Gothic style garden sheds made in Lytham

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 November 2015

Gothic shed

Gothic shed

not Archant

The world’s poshest garden sheds are built in a cramped workshop on a Lytham farm, writes Paul Mackenzie

James ODonnell working on one of the doorsJames ODonnell working on one of the doors

For sale: House in a Gothic style with many original features, parquet flooring throughout, stained glass, Victorian wood panelled walls with modern insulation. And it costs just £18,000.

The only possible drawback is that this house has just one room which is roughly three metres square.

It is a top of the range summer house – and this one will soon stand in the garden of interior designer Tessa Kennedy. Now 76, Kennedy has a client list that includes hotels such as The Ritz and Claridge’s and famous names such as Mick Jagger, George Harrison and King Hussein of Jordan.

After 50 years in the business, she knows just about all there is to know about design and her stylish new garden feature is the first to have been built by James O’Donnell in his workshop on a Fylde farm.

Kennedy – who hit the headlines in 1957 when, as an 18-year-old, she eloped to Cuba to marry portrait painter Dominick Elwes – was one of the first to buy from James when he showed his summer houses at an architectural fair in the summer.

‘The first house took me over two years because I was working on it here and there when I had chance,’ James said. ‘The fair went well though, people were queuing up to look inside and they all went goggle-eyed over the ceiling. The ceiling panels are copies of cast iron panel designs by Pugin, who designed the Houses of Parliament.’

Orders are now starting to come in and James aims to complete them in about 12 weeks. ‘I do a lot of architectural salvage work and instead of selling it on I wondered what else I could do with it,’ he said. ‘The houses combine original salvage, oak parquet flooring, mouldings and windows with reproduction pieces and it seems to be working well. The more salvage I can put in, the better

‘I have started with Gothic but I want to make them in Arts and Crafts style, art nouveau and any other styles customers want, then I can see what the demand is.’

James trained as a tool maker with Triumph Cars in his native Coventry and after 16 years living in Canada, he launched a salvage business with his brother. Now working alone, his workshop, on a farm just outside Lytham, is piled high with intricately carved stone, dark wooden panels and other pieces rescued from deconsecrated churches.

Most of the salvaged materials used in the summer houses come from churches across the north west – the encaustic tiles he’ll be using in the next one to be completed date from the 1830s and came from near the altar of a church in Wigan.

‘I buy the interiors of redundant churches and sell pieces on,’ James said. ‘I take everything, pews, altars, pulpits, lighting, flooring. I’m hoping to buy the contents of a church in Lytham soon.’

He now uses many of the pieces he salvages to create his bespoke summer houses, which combine the historic features with modern insulation and waterproofing. He added: ‘The next one will be a bit bigger – four metres by three – and it will have a porch on the front and bigger windows.

‘The customer can have anything they want; fireplaces, bookcases, whatever they choose, and they can choose the colour of the walls, the style of the floor, everything. The first one will be £18,000 but that’s cheap. Prices will start at £25,000.’

‘It seems to be going well so far but I don’t want to get too big – I’m 66 now, I should be winding down. It’s a bit late to have had an idea like this really, I should have thought about it 30 years ago.’

For more information, contact James on 07747 175719.

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