I was never princess material. I’ve always been too tall, a bit graceless, possessing feet that were too big for a glass slipper. My parents wisely steered me away from ballet and into tap dancing when I was 6. Princesses might play harps or tickle the ivories, but my musical instrument was a ukelele (and now, an accordian). I suppose Disney could have had great fun with a tap-dancing, accordian playing princess, but that was never my dream. Thankfully, aspiring to be a princess is no longer in vogue (I’m looking at you, Meghan Markle), but my dream of living in a castle (in England, of course!) has never faded.
Where, you might be wondering, am I going with this? It’s no secret that I married my prince 20+ years ago and have been living a rather fairy-tale life with him since then. But there has never been a ‘castle’. In England. Or anywhere else. Til now. Dreams DO come true. (They also mature and reflect reality, but still….)
This past September, Prince Roger and I acquired a little jewel box of a ‘castle’. In England. In the Cotswolds. In the village of Broadway. My dream ‘castle’. (Okay, OUR dream ‘castle’. Picky picky.) After five years of looking and nearly buying, we’ve always skedaddled back to the United States castle-free and resolved to let go of this particular dream. Until last summer.
The village of Broadway, with its caramel-hued stone buildings, wide avenues, congenial pubs and horses-and-hounds lifestyle is nestled at the base of Fish Hill (is that a great name or what?), about 70 miles NW of London and 30 miles from Oxford. It’s always been a favorite of ours. On a sunny summer morning, we were enjoying a leisurely bowl of porridge at The Broadway Deli; Roger was perusing the local real estate listings as he has done on every trip to England since time immemorial. Out of (almost) nowhere, he announced: “I want to put down roots here!” The rest, as they say, is history.
My ever-surprising husband had already scoped out the local real estate offerings and made inquiries into a tiny cottage just steps from the village center. We were leaving for a week in Cornwall that day and couldn’t arrange a viewing but were able to obtain a mesmerizing brochure about the property which caused us to take leave of our senses and buy the cottage (and nearly the farm), as we drove along the Motorway to The Lizard (that’s the name of a town in Cornwall. I can’t make this stuff up.) (Please know this method of purchasing real estate is NOT recommended.) The rest of the visit to Cornwall is a blur (well, it was VERY foggy most of the week); we barely noticed the REAL castles we tromped through as we obsessed about the condition of the sweet (we hoped) cottage in Broadway.
Here’s the reveal:
47 Bredon Mews (a mews is typically a row of houses converted from stables) is the teensiest of ‘castles’ and it, unlike the glass slipper, seemed to fit this tap-dancing, accordian playing ‘princess’ perfectly. We rushed back from Cornwall, met with the current owner (the lovely Mrs. Violet Irene Taylor), took a ton of photos, exchanged no monies (because that’s how they do things in England) and jumped up and down and screamed a lot. Then we hired a contractor.
Craig Williams is the platonic ideal of a contractor. He took on the project (gutted the interior, moved walls, redesigned spaces, obtained permits (not in that order, obviously), communicated via email, made us laugh a lot and finished the project EARLY. He and Jo, his wife, live just down the road and we’re thrilled to call them friends. Those of you who’ve undertaken home renovations will appreciate this: our punch list at project’s end didn’t have a single item on it. Nothing remained to be done or needed changing. He had, in fact, added a few marvelous and thoughtful touches and still came in under budget. We’ve been looking into having him cloned.
Here are a few before and not-quite-after pictures (at this writing, the interior decorating by yours truly is not complete. I’m having too much fun sourcing things in England.)
At 634 sq. ft., the ‘castle’ isn’t much more than an overblown American closet, but in England, this is a 2 bedroom cottage and we’re loving every square inch of it. Now, if I can just find the muralist who painted this in a local ‘show home’ (as model homes are called) for our second bedroom…
Author’s note: I will return to actual ‘travel’ type posts in the near future along with the usual assortment of humiliating pictures of my long-suffering but good-natured husband. This time it was my turn to pose for the camera.