1 million in today's money.
Just three years after writing this will, Simon died,
leaving his wife, Grace, and their two daughters.
Frances was still very young.
Frances was only 12 when this will was proved,
so what I need to find out next is what happened to her.
For David and Jeanette, discovering the building's historical secrets
is the best part of restoring Calverton Manor, but now less welcome secrets have been revealed.
Everything here is just totally... Well, it's gone, basically.
Hardly held up by anything.
There have been one or two surprises at the last minute. The main beam through the house -
an electrician lifted the floorboard and the last 3 feet weren't there.
Peter Howard, the restoration's architect, is taking a look.
We've discovered that the end of this major beam has been reduced to dust by...
worm of some sort or another.
And it may have been on the point of collapsing into the room below.
The woodworm is now long gone, so it could have been like this for decades.
But this isn't the only hidden problem that's come to light.
Conservation engineer Ralph Mills has been called in to look at the kitchen fireplace.
What's happened is with this being removed from there,
-it's weakened the whole construction.
-This is very serious.
The chimney is a supporting structure.
You can see here that the construction there is very, very weak.
This has been planted on to the original masonry...
The original masonry.
It seems that the cowboy builder is not just a modern phenomenon.
-It is on the point of collapse, really.
-They need to take off the surface masonry
to discover the full extent of the problem. And while they investigate the structural secrets,
Kieran is piecing together how the architecture fits into the historical landscape.
He discovered that back in the 17th century, the Bennett family owned another manor nearby -
So we're here at Beachampton Hall, if you like Calverton's twin.
Just across the valley, owned by the same family.
And it's absolutely beautiful, astonishingly beautiful 16th-17th century house.
What's even more satisfying to see is that this one's finished. It's complete, it's been cleaned,
the stone is new, in beautiful condition.
Architecturally, we can definitely see so many similarities
from the period of the building to details of the stonework.
We can see here the remains of the old stone window surrounds.
Very similar to the ones we saw at Calverton. This is much more grand.
Beachampton Hall is still a family home, though it no longer belongs to the Bennetts.
Their descendants sold the place in 1807.
This room is exactly what Calverton Manor doesn't have -
a grand kind of almost baronial hall-like space, higher than it needs to be,
all about a certain kind of grandeur, a certain geometry.
Maybe the Bennett family had this and didn't need another one at Calverton
and made a place of a very different character, more homely, whereas this was for showing off.
But if Simon Bennett owned the much grander Beachampton,
why call himself Simon Bennett of Calverton on his will?
So the next question for Kieran will be what made Calverton Manor more important?
The structural engineer was right to worry about that fireplace.
In fact, it's worse than anyone thought. Site manager Alan Houghton now has a big problem.
We started chopping the plaster off
and most of the wall has been repaired very badly. There's a lot of big cracks.
In fact, the whole chimney structure has been declared unsafe.
Well, obviously it's a load-bearing wall as it goes right upstairs to one of the chimneys as well.
He's estimated 50 tons above us.
The bottom two metres will have to be completely rebuilt.
When David and Jeanette planned the restoration, they allowed extra money to cover unforeseen disasters,
but still it's come as a bit of a blow.
I'm not depressed by it.
We did our homework, we knew it was going to be expensive,
but I would just like to get in,
get it finished and enjoy it.
The fact is, every week overrun does cost real pound notes.
Restoring any old property is an unpredictable process,
but maybe that's the price you pay to live in a house with real history,
let alone a murder from three centuries ago.
Having the lady of the manor brutally murdered in your servants' hall is something to dine out on,
but as is constantly the case with Calverton Manor, we've unearthed another story.
Grace Bennett wasn't the only woman to set tongues wagging locally.
Apparently, her daughter Frances also caused a bit of a stir.
Simon Bennett had two daughters and he was adamant they should not marry under the age of 16,
yet just less than a year after he died, that was exactly what happened.
