Is this Suffolk's sexiest place to stay?

PUBLISHED: 11:54 23 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:26 20 February 2013

Is this Suffolk's sexiest place to stay?

Is this Suffolk's sexiest place to stay?

Julie Holden may have found the perfect place for monkey business. It's a 13th century annexe on one of Hadleigh's finest old timbered houses

Julie Holden may have found the perfect place for monkey business. It's a 13th century annexe on one of Hadleigh's finest old timbered houses

Steven and Kathryn Jowett nearly choked on their coffee when grandpa phoned to say that their holiday let, The Old Monkey in Hadleigh, Suffolk, was listed in The Times as one of their top 60 sexiest places to stay in the UK.

Described as one of 18 love nests to rent it was featured as a romantic getaway for couples.

I thought yippee dippy! said Kathryn, we were pleased to have helped put Hadleigh on the map. They were also a bit bemused as sexy wasnt the description they had aimed for when they restored their 13th century annexe, the oldest wing of their 16th century timbered house.

Steven and Kathryn are no strangers to renovating old properties. Painstakingly they restored three old houses before they moved to Suffolk. In 1994 they were living in Colne Engaine, north Essex but their young family was growing and they needed more space.

They fell in love with Suffolk; it had an untouched quality that really appealed and they searched the breadth of the county. We were getting quite desperate, said Kathryn, we had sold our house and we had to move out in four weeks. The Old Monkey was a pub. It was for sale complete with bar, all the old pub furniture; even the dart board still had darts in it. We never believed we would end up with such a house, said Kathryn, but it felt meant to be.

They have been restoring the house for 17 years and have completed the vast majority of the work themselves. I have a very simple view, said Steven.

The men who built and repaired houses like these were men of the land who have come in from the fields. If they can do it, so can I. True, but a daunting prospect for most of us! All the pubs in Hadleigh have two names, explained Steven. The official name, in our case, The Kings Arms, and a nickname, The Old Monkey.

The story they heard was that many years ago a monkey was kept at the pub. It is also said that a travelling circus stayed and could not pay their bill so they left a bear which was kept in a barred, upstairs room (the iron bar was still across the doorway when they moved in). Steven and Kathryn wonder if they also left behind a monkey.

When they bought the pub, the annexe was the kitchen and lavatories. It was in a pretty derelict state and too dangerous to go upstairs.

There was hardboard over everything which was covered in thick, yellowing gloss paint and greasy purple tiles. They cleared it out, made it structurally safe, and the children used the downstairs as a games room. It was only three years ago, with their children, Henry and Martha, grown up and left home, that Steven and Kathryn decided to turn it into a holiday let.

The bedroom is a delight with a huge vaulted ceiling complete with wiggly beams and a window that looks out onto the changing sky.

Their first job was to clear it of all the useful reclaimed materials and furniture that Steven collects.

Katherine pulled down damp ceilings and plaster; everything was closed up and suffered from damp and insect invasion. Their most unusual find was a World War II American Browning revolver, wrapped in brown paper and thrown into the eaves.

Steven wanted to restore the heart of the building and so strove to re-use materials from within the house. The oak door to the cottage was originally the door to the off-licence and he refitted a large leaded window which had been taken out of the main building.

Steven remembers paying the children to clean stone and bricks dug up from the garden.

I had to re-negotiate their wages as Martha was scrubbing like mad! and these were finally used for flooring.

From the stone and oak porch you enter the cottage through a huge oak door. The sitting room has stripped wooden floor boards that Kathryn cleaned with caustic soda and then polished with beeswax. An antique Persian rug gives a warm touch to the room.

The walls are limewashed in a soft yellowy buff that reflects pools of light from the vintage glass-shaded wall lights and the flames from the open fire. The room is simply furnished with a leather sofa and an elm armchair, a find at Clare Auctions.

We didnt want the furniture to steal anything from the building, said Steven, and so they have collected and recycled furniture and fittings. There are also touches of fun; a tiny secret door revealing a monkey and a plywood painted bell boy, one of a number of original pieces of artwork by Kathryns brother Rayner.

In the galley kitchen Kathryn chose a soft jade dead-flat emulsion for the walls which creates a fresh, 1930s feel. This complements the Crittal metal windows that Steven restored.

Cleverly, he also made the wooden kitchen units with a solid oak work surface to make the most of the space.

Period accessories complete the picture, a game hook suspended from a beam and blue and white china on the window sill.

The bathroom is Steven and Kathryns one contemporary room. We wanted something functional and hygienic, laughs Steven. So although he has a two-holed thunderbox squirrelled away they chose under-floor heating, and modern white appliances with soft grey walls.

From the sitting room the crazy, precipitous, original staircase leads up to the bedroom. Steven and Kathryn bought the pretty 1930s runner 20 years ago in Hungerford. The bedroom is a delight with a huge vaulted ceiling complete with wiggly beams and a window that looks out onto the changing sky.

The brass bedstead was a gift from a friend and the quilted bedspread was purchased in Debenham. Steven made a wardrobe from reclaimed timber found in the loft and Kathryn dusted down the sewing machine to make a curtain for it.

Outside, the cottage has a small, secluded garden. Henry laid a circular seating area with more reclaimed bricks from the garden and there is an old bench and table for two. It is a sunny spot to sit in with lawn under your toes, surrounded by plants and flowers.

When I ask why they think the Old Monkey is so popular, Kathryn enthuses about Hadleigh. People absolutely love it. The fact that there are butchers and a greengrocers they think its amazing. They say how friendly Hadleigh is and dog owners rave about it.

Steven agrees. I never thought I would be so appreciative of others efforts but the quality of the shops and friendliness of the people of Hadleigh it all reflects on us.

They also clearly care deeply about The Old Monkey, working tirelessly to restore it. Kathryn said: It was a building at risk and we saved it, saved its authenticity and added to its charm now thats sexy!

The Old Monkey is available to let through Grove Cottages. Tel: 01787 211115,

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