Jules Hudson looks at the best industrial conversions featured on past programmes, including a converted flour mill and a 17th-century weavers' cottage.
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In travelling throughout the British Isles, one thing is never far away -
Britain's rich industrial heritage.
Sadly, most of it has gone. It's consigned to the history books.
But buildings like the one behind me are very often converted into fantastic family homes.
On Escape To The Country, we've had a wonderful opportunity to look at some of the best.
In this special programme, we take a look back
at some of the best industrial conversions featured in previous shows.
Where a water mill gets the cogs turning...
I love the idea of that being there, it's just really quirky.
..a weaver's cottage gets us in a spin.
It gets more modern the higher you go.
-Can we go any higher?
-We could do, but we might get wet!
-..and nobody's sheepish at this woollen mill.
This is a cellar and a half!
And I find a novel way of paying for a conversion.
We had eight people here, we had a barrel of beer.
-We got in there and dug with our hands.
-Keep them drunk, keep them down there.
Most houses do have some history attached to them.
But it's interesting when a building goes through a complete change of use.
That's the nice thing about industrial conversions,
be it a factory, a mill or an old cider house, they come complete with the opportunity
to produce some lovely open-plan living spaces, full of lovely quirky features.
Our industrial heritage has changed our rural landscape massively.
From the railways to Victorian mills,
industry can be found in the remotest corners of Britain.
But what happens to these rural industrial buildings once the industry moves away?
They can become stunning character homes.
Old mills often with their idyllic riverside locations will have their wheel rooms turned into kitchens.
Windmills transformed into quirky homes with stunning panoramic views.
More often than not, these historic conversions are an opportunity for really exciting living spaces.
What better way to enjoy the charm and heritage of the countryside?
When we think of buildings with an industrial past,
we tend to think of the heyday of the Victorian industrial revolution,
when buildings were built to contain great big engines like these.
For our first offering, we're going to take a step a little further back in time to the 17th century.
We're heading to Kent to look at a lovely old weaver's house in the company of Nicola and Rosh.
They had £750,000 to spend.
Nicola wanted a house full of period charm and character.
But husband Rosh wanted something a little different, more contemporary.
So the question is, would our 17th- century workplace work for them?
I was taking Nicola and Rosh
to a house just three miles outside Headcorn in Kent.
A town with a wealth of useful amenities -
there are six primary schools, four churches, a library, a Post Office and two pubs.
There is also a parachuting club nearby,
but hopefully Nicola and Rosh won't be bailing out after they see this one.
Come through here,
Nicola and Rosh.
-The start of a new day, a new property.
Not exactly a new one. As you can see, a nice old one. What do you think of that?
-I really like that.
-It looks nice.
Lots of character. It looks huge. I think that means it's going to be hugely expensive!
-Everything comes at a price, Rosh.
-No special offers.
No special offers down here.
But you're right, it's a very big property.
The reason being, at its heart, it's a 17th-century's weaver's house.
-As the name implies, they were weavers.
The weaving machines and the looms had to occupy quite a tall space.
That's a business that would have happened on both of the principal floors.
-Let's go and have a look.
Let's start in the conservatory.
I mean, this is whatever you want it to be, a sun room -
they have it as a spill-over dining area. Would you use a space like this?
It would be nice to use it.
It would be nice to know what is inside the house and what you would use this space for.
Come on, let's have a look.
Up the steps, there is a little utility area there.
This is, well, it is the kitchen obviously.
I appreciate this may not be chrome and mirrors as you want.
-It's not at the moment. But I think it has the potential.
I like the beams. I like the layout on different levels.
I'd like to keep these tiles, this motif here.
-It's quite nice.
-I thought you would run away from that.
-I'm amazed. I'm amazed that he likes that.
-I'm glad you like this split level, Rosh.
This is the diner bit of the kitchen/diner, but the dining room is in there. Have a look.
This is really, really imposing. It's nice.
-I think with this place you can make it feel very modern.
Absolutely. You can see the potential straight away.
Let's keep going. I'm glad you like this. Let's go through here.
Now this is the main living room, as it were.
-Again, a huge space.
-You can see the potential.
-It's a huge room.
-Can you imagine it full of weavers doing their thing?
