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A barn conversion in Kendal with a Mormon link

PUBLISHED: 04:43 17 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:15 20 February 2013

Blackberry Barn

Blackberry Barn

An old stone barn, believed to be the birth place of John Taylor, the founder of the Mormons, has been lovingly transformed into a beautiful family home. Amanda Griffiths reports

Jennie Bottomley has dates and figures etched into her memory when it comes to the painstaking barn conversion she and husband Nigel have carried out in the Kendal countryside.

After reeling off date after date, Nigel and their two sons Sam and Jack look at her in stunned silence when she reveals that it took 2,930 plugs to finally screw down the new oak floor in the downstairs living area. It just goes to show that it's remembering the little things that counts, especially when it comes to your home. Even now, four years on, Jennie gets that wow factor when she walks in the front door:

'I love it,' she says, 'even now when I walk back in through the door after we've been away I think, I live here! It's lovely!'

Which begs the question why have the couple decided to sell (the property is on the market with Fine and Country's Kendal office)?

'The truth is we think we have another project left in us,' explains Jennie. 'We've done up a few properties in the past but always wanted to do a barn conversion. We took this on thinking it would be our last, that's why we've put more money into it, but now we're thinking we've probably got one more left in us.'

The couple don't know what or where yet, with the boys both living away, Sam is in the RAF and Jack is a snowboard instructor, Nigel and Jennie say the house, designed to be a family home is probably too big for them on their own.

Set in four acres of land with its own orchard and access to a flower meadow and picturesque pond, the conversion the Bottomleys have done on Blackberry Barn mixes tradition with modern values.

The middle of three, Blackberry Barn is not only the biggest but also the oldest, having been built in 1730.

'We get a lot of people, especially Americans, knocking on the door asking if it's true this is where John Taylor was born,' says Jennie. 'He was the founder of the church of the latter day saints which later became the Mormon movement after he'd moved to America.

'We know his family helped farm the land here and as far as we know he was actually born in this building and not in the farmhouse. In fact, the area which is now the office, bathroom and bedroom on the ground floor was already set up like a living area when we bought the barn.

'In those days they would have adapted parts of farm buildings as living quarters if they ran out of space so we think they might have actually lived in that part of the barn alongside the animals,' she says.

'We were fortunate that we were in the right place at the right time,' says Nigel, a joiner by trade who project managed the work on the barn. 'We've tried to put back in everything we took out, we reused stone and the flags in the courtyard all came from the main barn, in fact some of the biggest took four men to lift.

'We had to take out the original oak beams in the roof because they were so rotten but instead of putting exposed beams back in the roof we decided to lay oak floors downstairs.

'The lintels above the windows come from limestone gateposts we bought from a farmer in Sedgwick and there wasn't enough stone to rebuild the entrance because we extended the house a storey higher but we found some that perfectly matched from an old mill in Nelson.

'The internal stone walls are all still there, but because we wanted a smooth, polished effect we blocked them up with breeze blocks and plastered over them. But if people in the future want to expose them they can,' he says.

Despite the attention to detail when it comes to the older structural features the rest of the house is a modern delight.

'In some ways we were forerunners in our field,' says Nigel. 'All the rooms have speakers built in, which is quite common place now but at the time it was unusual.'

It's the same story with the glass walls that separate the main, family bathroom and the master bedroom on the first floor. Apparently, after coming up with the idea after a night out in Lancaster the couple walked into a glass shop in Kendal with their vision only to be told 'You've been watching too much Grand Designs.' After a long search the Bottomleys found a company in Liverpool who were able to do the glass for them, in an opaque green tint which considerably lightens that part of the house in a way solid walls wouldn't have been able to.

'The metal stairs are another example,' says Nigel. 'We like that industrial look. They were especially made for us by a local blacksmith at Pier One who makes all the piers for the steamers in the Lakes. They took ten people to lift into place. Again they were the first of their kind, I think while they were in his workshop he got three or four more orders from people who came in and saw them and said they were just what they were looking for,' he says.

'People either love them or hate them,' says Jennie who found them quite difficult to get used to at first, but for a different reason.

'We started the work on the house in 2002 and moved in on April 13th, 2004,' she says. 'The kitchen was in but we had no stairs and no main bathroom - to go upstairs we had to use ladders, but it was better than living in rented accommodation.'

By the following Christmas work was complete with the family bathroom being the last room to be finished: 'That was on Valentine's Day, 2005,' she says. 'I'll always remember it because Nigel hadn't let me see it before - it was my Valentine's present.' And what a present, the stylish bathroom with sparkling white, free-standing bath, his and hers sinks and 2,500 taps is any girl's dream, just perfect for relaxing after years of hard work.

Not surprisingly it's one of Jennie's favourite spaces but Nigel has other ideas: 'The best part for me was actually getting the road in and tarmaced,' he says.

'Until then we'd been driving and trekking through mud and stuff, to drive along the finished road and park outside was the finishing touch.'

All the hard work hasn't put the pair off, so do they have any concrete plans for their next project?

'Not really,' says Jennie. 'We've toyed with the idea of going abroad but we're not the kind of people to look at things until we're in a position to leave. Perhaps we'll build our own this time.'

Until then, the Bottomleys will enjoy the hard work they've put into Blackberry Barn including plenty of baths!

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