Full of eastern promise
PUBLISHED: 12:06 20 January 2015 | UPDATED: 12:06 20 January 2015
After a lifetime of travelling, Lesley and Gordon Dumphie have hung up their hats – quite literally – in a period town house overlooking the River Waveney
Lesley Dumphie might be known to many readers, as she has had a long association with the market town of Beccles.
She was born and brought up in Middlesbrough where her father was in haulage. From an early age she was passionate about horses, but had the courage of her convictions and, on leaving school, became a riding instructor at a riding school and stud in Dorset.
Good friends introduced Lesley to East Anglia, which she really liked, so she moved to the original Redwings riding school at Coltishall in Norfolk. A while later she discovered Beccles and subsequently moved there, taking a job at Swan House, as she says, “to keep myself and my horse, Jester”.
Lesley’s husband, Gordon, is of Scottish/Irish decent – hence the unusual surname – and was born near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire. On leaving school, he trained with British Airways as a helicopter engineer, then worked for BA in China for three years, before moving to Beccles, where he was based at the then Beccles International Heliport on Ellough Airfield. Subsequently he went solo, gaining many contracts around the globe.
Thanks to Lesley’s extensive travel over the years, both for holidays and joining Gordon at his various work locations mainly around the Far East, she has acquired enormous knowledge of the cuisines of the regions. So when Lesley took over the kitchens of The Swan House in Beccles she introduced an exciting selection of exotic dishes.
In 1990, Lesley and Gordon, bought their present home at a Durrants auction. The building dates from Tudor times, around 1600, but has a Georgian front, added when many buildings of its type were gentrified. The location, next to the splendid Beccles Parish Church, affords the same panoramic views over the River Waveney to the marshes and fields beyond.
Indeed, the walled garden originally belonged to the church, but the previous owner, the late Mary Moore, whose home it was for many years, bought it from the dioceses. She is buried in the churchyard.
“It was definitely the garden and views that made us go for it,” explains Lesley, “plus the fact that to the front you’re right in the middle of town, but to the rear overlooking countryside. Quite the best of both worlds. The sitting room, which we call the snug, opens on to the garden and is my favourite room.
“In summer it’s dogs in the garden, meals outside. This garden is my pride and joy and whenever possible that’s where you will find me. It is a total oasis – it’s so quiet you would never believe you were in the centre of town. In winter it’s all around the fire in the snug. In the snug is also a favourite item, a waterscape by Anya King. I just love looking at it.”
In more recent times a large room occupying the entire width of the ground floor became a shop, so in 1999 Lesley opened her own gift shop, Coriander, specialising in artefacts from her travels.
“It was great fun. I used to go to Bali and travel around finding favourite bits, then get a 20-foot container together for shipping. Regrettably, with the Bali bombings travel and insurance became impossible, so I decided to change course again.” Nowadays Lesley is a milliner.
“I’ve always been interested in women’s hats, to the degree that on my travels I used to collect head gear from the hill tribes in Northern Thailand.
“On a particular visit to Lady’s Day at Ascot a friend spurred me on, so in June 2009 I started using my original shop name, Coriander. I design and make some of the hats myself. The shop is going from strength to strength and I have now built up a regular set of repeat customers, besides new ones who say ‘Oh, this is just what is needed in the town.’”
After buying, the house so much need doing that Lesley and Gordon didn’t really know where to begin. Both thought it important to live in it and get to know it first, and the only certain thing was that they would take it back to the original fabric and how it was. “That is exactly what we did,” says Lesley.
This energetic couple then decided to have a four-year break before starting the next big push, which began in 2010, when Lesley and Gordon started tackling the attic.
“We are indebted to Carl Townsend, who besides being an excellent plasterer, is also time served and very knowledgeable with old buildings,” says Lesley.
“This is a lovely town to live in. Everyone is so friendly and everything is here. We’re so lucky to have the river and I now have a small boat on it for pottering around. I like taking my two dogs walking along the marsh trail from the quay and back.
“Gorden and I also enjoy Southwold, dining at Sole Bay Fish Company shed (No 22) and bringing home some really fresh fish caught from their own boat.
“Finally here, Baileys Deli, on a Friday and Saturday night . . . excellent.”
Opening the hat shop, says Lesley, has brought her great joy.
“It’s a new direction. I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to travel extensively in the past, but I must confess I am becoming increasingly intolerant of airports generally.
“Now this lovely house is finished, there’s also more time to play Mah Jong. I learnt the game in Malaysia and introduced it to The Swan House, where we played on Tuesday evenings. Out in the Far East it is a big gambling game.
“It is played rather like rummy, and the player with the highest score becomes the east wind. Very appropriate don’t you think?”
Lesley Dumphie, Coriander,
37 New Market, Beccles NR34 9HE
Tel: 07747 796796