Frances was married at age 13.
It would have been her mother, Grace Bennett, who arranged it
and she probably thought it was a perfect match -
Frances, the merchant's daughter from Calverton, married James Cecil, the Earl of Salisbury,
and came to live in one of the great palaces of England, Hatfield House.
She became the Countess of Salisbury and he got his hands on her money.
Kate's searching the Hatfield House archives for contemporary accounts to find out what he was like.
Well, poor Frances. What a tragedy. She's married off at 13 to a man who was the laughing stock of England.
James Cecil is fat, he's buffoonish. He is also incredibly greedy and quite cruel.
The day after his marriage, the Earl sets off on the Grand Tour
leaving 13-year-old Frances alone in Hatfield House.
And he's cruelly neglectful to her.
She has all this money and he forces her to live in utter penury.
And what was the Earl doing with all this money, this huge dowry?
Well, this teenager, he set off on the Grand Tour and he spent it all on gambling.
In the pleasure palaces of Paris and Rome, he had a whale of a time at the card table.
When he eventually came home in 1687,
there was a new king on the throne, the Catholic James II.
Cecil was soon a leading courtier.
He became Gentleman of the Bedchamber, he had a regiment of cavalry and, finally,
critically, he became a Catholic. But James II's Catholicism made him incredibly unpopular
and eventually a group of Protestant nobles requested William of Orange to come and be king.
James II fled, leaving Cecil in the lurch.
Cecil was accused of treason and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
But he did have one consolation.
Rich prisoners were allowed to take their wives and servants in with them.
So this is exactly the type of room that Frances Bennett would have been imprisoned in with James Cecil,
the 18-year-old girl living here in the Tower.
But it wasn't quite as grim as we might have thought. This was the Ritz of prisons.
James and Frances were rather a wealthy couple living here and they made the best of the Tower.
Almost two years after he was locked up, Cecil received a royal pardon.
Finally, her husband was released, but he died not long after from ill health.
For many, Frances's life then would have been bleak. To her, it was freedom and opportunity
and she left all this behind her.
Frances was just 24 when she was widowed and it seems she made the most of her freedom.
She's been recorded as one of the very first British women to go on the Grand Tour.
Back in the 21st century, winter's approaching.
The structural problems caused delays, so the plasterers are starting much later than hoped.
They're obliged by the Grade 2 Star listing to use traditional lime plaster.
But there could be a problem - it's temperature sensitive.
The cold's a massive consideration for lime work.
We've got to watch out for frost. If we have frost, we can get into trouble.
It'll probably delaminate and start peeling off, falling off.
Round the back, the conservation stone masons are already in trouble with traditional materials.
Glyn Horwood was using lime mortar to rebuild a wall.
The temperature's too cold, too damp.
And, basically, that means that the wall just won't go off quick enough.
This was laid two and a half weeks ago. If you actually look,
it's still soft. It can take anything up to three months to dry now.
Awkward. To say the least.
All they can do now is hope the weather doesn't get any worse.
Kieran is trying to find out why Calverton manor was more important to Simon Bennett
than his grander house at Beachampton.
Maybe it's to do with location, so he's checking out the old maps.
The local town is Stony Stratford and Calverton Manor is much closer than Beachampton.
In fact, one side of the town is marked Calverton End.
So we're on the high street of Stony Stratford. But this was the old Roman road.
About 50-odd miles in that direction is London and all the way there is Chester and the north-west.
This was a critical junction on that long route.
There were coaching inns, goods being transported and exchanged
and this street was effectively the motorway between London and the north-west.
The connection with this town and the Bennetts is
everything on this side of the street was in the parish of Calverton.
As lords of the manor, they were in charge of this side. It has the marketplace,
where all of that trade would have gone on,
and every time an exchange was made, the lord of the manor took a cut.
So hoping Calverton brought Simon Bennett money and power.
No wonder he put his initials on the front of the manor.
