A Suffolk townhouse off the beaten track
PUBLISHED: 12:40 14 October 2014 | UPDATED: 12:40 14 October 2014
Jackie Mowforth’s period townhouse is a gem tucked away in the Waveney market town of Bungay. Words and pictures by Tony Hall
Many little gems are hidden away down country lanes or off the beaten track, but to find one in the centre of a bustling Waveney market town is a real surprise.
My instructions are to find a black door in a wall, which I duly do, before stepping back to admire part of the building, with its gentrified front and Flemish gables, a fine example of the architecture of that period. Jackie Mowforth opens the door with her dog Bertie, a Bedlington Terrier cross.
I am stunned, as the view is of a sizeable mature garden, stretching out, beyond a large pond and terrace. To the right is the oldest part of the building, dating probably from the early 1600s, to which was added the Georgian facade. This house was built by Joseph Harbor, who was a tanner of some wealth. Later, in the 19th century it was home to Robert Oswald, who had made his wealth from running his own business as main auctioneer in the town. Knowing this delightful town well, I suppose what amazed me most was this secret gem so hidden away.
Jackie with her late husband Nigel, and their children lived previously in a farmhouse on the Earsham estate near Bungay.
“As the property was quite isolated,” recalls Jackie, “I ended up being a taxi service for my children, Charlotte and Freddie. >>
>> “Nigel’s job in the oil industry took him away a lot, so we decided for two reasons to up sticks and find preferably a Georgian period house nearby. I already like the architecture of this street, so when we came to view we loved the Georgian part of the house, especially the large secret garden and the views of the river from the upstairs windows. Everyone was very positive, it was decision made.
“Losing Nigel was a huge shock for us all as a family, so totally unexpected. He was working in Nigeria and one day had a heart attack. So then being a single mother and more recently starting a business” – Turnkey Properties, a residential lettings agency in Bungay, now Jackie’s new venture Hunters of Bungay Estate Agents (www.huntersnet.co.uk) – “the whole house project finally took five years, finishing in June 2011.”
Jackie was born near Guildford, Hampshire. At the age of 19, she saw an advertisement in The Lady for someone who could speak French. It turned out to be a job working for the French Ambassador in Mali, in French West Africa.
“My brother was working on the Ivory Coast in Africa, but I had never been abroad before,” recalls Jackie. “So there I was, on my own – a real cultural shock, but actually it was OK. There was a big expat community, which is where I met my future husband Nigel, who was working in the oil industry for Dowell Schlumberger.
“In 1983, we returned to the UK, me to my parents in Southampton. Nigel, who was born in Peterborough, but had been to and liked Norfolk as a student, was buying a cottage in Brooke. I used to come up and stay, but travelled back and forth, before we married in October 1986.”
Every room in the house is beautifully furnished. The conservatory serves as a spacious dining room and leads straight on to the kitchen, complete with centre island and an Aga. To the left a door opens on to what Jackie calls the library, a relaxing room with comfortable leather chairs gathered around a wood burner. On the other side, a door leads to the main >>
>> entrance hall, across which is the quite magnificent drawing room, occupying the full length of the Georgian addition. Large sofas in purple, a stunning fireplace, lovely lamps and chandeliers, and elegant shutters, provide a feeling of relaxed opulence.
Jackie says it is, without doubt, her favourite room.
“The period detailing, the proportions and especially the light, particularly as our previous home was rather dark,” she says. “I love going for walks along the river, in either direction, with Bertie. Also for relaxation I love reading novels, as the library illustrates, plus films and particularly music.
Due to my travels over the years I have developed an interest from soul and reggae, to jazz and blues.”
It was always the Mowforths’ wish to semi-retire to St Lucia, for six months a year. However, that has yet to materialise as Jackie is now fully hands on with her businesses, although she does manage the odd trip.
They settled on Cotton Bay Village and the build was finished in 2007, a year before Nigel died.
“It was always Nigel’s baby,” says Jackie. “He dealt with everything except the furnishings, which I arranged, together with a good friend Cathy Walker who lives on the island. It is magical place.
“Throughout all the events of the past few years,” concludes Jackie, “our life here in the Waveney valley has given us all great stability and this wonderful period house to live in. It’s such a nice place for the children and I feel it’s rather like stepping back in time, as people are so friendly and have time.
“For instance on work days, two charming ladies down the street really adore looking after Bertie. I think they spoil him rotten. I am now looking forward to building up both my businesses, in such a nice part of this county.”
n Jackie Mowforth’s business, Turnkey is to become Hunters of Bungay Estate Agents, at 21 Earsham Street, Bungay.
Tel: 01986 948044