When Crabwood House was first built in the early 1820s, the novels of Jane Austen were just starting to get popular.
Now, almost 200 years on, leading local housebuilder Taylor Wimpey has shown quite a bit of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ of its own, and added a new chapter to the story of this stunning, grade II listed building in Maybush, Southampton.
When Taylor Wimpey began building new homes at its Compass Point development in Maybush, the elderly Crabtree House, last occupied many years before as an Ordnance Survey social club, stood forlorn and empty at its heart.
Taylor Wimpey’s Derek Parsonson, Assistant Site Manager at Compass Point, admits:
“It was totally deteriorated; it was damaged, it was damp, it was rotten.”
Under Derek’s supervision, a team of top craftsmen have restored and rescued this dilapidated building, complete with its elaborate cornicing, wrought iron staircase, glass ceiling dome and rare Victorian conservatory.
And now Crabwood House is full of life again – turned into eight unique and stunning one and two-bedroom apartments which brilliantly combine existing period features with the very best of modern living.
“We had no trouble selling these apartments. The last customer moved in in time for Christmas.
“We walked customers through the original house for an initial look, saying ‘if you can visualise this and visualise that’, and we found people just fell in love with it right there and then.”
Derek said it was his first major restoration project, and a steep learning curve for him and his team, more used to building brand new Taylor Wimpey homes.
“My first thought when I looked round the old house was ‘My goodness, what on earth have I let myself in for?’
“We had to strip everything back to the bare shell before we could even see what needed doing. And because it’s a listed building, every step had to be approved by the City Council’s Conservation Officer.”
The two original 19th century chimneys were restored, and six new replicas added.
A spectacular glass dome over what is now the building’s communal area was painstakingly recreated.
The eye-catching Victorian conservatory – originally an orangery – was lovingly restored, right down to cleaning and protecting its original tiled floor.
An ornate wrought iron staircase was repaired, elaborate decorative cornicing replaced and the building’s original timbers carefully preserved, with new ones added for reinforcement.
“The whole job took the best part of two years. A lot of the work had to be done by hand, and we came across so many setbacks – including damp and asbestos – that sometimes it felt like two steps forward and one step back.
“Restoring this sort of house takes more time than you’d ever think, but there’s so much job satisfaction in a project like this, and – yes – if I got the same great team, I’d definitely take an old house on again. Just not tomorrow, please!”