CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

Take a look through one of the grandest properties in Orford

PUBLISHED: 11:10 17 April 2018 | UPDATED: 16:07 17 April 2018

Suffolk mag April featured home

Suffolk mag April featured home

Archant

For Chris and Fiona Gerard, life doesn’t get much better than at their Orford home. Words and images: Tony Hall

For a man with a passion for boats and sailing, like his father before him, and with a family equally enthusiastic, buying a home in the sailors’ haven of Orford, must be a dream come true. To buy one of the grandest properties in the village, on Church Street, must surely be the ultimate.

Chris Gerard was born and brought up not on the coast, but in Cambridge, where his father, Stephen, built seven sailing boats in the back garden, ranging from 23ft to 34ft. “The family owned a Silhouette, a Halcyon 23, then an S&S (Sparkman and Stephens) 34, which we keep on swinging moorings at Ramsholt.

Snooker roomSnooker room

Father went on to buy the Carillon of White, the sister ship to Sir Edward Heath’s Morning Cloud 3, which my twin brother, Nick, races in Majorca.” Having caught the sailing bug at a tender age, on leaving school at 18 Chris joined the Royal Navy, at Dartmouth, as a midshipman.

One year at naval college was followed by four years as a commissioned officer which included service in the Falklands conflict as bridge watchkeeper on the destroyer Bristol.

The library bedroomThe library bedroom

After working four hours on, four hours off for 140 days, Chris decided to apply to be a naval helicopter pilot at Biggin Hill. “But, as my instructor remarked, ‘your arms are not joined to your legs’, an essential requirement.” He left the Navy received job offers from National Car Parks, Gallagher Tobacco and Charingtons the brewers.

At the age of 23, he plumped for the latter and rapidly climbed the ladder. He lived in Wandsworth, while his work base was at Foxearth in Suffolk, where he was district manager for 32 tenanted pubs spread from Milton Keynes to Clacton.

Sitting bedroom suiteSitting bedroom suite

By 2001 the business was split into brewing under Bass, pubs under the Mitchell & Butler brand and Intercontinental Hotels. Chris was overseeing 400 hotels, pubs and restaurants throughout the country.

In 2003 he left to start his own group, Innventure, which now has six hotel/restaurants at Cambridge Letchworth, Hitchen, Welwyn, Fleet and Saffron Walden, employing over 190 staff.

Kitchen to back doorKitchen to back door

Moving to Orford

It was in 2016, when Chris and Fiona came ashore at Orford from their boat, with friends Mike and Judith Shallow. Says Chris: “We were walking up Church Street to go to Butley Oysterage, past this house which was for sale. They said really you ought to buy it.” So Chris and Fiona sold their Queen Anne house in Whitwell, Hertfordshire, and took possession of The Great House in March 2017.

The house's exteriorThe house's exterior

The imposing house was originally built around 1820 by the owners of the Sudbourne Estate as a shooting lodge for weekend guests and parties. In 1966, Lord Bridges, who was a diplomat and ambassador in Rome and Moscow, bought the property as his country home.

Lady Bridges was a keen gardener and, until her death in 2005, she and her gardener, Bob, created the mature gardens you see today, which Bob still tends.

The garden snug TV roomThe garden snug TV room

In a perfectly executed, almost military operation, this beautiful property was transformed in just six weeks from the Gerards taking over into a stylish country house perfect for modern living.

The trade secret was to use tradesmen from the shop fitting community – in this case Concorde Build – who are well versed in turning around jobs in a very short time. Fiona masterminded the project.

Entrance hallEntrance hall

“Being an interior designer and project manager over the years obviously helped,” she says. “Everything had to be forward planned, from building permissions, materials, interior decor and furniture.

“All had to be on site on time. For instance, when the job was finished and the full pantechnicon arrived, I was able to direct the men to exactly where everything should go – quite something with a six bedroom, four reception room house.”

The drawing roomThe drawing room

Fiona is originally from Guildford. After sixth form college, she followed her love of design and studied at Inchbald school of Design in London. With a colleague, she started a company, Alternative Plan, designing luxury kitchens and bathrooms, for domestic commercial clients.