But now, coming up to Christmas, the weather has brought work to a standstill
and, round the back, the lime mortar that wouldn't dry...froze.
The face has gone. It's completely gone. This will all want raking out and completely repointing. 100%.
So now it needs redoing.
In 2010, we were hit by the second coldest December since monthly temperatures were first recorded,
which, coincidentally, was in 1659.
The lads plastered this ceiling last week. We're trying to keep the house warm. These heaters aren't coping.
I think it will all fail. It's more frost.
All the plaster that's failed will have to be pulled down and completely remade.
It's the end of a year which has been quite hard work and stressful.
We're fed up with living in cardboard boxes. There's not been a lot happening in the last few days.
Despite the house being far from finished, David and Jeanette go ahead with their carol concert
in the servants' hall.
Are we ready?
# Deck the hall with boughs of holly
# Fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la... #
With the schedule slipping and the costs rising, this is just what they need.
# Don we now our gay apparel... #
Because when things are looking dark, there's nothing like a good sing.
# ..ancient yuletide carol Fa-la-la-la-la... #
Six weeks into the new year and there's some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that the unsafe wall behind the fireplace is well on the way to being repaired.
They had to put in four massive steel joists to hold the upstairs up while the walls were being rebuilt.
It was even trickier than thought.
The wall was made up with such big stones and so many small stones,
it was just falling down. Nothing was tied in. It was just loose rubble.
But it's all back in and solid now.
That was the good news. And the bad news?
David and Jeanette won't be in residence when the 2011 national census is done
at the end of March. The builders have recalculated
and announced a finish date in early summer.
# I hear that you're building your little house... #
I can't tell you that it is a traumatic moment of awfulness,
and had led to us putting Leonard Cohen on and take a warm bath with some razor blades,
but certainly it was disappointing and irritating,
but we're not broken-hearted about it yet. If it slips again, we shall get very grumpy.
But now, little by little, bit by bit,
progress is being made.
Kieran is following one last lead to a country church a few miles away.
Somewhere here is the last resting place of the man who added more than anyone else
to the architecture of Calverton Manor - SB.
In fact, his memorial is the largest in the church
and the bust was done from his actual death mask.
It's unmistakable. Here he is, the man himself.
Simon Bennett. And this is just an amazing find, just an astonishing thing to see.
The face of the man that added all that grandeur and architectural excitement to Calverton
and, you know, is such an important figure for this landscape. I've been chasing around and here he is.
This amazing text brings together our whole cast of characters from the whole Bennett story.
Of course, Simon Bennett, the man who added so much to Calverton
and is the architectural driving force behind that building.
The evil Grace Moorwood is here.
And right at the bottom is Frances, who married the Earl of Salisbury.
'Before we find out if the new owners have managed to save the home of Simon Bennett,
'Kate and Kieran will fill Jeanette and David in on everything they've discovered about its history.'
The house was re-fronted in 1659.
We're trying to understand why. What were Simon Bennett's intentions?
Why does he, with a grand house like Beachampton, choose to put his name and improvements down here?
I can only feel it's something to do with the manorial boundaries of Calverton itself.
It's the perfect place for diversified commercial activity.
But the most intriguing discovery is the link between their home
and one of the country's grandest.
It became massive London gossip, a scandal.
He's used her money and gone.
Yes, particularly that he left her in such penury and deprived state.
We didn't know any of that. We knew there was this link.
This is the church at Beachampton
-and inside we found Simon himself.
-This is so exciting.
We didn't know he was there! We've had this property four years and didn't know his bust was there!
We're really happy to tell you. It's a really fine monument.
-He was a cool-looking guy.
-This is from his death mask.
That is a real find for us.
350 years ago, Simon Bennett transformed Calverton Manor
into a place of legend. Whilst the story's remained, the house became fragile
and in danger of complete collapse.
Whilst restoring the manor, David and Jeanette have ripped up the rule book,
but also the schedule. They were due to move in at Christmas.