-Oh, you can.
-Now, I know you fancied a bit of a study?
How big a study do you need?
It doesn't have to be too big.
But I suspect it might be big!
Let's see what you think of this one.
Doctor's study, do you think?
-I think so.
-A private practice going on.
-The nice thing is because it's at the end of the house
you can shut yourself away from pandemonium elsewhere
-and get on with what you've got to do.
-There will be a lock on the door.
You wanted four to five bedrooms.
-How about six?
-If you insist!
-Ha ha! Why not?
I tell you what, buy one, get five free! Let's go through here.
En route to the six bedrooms,
there is a rather special centrepiece which runs right through the house.
Brilliant. I love this. Original spiral oak staircase.
The whole thing is held up by one piece of oak, it's that, the newel post.
That goes all of the way through the building. That's one tree.
-How about it?
-It's pretty fantastic.
-Look at the floor, Rosh. I know you're into floorboards.
-These really are the real thing.
-It's good stuff.
We have three bedrooms on this floor. One is behind you.
Let's start in that one. In you go, Rosh.
-Tell me what you think of that.
It's quite a large room. Again, you've got the wooden floor.
It's quite a square room.
But is it working for you in terms of the fact that it's got some character?
-No, definitely. It's got bags of character. It's great.
-I really like it.
If you like this, you'll love next door and you will adore the master.
Let's go and have a look at that.
-Oh, very nice.
-That's very nice. A great view.
-Look at the smile on your face!
-No, this is good.
It's quite spectacular. Real character, real quirky. Like that.
Have a look at the en suite, you also have one through there. Go on, Rosh, lead on.
Ha ha! That's my kind of bath.
-You see yourself flopped out in there?
-Let's go to the top floor.
How can I describe it? It's kind of its own little world.
-You'll see what I mean.
This section of the house could give guests a private wing
so will Nicola and Rosh see the potential in this extra space?
Come through here. It's a touch of Indiana Jones.
That's the top of the chimney. All right.
Again, new oak floorboards in here.
That's a really nice newly fitted bathroom, free-standing bath.
We have this space which is done,
but not finished, in the sense of, it needs a bit of a plaster, it could be a great guest room, this.
-A guest suite because they're on their own and they have their own en suite.
It tends to get more modern the higher you go.
-Can we go any higher?
-We could, but we might get wet!
You really have bags of choice.
This is a place you would probably live in for six months and then figure out how to work it.
Go on then. Lead us down the stairs and let's look at the garden and see if that finishes the thing off.
We come back out of the conservatory and explore this garden.
I get the feeling this is bigger than what you had in mind.
It's big. But I think it's just about manageable.
I'd say that. It's manageable. It gives you plenty of scope.
When the kids grow up, you can kick a football around. How do you feel about mowing the grass?
You can start, have a half-time Pimms and then finish it off!
So then, you said on the way in, Rosh, it was a lot of money.
I still think it's a lot of money.
I think it probably is. How much do you think it's going to cost you?
I think it's well over our maximum.
I'd go at around £795,000.
I'd say it's a bit higher, I'd go £825,000.
You're both right.
-You're both right because it was on for a bit more,
it's been reduced to £795,000.
But as a property,
it really suits you.
-I'd agree with that.
-Go and mull it over.
There's plenty of this house you can explore in more detail.
Go and enjoy yourselves and take a trip down memory lane.
-A bit of history for you.
-Will do. Absolutely. See you later.
-I'll catch up with you later.
I like this property. I think it's what we were looking for in that it oozes character and charm.
This is a great room and the floorboards are just brilliant.
Each bedroom is a decent size.
It has real sort of charm about it.
I like that a lot.
It's got a lot of potential.
A lot more space than we'd have expected.
I think it will work really, really well.
For our next offering, we're going to join Alistair Appleton
who was helping Loris and Wendy spend their £430,000 in the search for their ideal dream home.
For the mystery house, he took them to a converted mill,
which he also hoped would play to their other dream of owning a narrow boat.
Alistair was taking Wendy and Loris to Farnhill,
a small village in north Yorkshire.
Farnhill is four miles from Skipton, one of the big towns in the area.
How would you like to live in that house?
-This one here?
-With the parasol.