While living in Wandsworth, she met Chris at a barbecue. They married in 1998 and had two sons, James and Charlie. Living in Limehouse, Fiona started LimehouseProjects.co.uk on her own, mainly working on interior design for architects.

Dining roomDining room

“In 2005 Chris’s business was really taking off and I started on the refurbishments and design of the new businesses. Rather like here at The Great House, Chris is good at the practical layout, how a place will work and function, then I take over.

“I love period buildings, preserving, but giving them a twist with modern fittings such as steel and glass, maybe industrial fitting, as here with some of the lighting. I love light, colour, the contrast of contemporary with traditional architecture and period furniture.

Chris and FionaChris and Fiona

“My favourite room is the Oriental style sitting room, with the black Bergere chairs, my grandmother’s Japanese wood block prints, and the long case clock, whilst Chris likes the breakfast/garden room, as it is an extension of this garden.”

Chris says that while the couple are not yet retired, they are looking ahead to those days. “The village is alive, with interesting people, a real community, informal and relaxed.

Breakfast roomBreakfast room

“We’ve got to know more people here, in a short period, than anywhere else. Needless to say, it’s a sailor’s dream. We’ve joined the sailing club, have a swinging river mooring and have already sailed across to Holland with three other boats for holidays.”

The house and village certainly suit Fiona well, who says she can lie in her bath and see both the castle and the river at once. “With a village shop, two pubs, two restaurants, plus the sailing, what’s not to like?

Master bedroomMaster bedroom

“We regard The Great House as a new awakening for us, but likewise for guests and the property itself.”

The Great House Orford is available for holiday lettings, contact: Big House Holidays. www.bighouseholidays.co.uk, tel: 01394 389188 or Suffolk Secrets www.suffolk-secrets.co.uk, tel: 01502 722717. Fiona is also creating a gallery at The Great House Orford, partly to reflect her love of art, but also because she feels it is important to preserve the sea wall and defences. Part of funds from sales at the gallery will be contributed to the campaign to save the Alde-Ore estuary.

www.greathousegallery.co.uk

__________________

Follow Suffolk Mag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other EADT Suffolk Magazine visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by EADT Suffolk Magazine staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique EADT Suffolk Magazine account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Homes & Gardens

Monday, October 15, 2018

When it’s frosty outside there’s nothing better than coming home to a crackling open fire - here are 6 great businesses who can help you find the perfect woodburner, fireplace or stove for your home

Read more
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

As we head into Autumn, the change in season is all around us. From the leaves on the trees turning burnt orange and fiery red, to dark mornings and nights bookending our days. As we put the clocks back an hour to battle the darkness, here’s some top tips on how you can keep your home warm and costs down this Autumn.

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Peter and Lorraine Finn have found their ideal place to get away from it all right on their Woodbridge doorstep | Words & Photos: Tony Hall

Read more
Friday, August 31, 2018

Rural energy provider, Calor, gives some top tips for homeowners wanting to make their houses cosy and warm in time for the colder months.

Read more
Thursday, August 23, 2018

When you are next looking to build a brand new kitchen or revitalise your existing kitchen, you should consider these 6 top bespoke designers

Read more
Friday, August 10, 2018

When Jan Packard and Mark Haines were looking for somewhere to share their love of boats they couldn’t resist the unspoilt charms of the Alde and Ore | Words and Photos: Tony Hall

Read more
Sunday, July 1, 2018

Residential property company heylo recently signed the Armed Forces Covenant, pledging its commitment to fair treatment and support to the Armed Forces community, including regulars, reserves, veterans and their families. The signing took place in a ceremony held at Wellington Barracks

Read more
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A trip to Wingfield on the historic houses scheme, Invitation to View, reveals a medieval college and royal stories aplenty | Words & Photos: Lindsay Want

Read more
Thursday, June 21, 2018

Here at Suffolk Hideaways, we have chosen our top 3 beaches to visit whilst staying in Suffolk. Suffolk Hideaways is a self-catering agency which offer coastal and country retreats, many being dog friendly, family friendly or ideal for a romantic retreat

Read more
Friday, June 15, 2018

James and Liz Day recapture the magic of their childhood holiday haunts at their family retreat, Amber Cottage in Aldeburgh | Words & Photos: Tony Hall

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine regular newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search