That didn't happen. Then spring came and went and now it's summer
and I'm here to find out if the unpredictable restoration of Calverton Manor is finally over.
This is how Calverton looked a year and a half ago.
As efforts to save it progressed,
it was discovered the whole house was on the brink of collapse.
This is how it looks today.
-It's looking really...
-..really, really wonderful! Well done!
-Isn't it pretty?
-You've done it!
-It's been a long, long haul, but we're so pleased with it. With the sun on it...
-It should be the happiest it's been since 1659 when it was last given a makeover.
-I think your initials should be above the door with Simon Bennett's.
-We've put ours on the chimney.
We'll show you later. We felt we'd earned our spurs.
-Can I go and have a look?
-Can I see what's occurred?
'And we're lucky enough to be the first to see the house finished.
'David and Jeanette only got the keys from the builders this week
'and haven't moved in yet.
'When they started, this room had been split into two during the Georgian era.
'More worrying was the load-bearing beam eaten away by woodworm.
'Now the original hall has been reopened.'
-This is unrecognisable!
-It is amazing, isn't it?
Completely different. And this is a beautiful fireplace.
-It is, yes. And now it's in proportion.
'The once dingy hall is now also flooded with light
'thanks to their discovery of an original window seat.'
You can sit on this window seat and look right out the front door.
And across the garden. And isn't it gorgeous?
'When I was here last time, the drawing room showed the size of the task ahead
'with its rotten floors and newspaper-covered walls telling of gruesome tales.'
I remember this room.
We have a floor.
OK, I'm going to come clean and tell you when I left here I said to the crew,
"They're never going to do it."
'By reopening the window at the gable end, as it would have been in Simon Bennett's time,
'they've created a beautiful attic room.
'And on the first floor there are now five bedrooms and a series of stunning bathrooms.'
-Are you going to be inundated with people wanting to stay?
-We'd like that.
But I think we could become, or perhaps we have, serious bores about it.
We know so much, we could talk for hours on any aspect - ironmongery, lime plaster, paint,
'But the part of the house that was most at risk was in the old kitchen,
'where they discovered the fireplace was seriously compromised
'and 50 tons of Calverton Manor could come tumbling down at any moment.'
It's on the point of collapse, really.
And this...this place...
not the same room.
It's one of those what you'd call a close shave
and you lie awake in bed the next day and think supposing it had happened that night?
The bloke could have gone home early and the whole lot could have gone.
It would have pulled down with it the entire north end of the building, all the floors.
'Having narrowly avoided disaster and with their huge list of discoveries,
'the final restoration bill for Calverton Manor was £1.2 million.'
If you're embarking on a restoration project of this sort, you can't do it on the cheap,
-you can't do it quick, you can't cut corners...
-And you won't make any money!
What would have been lost to the nation, lost to the country id this house had gone?
Because it's a listed building, it would be reconstructed,
but the difference between a reconstruction and a conservation is what we have often spoken of,
the sense of the voices that have been absorbed into the plasterwork,
the hands that have touched the doorknobs. You can build a fake manor house and it would look right,
but it wouldn't have that absorbed DNA of many generations of people.
And the breath of ages, really.
Facing a quiet retirement, David and Jeanette took on a fragile old house,
but it was in much worse state than they ever imagined. But it was never just a restoration headache.
They fell for the history oozing out of every stone.
Saving Calverton Manor uncovered the exciting story of the Bennett family,
but for David and Jeanette, this wasn't a quiet archaeological dig,
this was a roller coaster.
For them, the adventure has only just begun because now they get to call this place home.
Next time, another restoration home.
-Right, come on.
-And another intriguing journey into Britain's past.
At least 40 people perished in a moment when the pit was flooded.
It's just amazing to see a building almost completely ruined. I'm really glad I'm not doing this restoration!
Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd - 2011
Email [email protected]
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.