-Good grief. Right on the canal.
You couldn't get any nearer to the canal.
You could watch people on the canal all day long. Let's have a look.
This house might look small from the outside, but appearances can be deceiving.
A former wool mill, it spreads over four floors,
but I think it's biggest appeal is that it sits right on the canal,
perfect for Loris and Wendy to enjoy their perfect pastimes of canal walks and narrow boating.
These five terraces and these three cottages over here, these were the first buildings in Farnhill.
-Pre-the Industrial Revolution boom at the end of the 18th century.
-In we go.
Heading through the large hallway, you find the kitchen at the back of the property.
-Another big surprise.
You certainly have the table in here.
-What a kitchen.
-Isn't this fantastic?
You've got a great big country kitchen, but look at the views.
And you've got the window seat again.
The window seat, and you can see right over the Aire valley and you can see the canal.
-You could sit here with your breakfast watching people on their barges.
And then continuing the large theme...
The surprisingly spacious...
-How's this for a front room?
-This is a good size.
-Look at that picture window.
-I was just going to say the same.
Well, space is definitely the theme in this house.
There's also a large dining room on the ground floor which looks out at the front of the house,
and plenty more upstairs.
You could do country dancing in this landing.
And there are four proper double bedrooms off this huge landing.
Two are at the top of the stairs, while the other two are at the other end.
This one is being used as the master bedroom
-largely because of the views, I should think.
-The views are spectacular.
It's a lovely sized room.
-There's plenty of space for everything.
-You can do lots on this floor.
If you keep on walking, there's a family bathroom on your right.
It probably needs a bit of sprucing up, but it does have a separate shower.
If you look through here, you have almost like a separate wing,
you have an enormous walk-in toilet which could easily be an en suite.
You've got here another good sized double. There's great potential here for developing this
into a separate maybe rental unit,
-or as a guest wing.
-I think it's...
As you said, it's an unusual building.
And I like it. Yeah.
It's a lot bigger.
-I prefer the front obviously because it's on a canal.
But we honestly didn't expect the rooms to be this size either.
Why don't you head down those stairs?
The second flight of stairs takes you back if you don't get lost.
Back downstairs there are two more floors below the ground floor.
First stop, the lower ground.
This is a cellar and a half, isn't it?
-This is actually not the cellar
as we're stepping down the side of the dales. It's very deceptive.
-It is, isn't it?
-So we're actually on a hill?
-Yes, it kind of does slope down to the canal, yeah.
This floor has three rooms which are being used as an office,
a utility room and a workshop.
But this space could be turned into holiday lets
if Loris and Wendy were prepared to put the work in.
There's a separate entrance onto the street, so guests could come and go without disturbing them.
And below this, there's even more.
Heavens, I love this space, it's so surprising.
-Is this the cellar now?
-No, there's another four storeys underneath!
No, this is the bottom floor.
It's massive, isn't it?
-What impressions does it make on you? It's very striking.
-It's a great space, isn't it?
-Yes, I could see a lot of work here.
A lot of work. But you can see what you could do with the place.
But, the best...
Oh, more! LORIS CHUCKLES
Oh, look at this. What more could you want, Loris?
You couldn't get any closer. How much closer could you get?
-You could be in the water!
-You could be, yeah!
How much do you think it's on the market for?
I would say, because it needs quite a bit of work doing to it...
I'd say it's probably...
I'd say, um...
Ah, well. The property is actually on the market for...
When I initially saw the property,
I thought it was perhaps not a very big property.
From the outside, it didn't look particularly big.
Until we got through the door,
I couldn't believe how many rooms there was.
In fact, I got lost. I couldn't find my way around on my own, because there were so many rooms to look at.
It does need a lot of work doing to it.
It's actually reflected in the price.
We would have plenty of money left over
to do up the property, and even possibly buy a narrow boat.
We have had the chance to look back at some wonderful industrial conversions,
but here in Somerset, we've got one with a difference.
It's a beautiful old mill, but in the process of turning it
into a wonderful and intriguing family home,
the current owners are making best use of ancient energy
to provide much-needed power for the future.
I'm off to meet Keith and Mandy
who live in this beautiful old snuff mill.
They've managed to harness the power of the river
and now use it to generate electricity.
