Looking though the keyhole at Goosewell Cottage Thurlestone

PUBLISHED: 16:51 22 January 2015 | UPDATED: 16:51 22 January 2015

Where there was once an empty plot of land overlooking the coast at Thurlestone, now sits Lower Goosewell Cottage

Where there was once an empty plot of land overlooking the coast at Thurlestone, now sits Lower Goosewell Cottage

Matt Austin Images 2013

Once a humble, empty plot of land overlooking the coast, it was a combination of dreams, dissatisfaction and vision which created and finally brought Lower Goosewell Cottage into the Constantine family hands. Almost 90 years later, it still sits in the same lineage, with four generations of the family having holidayed here. NAOMI TOLLEY visits the property after a £60,000 renovation

Photography by Matt Austin

THESE views must be some of the finest in the county. A huge swathe of garden rolls down to meet Yarmer beach, separated only by the links golf course at Thurlestone. Almost every room in the property enjoys this fine vista over a stunning stretch of the South West Coastal Path.

Stepping onto the gravel driveway, you can almost hear the halcyon memories of family holidays hanging in the air: there are racks for surfboards; collections of seashells lovingly gathered outside the front door; and a special device for drying off your boots - all echoing family time spent in the great outdoors.

It is very much a family affair and one that has continued for four generations.

“My mother, who was born in the 1920s, continues to enjoy Lower Goosewell Cottage,” says Chris Davis, son and co-owner of the property.

The Master Bedroom boasts a super king-size bed and an unrivalled view of the seaThe Master Bedroom boasts a super king-size bed and an unrivalled view of the sea

“As a girl she played with her two sisters and three brothers and then later on saw my sister and I play in the garden and on the beach. More recently, she has seen her three grandchildren enjoy the house as she had as a child.”

It was in 1924 when Katherine Newton, who then owned Lower Goosewell Cottage and the adjacent empty plot, Lower Goosewell, started to build a house on the land. As the build neared completion she returned from the Bahamas to find the position of the new house was not to her liking or as she had planned. Displeased, Katherine immediately put both properties on the market.

Recalling the turn of events which led to his ownership of the property, Chris says: “My grandfather, Robert Constantine, who lived in Yorkshire with his family, had learned about Thurlestone from his cousin, Admiral Willen, and had rented a family house in the village.

“He was a keen golfer and when the opportunity to buy two houses that overlooked both the sea and a links golf course arose in 1926, he quickly bought both. My grandfather, grandmother and their six children enjoyed their holidays in Lower Goosewell, with caretakers and so on staying with them.”

The property has been in the same family for almost 90 years. Left to right, Chris Davis; Joe Davis; and Louise M. Davis - three generations of that familyThe property has been in the same family for almost 90 years. Left to right, Chris Davis; Joe Davis; and Louise M. Davis - three generations of that family

When Chris’ grandfather passed away in 1972, Lower Goosewell was sold. However, he left Lower Goosewell Cottage to his three daughters, Louise, Marion and Anne, and for several years each sister owned an equal share.

“A combination of children growing up and cheap overseas travel led Marion to buy out her two sisters’ shares and up until 1985 the property remained with Marion’s family,” says Chris.

“In 1985 they decided to sell the property and as luck would have it my father was about to retire, and he and my mother bought Lower Goosewell Cottage for £85,000 as a holiday home. They redecorated the house and added upstairs bathrooms, together with converting the garage into a third bedroom.

“Prior to my father’s passing he had thought seriously about selling the property as it was starting to fall apart, and this, together with his advanced years, had become too much for him to manage.

The dining section of the large, open-plan living spaceThe dining section of the large, open-plan living space

“My mother, my wife and I had slightly different ideas. As children my mother and I had both holidayed there, and our ties to it were probably stronger. We also all knew that if the house was sold we would probably never return to Thurlestone, something we would all come to regret. It was therefore agreed that it would not be sold but remain in the family.”

It wasn’t until Chris’ father passed away after two years of deteriorating health that his mother was able to return to the house. Aside from various builders making emergency repairs to burst pipes, no one had been to the house for two years.

“We stayed for two weeks in August 2013 and during our stay decided that renovation was urgently needed,” says Chris, assertively.

“The house was a luxury item and should start paying for itself, however it needed a significant investment. It had a small room off the living room which had once been used as a children’s bedroom, however if we knocked through a couple of walls, this would make a perfect dining room with sea views.

The downstairs twin bedroom, which used to be a garage until 1985The downstairs twin bedroom, which used to be a garage until 1985

“Following building approval our builders, who were friends, agreed to live in the house for four months, then started the renovation project in January 2014.”

Walls were knocked down, Crittall windows were replaced with UPVc double glazing, new central heating and hot water systems were installed, the whole house was rewired, and new en-suite bathrooms were put in. The downstairs bathroom was also converted into a utility room, as well as cavity wall insulations, new floors and ceilings, a new kitchen, and painting and decorating throughout.

During the renovation, Chris’ wife, Lana, took responsibility for all of the decorating and furnishings, clearing all of the furniture from the house, accept for an antique mahogany bookcase.

Beds were bought from John Lewis, the sofas and dining table from Harrods and Laura Ashley, lamps were purchased at Ralph Lauren, and tables from Belle Maison.

“My ambition was to furnish a 1920s house into open-plan living, while retaining the look, feel and charm of an English house,” says Lana. “Natural warm colours were used throughout with many furnishings in duck egg blue, with the aim to create a warm and luxurious environment that we and guests would enjoy.”

During the four months, Chris would drive down fortnightly from London to review progress and by the middle of May the house was complete. On spring bank holiday, Chris took his mother back to Thurlestone.

“It is a special place for my mother here. During the Second World War, a young officer was, for a short time, stationed in the next village, Hope Cove, for his military training. He was a keen walker and when possible would walk to Thurlestone, stopping off at the Village Inn.

“Little did anyone know but 20 years later this officer married, and three years later had a family, my sister and I. The house holds many happy memories for us all and my mother was delighted by the results of the renovation and loved how it had been decorated. Three years previously we had all been in doubt whether we would ever use the house again but following the renovation we can now not only enjoy it for many years to come, but also ‘let it out’ for others to enjoy.”

And enjoy it, visitors must. There isn’t a stone left unturned here when it comes to luxury: the open-plan lounge is a joy to sit in during winter, with an open fireplace, comfy sofas and plenty of books to read. There is also an electric Roland piano, a 46-inch 3D Smart television with 3D DVD player; Smart televisions in all bedrooms; as well as a kitchen complete with a range oven and Nespresso coffee machine.

But the real beauty of this property lies in its history, its essence of familial love and happy holidays with one of the finest coastal views in South Devon.

“As we drive down the high-hedgerow, winding Devon lanes, our heads start to crane as we all want to be the first to shout ‘I can see the sea’,” says Chris, as he remembers every time the family have visited the property - from himself as a child to the father he is today.

“There’s something special about this part of the world,” he adds, fondly. “The views from the house are simply magnificent. You can literally sit on the terrace all day and never get tired of admiring the view and in the evening, watch the sun set over the top of the golf course, casting every shade of red across the landscape and sea.”

Smiling and looking out to sea he finishes: “British weather, as we know, can sometimes be a little unpredictable. However on most days you can say with hand on heart that ‘there is nowhere else I would rather be’.”

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