Historic and the hysterical: tale of two British homes

September 4th, 2008 - 11:49 am ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 4 (IANS) It’s a tale of two houses with different fates. One is about efforts to preserve the smallest and oldest in all of Britain. The other is about demolition of one of the biggest and newest houses in the land.Efforts are on to preserve the country’s most unusual council home - a tiny Dutch Cottage built in the 17th century. Octagonal in shape, the home measures just 20 feet across but has all modern amenities, including a fully fitted kitchen and shower room.

The dollhouse-like cottage in Rayleigh, Essex is thought to have been built in 1621 by settlers who helped to drain land. Only a handful of the quaint buildings are left.

The living space is around a central construction of the chimney and it’s a fairly open plan living space around that. At the back there is a kitchen and shower room. The bedroom is in the roof of the cottage, which you get to by quite a steep staircase.

The Rochford Council, which owns the home and wants its preserved for posterity as well as a tourist attraction, has recently rented it out for 75 pounds ($133) a week to Fay Raflin, a freelance stage manager, but with a rider attached.

As well as making her home in a living museum, Laflin is expected to be a tour guide and show visitors round every Wednesday. And Laflin is perfect for the role of tour guide - her ancestors are Flemish and may even have known the cottage themselves.

Laflin told the Daily Mail: “My surname is Flemish and my dad traced it and we are related to 16th or 17th century settlers who came over to the east of England because they were persecuted by the Huguenots. The Dutch settlers built sea defences on the coast. Who knows they may have been here?”

In stark contrast to the Dutch doll-house is the fate a stately American-style colonial house in Sandbanks in Dorset. Almost an island but for a thin strip of land that connects it to the mainland, it is the fourth most expensive place in the world to buy real estate.

An unnamed Russian tycoon recently bought the mansion for five million pounds ($9 million) with a private beach and a heliport. The sale is a record for the most money paid for a plot of land on Sandbanks.

Robert Dunford of estate agents Tailer Made, which dealt with the sale, said: “The property the client has bought was only completed in 2002 and is just heavenly inside. It is a beautiful blue-roofed American colonial style house and is gorgeous. It has every modern amenity one can think of.”

But the new owner thought differently. He wanted the house to look modern and glass-fronted, instead of the tile-roofed one he purchased.

He also wanted to extend the house a bit - to add an extra bedroom to be precise - and decided to demolish the entire mansion for the purpose. The demolition has begun.

The house was itself built barely five years ago. Eddie Mitchell of Severn Developments, which is designing and building the new home, said the vast outlay on the new home will bring four bathrooms, a lavish master bedroom with a huge sun terrace and six bedrooms - just one more than the old house.

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