'Let's just hope they're in!'
What a knocker! You can tell an engineer lives here, can't you?
-Very nice to see you. How are you?
-You must be Mandy.
-Nice to meet you.
-What a wonderful building.
Fun? I should think so, you've had a lot of fun.
-How many door knockers are like that?
It's something I do when I'm bored, something ridiculous.
-I can't wait to see what you've done with the rest of it.
-Come on in, have a look.
-After you, sir.
-This is it.
-This is absolutely fantastic, isn't it?
You really do know you're in a mill, don't you?
I'm interested to know about how you power this place.
I know you are making best use of the water source that was here.
If you come this way, we'll have a look.
Keith takes us through his workshop and into the powerhouse of his home.
-Right then. This is the old wheel pit.
-Wow. Look at that.
This is the old original water wheel. Dates from about 1850.
This is the new contraption that I've built, which is a Kaplan turbine.
That type of turbine would cost around £40,000 for the turbine alone.
And not having £40,000 kicking around, I thought I would make one.
-So the water comes through there and under the floor we're standing on?
-If you move to one side, it comes...
-Oh, look at that.
-There you go. There we are.
That's amazing. And that is pretty much maintenance free now?
Yeah. You've got this sluice gate there which you can lift up
and that will flush any small quantities of silt that end up in the wheel pit.
'Keith's home-made generator only cost him £10,000 to make
'and generates enough electricity to power four homes.
'So the electricity he doesn't use can be sold back to the National Grid.
'He estimates his generator will pay for itself in six years.'
But free electricity isn't the only reason to live in a mill.
There's also the question of space.
On the first floor, Mandy and Keith have plenty of that.
-This is the attraction of buying a mill, I suppose.
-This lovely sense of space you get.
It's lovely to see it open like this.
We've got these gorgeous elm floorboards which are three inches thick.
After seeing the blank canvas that Mandy and Keith have to work with,
I was looking forward to seeing the living quarters on the second floor.
-This is really special, isn't it?
You get a real sense of how you've been able to use the blank space of down below
to provide your living.
-I love the fact you've left it right open through the centre of it.
We've done things like painting the girders
a nice Victorian red sort of colour,
and a lot of our stuff we've got
from car boot sales, or second-hand or skips.
-We've recycled it. We made the big table we've got here.
-That's a beauty.
On this floor, they also have two bedrooms,
a quirky bathroom,
complete with dials to monitor hot water
and a unique kitchen and living space.
-This is very nice, isn't it? Very lovely.
-It's more civilised than the rest of it.
I can see the radiators here, they're all powered how?
They're powered by a biomass heater, a big machine in the shed that eats sawdust and wood shavings.
-Is that expensive to run?
-The heat's free, the electricity free, what about the gas?
-Gas we pay for.
I think the last quarterly bill was nine quid, which was a shocker. It's normally about £6!
Upstairs, there are even more energy saving devices.
Here we are.
Ooh, some sunshine!
-This is a lovely view of the Somerset levels.
-Isn't it gorgeous?
It's nice and green, and you don't have to mow it!
Then you've got solar panels.
This does all our water heating for the summer.
This is a DIY kit.
The panels were about £400 each.
We've also got a big water tank down the end of the roof garden
-so we can save of rain water, for the washing.
-I really am impressed.
-Well done to the pair of you.
Now, for all of this talk of free energy, do you think we have enough to put the kettle on?
-Hydro-powered cup of tea? We can do it.
-Go on, then!
I've been waiting for that all day.
For our final property, and certainly one of my favourites,
I'm going to take you back to East Devon
where I had the pleasure of showing Mandy and Gary around
and trying to relieve them of £600,000 of their hard-earned money.
Now, for that, they wanted a nice big spacious family home, a big garden, and plenty of storage space.
But strangely on the list of requirements they gave me
there was no mention of a working water wheel in the kitchen.
But that's exactly what they got.
I was taking Gary and Mandy to the village of Dunkeswell
five miles from Honiton.
It's a rural farming village with a real sense of community.
But was it a community that Mandy and Gary would want to join?
Something very different,
but I think finished to a fantastic standard.
-All of that is what you get.
-Very pretty, isn't it?
