The house that Philippa built

PUBLISHED: 10:17 17 November 2015 | UPDATED: 10:17 17 November 2015

Suffolk home feature Beccles

Suffolk home feature Beccles


It took Philippa Drew 10 years to plan her dream home deep in the Suffolk countryside. But it was worth the wait. Words and pictures by Tony Hall

Suffolk home feature BecclesSuffolk home feature Beccles

I spend my time traversing the county to photograph interesting homes. Mostly, once I have an address and a good map they are easy to find, but this one, tucked away in the Suffolk countryside, down an unmarked track, off a winding narrow lane took me slightly longer than usual.

Philippa Drew was born in the mid sixties in Great Yarmouth, where her parents then lived. In the 1960s they moved to Beccles where they ran the Moby Dick fish and chip shop. When Philippa was six the family moved to Bungay, where she went to school. Her parents bought some land on the Flixton road and started a boarding kennels.

“We lived on site for 10 years in a static caravan,” recalls Philippa, “which I remember was so cold in winter. You could say it was a very gypsy lifestyle – as a child I wouldn’t have known any difference anyway.

“I loved that time, surrounded by dogs, and I enjoyed horse riding. Father bred greyhounds and was known locally as a good breeder. He regularly won prizes and cups with them at Yarmouth Greyhound Stadium. My parents then got permission for a house and father set up a business designing commercial kitchens, which was a great success.”

Suffolk home feature BecclesSuffolk home feature Beccles

Philippa had always loved cooking, so aged 14 she went to work part time with Tim Brown, who ran his iconic restaurant, Browns, in Bungay. When she left school her father suggested he set her up in a busines sof her own.

“I felt that it would be better to gain knowledge and qualifications first, so I started a course at Norwich City College, a two-year chef’s course, but continued to work for Tim in the evenings, gaining a lot of hands-on experience.

“Then to earn more money, so I could broaden my horizons and travel, I did weekend work for Mrs Sheldrake at her residential home in Bungay, which was good training in house-keeping and other skills.”

Besides the land on the Flixton road, Philippa’s father had also bought another plot with an old bungalow on it near Beccles, intending to use it for kennels, but decided against it. On Philippa’s 30th birthday, much to her surprise, he presented her with the plot as a gift.

Suffolk home feature BecclesSuffolk home feature Beccles

Many years went by before Philippa had enough funds to develop the site for herself. She did masses of research, and lived on site in a caravan.

“Being here,” she said, “I could see the exact orientation, where the sun rose and fell at different times of the seasons. The site was covered in brambles ten foot high, which I and good friends spent several sessions cutting down, rather like discovering a secret garden.” Feng shui, a subject Philippa is interested in, also played a part in orientating rooms.

Philippa took her ideas to Alan Stannard, an architectural technician from Halesworth, who drew up the plans for submission to the council. With a 100-year-old bungalow with a tin roof already on the site it wasn’t being radically altered, but after 10 years of planning her dream home, Philippa wanted to get it absolutely correct down to the last detail. Building work began in 2005 and took three years to complete, doing a little at a time.

“I did discover early on in my research,” said Philippa, “that the position of my new house is near the famous St Mary and St Michael’s lay line that runs from Cornwall through to St Michael’s church at Hopton near Great Yarmouth. I do think it has given my home a real sense of calm and well-being.” Building, went surprisingly well including the main curved support arches and timber frame. Paul Langford, had experience on church restoration and when the frames went up – made by him, by hand – everything slotted quickly into place.

“There was no big machinery used on the build at all,” said Philippa. “It was a case of man power, with block and tackle. Such a great achievement, using old fashioned ways.

“I’m very pleased I decided on positioning the kitchen as part of the main living area so I could enjoy cooking and be part of the conversation with friends around. This sitting/dining/kitchen area is my favourite in the house. Beautiful views, ever changing light conditions, excellent space with friends.

“I also enjoy laying in bed reading, with the French doors open, looking through the Juliet balcony to the countryside and nature beyond. This land before father bought it was owned by Waveney Apple Growers and originally had loads of trees, but regrettably only two remain. My current project is planting a lot of traditional species of both Norfolk and English apple trees. I’ve already started with Norfolk Royals, Morgan Sweet and Golden Noble. It’s my way to help rebalance the energy of this peaceful environment and site.”

Since 1999, Philippa has run her practice in holistic therapy from the Saxon Alternative therapy Centre in New Market, Beccles. She also offers advanced aromatherapy and reflexology, Indian head massage and she has completed an Ayvedic course in India.

She is very self sufficient, well grounded and creative, all skills that have helped her though what to a lot of people would have been a daunting project.

“However, I really couldn’t have done it without all the help and support I got from my family and friends. Without all that assistance, this would not have happened, so a big thank you to one and all.”

Philippa Drew (MICHT) runs her holistic therapy practice at the Saxon Alternative Therapy Centre, 35 New Market Beccles NR34 9HE tel 01502-717417

Latest from the EADT Suffolk Magazine