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Find peace in this Thorpeness family holiday home

PUBLISHED: 16:35 24 July 2017




For professionals Gillian and Kevin Palmer, and their daughters Millie and Izzy, a holiday home in the romantic seaside village of Thorpeness is a true escape.

Words and images: Tony Hall


For a couple whose working life often entails making critical judgments, how do Kevin and Gillian Palmer fare when deciding on a holiday home by the sea?

“Kevin had seen this recent conversion on one of his visits playing golf at nearby Thorpeness Golf Club,” recalls Gillian. “When we came up as a family to view, in August 2014, I had never been to the area, but instantly loved it. Naturally we were both really impressed, especially with the open plan living/dining/kitchen on the first floor. But the final decision was made by our twin daughters, aged 12, Millie and Izzy.

When they saw this spacious living area, their eyes went straight to the spiral staircase leading to ‘A Den in the Sky’. ‘Our own space to chill,’ they chorused.”


The property is a recent conversion of Ogilvie Hall, into five townhouses. The hall was a community meeting hall for the village and remained as such till bought by the developer.

It was built at the same time as the rest of the village, around 1920, by the Scottish barrister, Stuart Ogilvie, who made his money from the railways. He built the entire village as a holiday retreat, which included the country club, the Meare – a boating lake inspired by JM Barrie’s Peter Pan –and the golf course. When the grandson of Glencairn Ogilvie died on the golf course in 1972, some houses in the village that had been in the family since being built were sold to pay death duties.


Kevin’s family is from Yorkshire. His father worked in shipping, which meant moving around a bit. Kevin was born in Sunderland and lived there until he was five. The family then moved to Scarborough, and later to Chelmsford. After school, Kevin read law at Southampton University, then went to The Law School at Lancaster Gate, London. In 1985 he set up his own practice, with two colleagues, in Chelmsford. In 2010 the firm merged with Birketts LLP, where Kevin is now a partner and employment specialist. He is also an employment judge.

Gillian was brought up in Berkshire. She’s a locum doctor in general medicine at Colchester Hospital. After school she did a degree in psychology and sports science. With an interest in health and fitness she started The Exercise Company, and was fitness expert for the Daily Mirror. She later studied for a masters in cognitive neuro psychology and decided to pursue medicine at St Batholomew’s Hospital while the couple’s children were growing up. She qualified in 2013 and has worked part time for the last 18 months.


“So you can see, both Kevin and I need quality time as a family, hence buying this fantastic property,” she says.

As a keen golfer (he’s a member of Chelmsford Golf Club and has a handicap of 10) Kevin already knew Thorpeness.


“When we settled on this property, the obvious choice of house name was The Courthouse,” he says.” I am also a car nut, with two classic MGs, my other passion.”

“One of the first challenges,” says Gillian, “was realising that such a big main room would require large statement pieces of furniture, hence the big coffee table, dining table and clock. I started with the sofa, which is my favourite item. We all wanted a contemporary feel, but relaxed as this is a very social space, just perfect for us all. I spent a lot of time looking through magazines, tearing out pages for ideas.


Our dear friends, the Milsoms, who own contemporary hotels helped me. Geraldine was the first to mention big pieces and she guided me through the process with her extensive interior design knowledge, which was a real bonus. Without any doubt, our favourite room is this main room, very social, totally relaxing – a case of eat, drink and be merry.”

Millie and Issy love their ‘den in the sky’, their own special space. But they enjoy Thorpeness too. When they’re staying in the village at various times from August to October, they love boating on the Meare, and feeding the swans and ducks. Being sporty like their mum and dad, they go swimming in the sea, and play hockey or cricket on the sports field, and tennis at the tennis club. Everything is close by.


“Here is so much of an escape for us all,” says Gillian. “When we arrive, we park the car and that’s it till going home, we walk everywhere. We have a great pub, The Dolphin, just across the road, a mini-market, a cafe and of course the Meare and beach. There’s a sports field, for playing both cricket and tennis, and the golf course is great, as Kevin can testify.

Everything within three minutes from our front door. What more could you ask for? Although in the centre of the village, we’re very private and with a great space. We also like walking to Aldeburgh to look around the shops, a great mix.” As the Palmers are only in Thorpeness for quality time off, they have decided to let others enjoy their holiday home by renting it out.


“So if anyone would like to end up in The Courthouse, in such a nice seaside village, without committing a crime, it could be the correct decision,” says Gillian. “Judge for yourself.”


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