Through the keyhole: This Dartmoor dental surgery has been transformed into a gorgeous home

PUBLISHED: 11:53 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:26 07 July 2020

Cromwell House is a handsome house in the heart of Bovey Tracey. Photo: Steve Haywood

Cromwell House is a handsome house in the heart of Bovey Tracey. Photo: Steve Haywood

Archant

Walls brightened by Liberty print fabrics, personalised colour schemes and modern country styling bring life to Linda and David Bassett’s Bovey Tracey hideaway.

Carefully selected eye-catching pictures, signs, artwork and more grace shelves and walls. Photo: Steve HaywoodCarefully selected eye-catching pictures, signs, artwork and more grace shelves and walls. Photo: Steve Haywood

Linda Bassett has travelled the world and spent nearly 35 years building a successful teaching career in Cheshire. But now she’s well and truly home.

In 2018, she and husband David bought Cromwell House in the heart of Bovey Tracey, the place where Linda was born and raised.

A deep connection to the area and this house – once the town’s dental surgery – inspired Linda and David to transform the run-down, centuries-old building into a carefully curated extension of their life and loves.

Clever crafter and sewer Linda has displayed some of her work in the houseClever crafter and sewer Linda has displayed some of her work in the house

Passionate ‘stitcher’ Linda’s beloved Liberty print fabrics adorn the walls and sofas. Carefully personalised colour schemes brighten every room and beautifully hand-sewn artwork hangs next to paintings, pictures and quirky signs.

To think this friendly and eclectic home was once so, well, clinical.

“You can see the old dental surgery, which is now our boot room,” says Linda. “Look - my dad would have sat in the chair that was just here and all along here were these handmade cupboards. One even had a Bunsen burner in, used for sterilising equipment. And the other day, I actually found an old dental crown buried in the back garden!”

Clever sliding barn doors separate the homely kitchen from the living area. Photo: Steve HaywoodClever sliding barn doors separate the homely kitchen from the living area. Photo: Steve Haywood

Linda is a proud ‘Bovey maid’ and remembers the house and neighbourhood well. She went to the primary school next door, where she first learnt to sew. The families that lived across the road still live across the road. In fact, some of the neighbours vividly remember the inside of Cromwell House – particularly the view of the downstairs ceiling from the discomfort of the dentist’s chair.

“Some of them have been round to have a look and they love coming in to look at what was the torture chamber,” says Linda, 63, laughing, adding that this is her ‘dream-come-true house’, in spite of what these walls might have seen.

“Oh, what! Yes! I just adore it. This is my forever home.”

The cosy country-style kitchen has a hand-painted dresser and pantry area. Photo: Steve HaywoodThe cosy country-style kitchen has a hand-painted dresser and pantry area. Photo: Steve Haywood

Linda, hands deep in the pockets of her fabulously flouncy hand-sewn blue and white dress, actually seems to float around the place, as she describes how she got here.

“It was just unbelievable,” she says. “One of my friends said to me, Linda, it was just meant to be.”

Linda loves spending time in her ‘stitchery’. Photo: Steve HaywoodLinda loves spending time in her ‘stitchery’. Photo: Steve Haywood

Read more: a peek inside Strode House in Plymouth

Born in Bovey Tracey, Linda moved away to Cheshire in 1979 to be with husband David where she worked as a teacher for more than three decades, often dealing with troubled youngsters and children with special needs.

Linda and David have transformed Cromwell House into their perfect home. Photo: Steve HaywoodLinda and David have transformed Cromwell House into their perfect home. Photo: Steve Haywood

She came back to Bovey to visit her mother occasionally, but it was in 2013 that a seed was sown.

“I’d resigned from my job and had got into stitching again, because that’s my thing,” says Linda. “We came down the Bovey Tracey Craft Festival in our motor home and camped. But instead of just buying a little ceramic cottage, we bought a real one!”

Linda is referring to the tiny, ancient cottage attached to the back of Cromwell House and thought to have built before the larger building.

Linda and David, 67, lived there for six years, dividing their time between Bovey and their home in Cheshire.

Then Cromwell House came up for sale. But it was too expensive. Then the price dropped. Then, says Linda, it all fell into place: “David and I were in France on holiday and a friend rang to say the price had gone down. So, we came home from France and decided to buy the house. We sold our house in Cheshire in three days, moved into the cottage, put our furniture in storage and the builders moved in next door for a year,” she says, insisting I stop her if I need to catch up.

“I just fell back in love with Bovey again,” says Linda. “This place just dragged us – it’s your roots, isn’t it?”

Cromwell House needed starting again inside, but the couple already knew that, after living next door for so long.

The biggest task they and the building team faced was making the house watertight. All the walls had to be properly insulated, making each room about six inches smaller. They also had to raise the roof in one section.

However, the footprint inside remains as it was. The couple didn’t want to knock down walls – just tweak what was there. The result is a wonderful, rambling yet intricate house with different rooms for different moods.

Linda sourced her striking black and white, distressed looking tiles from Artisan Abode in Bovey Tracey. They are made from modern materials but made to look original – a theme running throughout the house.

“That’s the most satisfying thing for me,” says Linda. “I love the fact we’ve restored the building so it’s like a modern house but a lot of the old features are left. When you go upstairs, you can still see all of the old beams.”

Linda has her ‘zen room’, a quiet place to sit and sew (with no telly). There is a cosy country-style kitchen, which can be closed off from the sitting room with sliding, barn-style wooden doors. Upstairs – and this is the best bit – Linda has created a huge sewing studio.

“This is my stitchery,” she says, beaming. This room is such a lovely, calming place. “I know. And calm? With me? The two don’t normally go together!”

Former deputy headteacher Linda, who admits she does everything at ‘200 per cent’ says she suffered a ‘meltdown’, in 2011 that changed her forever - in a good way.

“I was really unwell but I came back - I call it from the dark side - a different person,” she says. “I don’t let things get on top of me now like I know I would have done.”

This new-found resilience, is, says Linda, what allowed her to take on such an enormous project, with all the stresses that can bring. Instead, coming back home to restore and live in Cromwell House has been a sort of therapy.

“We are so proud of what we have achieved here,” she says. “It was just absolutely meant to be.”

David was the project manager during the restoration, working together with Rick Dunn of Abbotskerswell-based building firm, Dunn’s Building Services .

“David worked so hard in Cromwell House,” says Linda. “He was the project manager, in with the builders every day and after they had left. I got to do the nice bits, i.e. choosing the colours etc.”

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