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Miles and Rebecca Griffiths have renovated their village schoolhouse in Lancashire with great flair and imagination. Originally built in 1845, the property closed as an operational school in 2000, but Miles and Rebecca have restored it to it's former glory and re-purposed the buildings as a family home and housing for their collection of English antiques, winning them Best Conversion in our Readers’ Awards 2012.
Location: Ribble Valley, Lancashire
Miles and Rebecca Griffiths live in what was once Houghton village school. Set in the heart of the rural Ribble Valley in Lancashire, the property was built in 1845, and for over 150 years was used by children from a wide area. ‘It was a school house with a headmaster’s house attached. Sadly it closed in 2000 when there were only eight children still attending,’ explains Rebecca.
The property had never been on the market before and news of its sale generated a great deal of interest. ‘It was being sold by the church and sealed bids were invited, which was a nerve wracking process,’ remembers Rebecca. ‘Our bid wasn’t the highest, but they liked our plans the best.’
Miles, Rebecca and their children, Maisie and Sandy, rented a house nearby while they set about transforming the property’s neglected interior. Some of its original features remained, but many had been destroyed or obscured. They discovered three ceilings, all at different heights, in the main hall and in another room that was later to become their kitchen. ‘Originally an extension to the main school, and built in the mid 1860s to accommodate girls, once we’d pulled down all its false ceilings to reveal a high, vaulted roof, we could visualise the lovely kitchen it would eventually make,’ says Rebecca.
After a year of renovations, the Griffiths were able to move into their new and much improved home. Once through an unassuming front door, a stone archway leads to the extraordinary interior complete with engraved centre stone denoting the date the school house was built. ‘Luckily the original doors with their curly metalwork detailing were still there and in good condition,’ says Rebecca. ‘Along with the stone flags on the porch floor, it makes for an impressive entrance.’
To one side of the entrance is the main hall, now a spacious dining room, through which the kitchen is accessed, and to the other is a guest sitting room with a bedroom and bathroom above it. The headmaster’s house, with its own cosy sitting room, three bedrooms and a bathroom make up the remainder of the property.
‘Because of its size, it’s a great place to socialise and have parties in,’ says Rebecca. ‘The children learned to ride their bikes in the main hall, so they were most put out when we installed dividing walls to create the smaller, more manageable living spaces.’
Miles and Rebecca have furnished the house with an interesting selection of pieces gathered over many years. As antiques dealers, with a showroom in nearby Clitheroe, they are perfectly placed to cherry-pick the stock that will best enhance their home, and they have done so with great care and deliberation. Miles, whose interest in antiques was stoked from an early age by his parents’ eclectic tastes, is the expert. He deals mainly in English antiques from the 1700s to the 20th century and has a superb eye for the beautiful and unexpected. ‘We like clean lines. There’s so much to look at architecturally within the fabric of the interior, that we wanted to keep things simple with the furniture and accessories. We’ve chosen some classic antiques as well as quirky pieces with a twist, and definitely no knick-knacks,’ says Rebecca.
Gracing almost every room are a number of large stone pieces and wood carvings, such as the enormous 6ft high candlesticks, which flank a French armoire in the dining room and the pair of stone lions, inherited by Miles from his grandmother, which sit on the kitchen windowsills. ‘We joke that Miles doesn’t see the value in the antiques, but only the weight of them. If they’re not heavy, he’s not interested,’ says Rebecca.
It’s taken the Griffiths 10 years to fully complete their extraordinary renovation. Their dedication, knowledge and expertise have resulted in an inspirational family home, quite unlike any other.
Rebecca's tips on making a house a home using antiques