It's an old mill house. At one end is the old mill itself,
the workings of the mill, some of which survived.
The old bakery there in the middle,
-and at this end the old miller's house.
And you get lots of stuff with it, which we can explore a little later.
A good start outside, but wait until they see how lovingly this property has been restored
to show off its very unique features.
Right, guys. Let's start in here. Can you hear that noise?
I can. Water somewhere.
Running water. Another clue to the origins of this building, it being an old mill.
But it's all given away in here.
Beautiful kitchen. They still have the water wheel.
-Look at that.
-That is the real thing.
That's part of the old mill and the workings, can you see that gearing?
Outside there would have been a great big wheel, fed by the water.
That would turn, turning all those other cogs in turn
to drive the shaft going through the ceiling above
-which we'll explore later.
-I love the idea of that being there, it's really quirky.
I love the Aga there.
It's got a nice feel to the kitchen.
Now, we're kind of coming into the old miller's house bit as you can probably tell.
A nice big inglenook there. I think it's smashing.
It is. It's fabulous.
Double study for you both.
-Double study. That's what you wanted?
-It would be more than big enough.
You don't need this you've got this. Have a look.
Would you have enough room to work in here and not fight too much?
-It looks as though we have separate areas, which is great. It's huge, isn't it?
-How about it?
The only question is who gets the window?
That's pretty much the downstairs.
But upstairs, one or two more things, one or two more
mill kind of things as well. Come and have a look.
Now, you thought there was only one living room. But there are two.
-You've got this one to play as well.
-I didn't expect this.
What about that?
-Oh, good grief.
-That's the grindstone.
-That's the original grindstone.
Nice feature to have in the corner of your second living room. Is it growing on you?
It is, actually.
-Come through here.
There are four bedrooms in this place, one in the eaves, and on
the first floor there is a compact single and a bright and airy double.
A family bathroom with locally sourced oak flooring,
and then there's the master.
It's quite big because of the built-in wardrobes.
Yeah. They are not original as such.
But very much in keeping.
-But that is, that fireplace, very, very sweet. Cast iron.
So that's the mystery house inside.
But, my goodness, is there a lot outside.
..that's what all the fuss is about. That's the old mill race itself.
This is superb. A cute little bridge.
I love the sound of the running water, it's so therapeutic.
It's really nice. It's really sweet.
Where does this water go here?
This runs out and through to a number of ponds.
Come and have a look.
Let's start exploring all that this place has to offer.
Look across there. That meadow and the bank
and the pond that's over in those trees is all part of what you get here.
You've got about two acres.
-Amazing, isn't it?
-It's like a little nature reserve over here.
Really. But there's more.
There's more. Come with me.
Another huge pond full of trout.
Brollies! Get your brolly out, Gary.
Oh, my goodness me. If there wasn't enough water
in this property, we've got tonnes of it coming from the sky again!
The other thing, you've also got that building over there.
Now, that's currently a workshop, part of the original buildings that were associated with the mill.
Now £600,000, it's the mystery house.
It really is one in a million. Let's face it.
-You'd be lucky!
-Go on, Gary?
-I think it would be over budget,
over our budget, probably £610,000.
I'll put you out of your misery.
It's on the market for £645,000.
Is it really? We were way out.
Way off. But you know, it's a lot of house to take in.
It's so highly finished in terms of decor.
Exactly. Yeah. Guys, go and have a good look around.
-I'll catch up with a little bit later.
I think this is really the wow-factor property.
You get such a different perspective up here, don't you?
-It's all on different levels.
The gardens are finished to the same spec as the house.
-It's beautiful, isn't it?
Every room was a surprise, from the water wheel onwards.
Even outside, there were more mysteries
with regards to the garden and lakes and so forth.
Well, in short, a fantastic property and a fantastic conversion.
It just goes to show what can happen when you get it just right.
It's a wonderful way to end this very special edition of Escape To The Country
and our review of some of the best industrial conversions we've on the show. I hope it's inspired you.
Don't be worried, there are plenty still out there. Fancy a project?
I'll see you next time.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Jules Hudson takes a look back through the archives at the best industrial conversions featured on past programmes. Included are a converted flour mill, a 17th-century weavers' cottage and an 18th-century wool mill.