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Victorian treasure that's out of the ordinary

By This is Lincolnshire  |  Posted: June 30, 2010

Looking across the lake and paddocks to The Old Rectory in Linwood, near Market Rasen

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Architect James Fowler, of Louth, was a prolific designer and restorer of Lincolnshire churches in the Victorian era. In the Louth area itself, he is associated with a great many, including those at Yarborough and Ludford Magna.

In addition he installed floor tiles at St James's Church and at St Michael and All Angels.

Around the county, the list is just as impressive – St Mary's at Claxby, St Martin's at Waithe and St Thomas's at Market Rasen all bear his hallmarks, while Louth Grammar School and De Aston School in Market Rasen fell into his remit.

It is noticeable, though, that among all the many fine structures associated with Fowler, there is little mention of houses. Yet at Linwood, near Market Rasen, there is a most striking example of his expertise – a residence built to replace a thatched mud-and-stud rectory that had stood on the site since the 1600s .

The arched windows, the line of dark bricks and his trademark red, cream and black tiles all put the Fowler stamp on a building that was funded by the Queen Anne Bounty, a fund set up to restore church properties whose incumbents had only small livings.

To describe The Old Rectory at Linwood as substantial would be stating the obvious, and it would certainly have made a comfortable home for the rectors of St Cornelius's Church, which is just a short walk away.

It is believed that it continued as a rectory until World War II, but since then it has had something of a chequered history. After the war, it was owned by a Polish family who reputedly drove their tractor to Market Rasen to do their shopping. Rooms were converted into bed-sits and rented out to prisoners-of-war who had stayed here and for many years it was known as a "rooming house".

Then it was bought by a local vet who restored many of the rooms before,12 years ago, it became the home of Loui and Helen Burke and their family.

The Old Rectory is surrounded by seven acres of land – about two acres of garden and the remainder rented out. And it is over this paddock and its small lake that the bay window in the drawing room looks out.

This is a big enough window to sit in and enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the wildlife, which includes pheasants, moorhens and muntjac deer. The whole room is homely and restful with a wood-burning stove in the fireplace and the first of many attractive corniced ceilings.

Here, too, are those distinctive shutters that pull up from the bottom of the frame, rather than down.

The drawing room is to the right of the Minton-tiled hall – not the original flooring, but a close replica – and behind it is the large dining room which, like many of the rooms, has an open working fireplace and again those lovely views through huge arched windows over the fields and the garden.

On the left of the hall is a family room which, like all the rooms on this floor, is well-used, while across the end of the hall is a good-sized study which once would also have looked over the garden.

It is easy to imagine a clergyman sitting here and gazing out of his window as he contemplated his weekly sermon.

Behind the family room is the kitchen/breakfast room, which Loui and Helen have refitted in farmhouse style but with a range cooker instead of an AGA. While this was going on, the couple took the opportunity to have the ceiling lowered, enabling all the ducting to be placed above it.

From here, an archway gives access to what would once have been a separate passageway, but which now leads to a beautiful conservatory – which is the reason that the study no longer overlooks the garden.

There are doors onto a terrace, though sitting in the conservatory itself is almost like sitting in the garden and this is where the family spends most summer evenings.

Back to the kitchen, and behind this is even more space in the form of a snug – once presumably the scullery – a large pantry with the original Fowler red, black and cream Victorian flooring, a utility room with a toilet behind and of course, the inevitable servants' staircase that goes up from the snug.

It is interesting to have a look outside the back door as there is a kind of "cubby hole" which would once have been the entrance into the passage that now leads to the conservatory.

This, you would think, would be ample for the ground floor, but still there's more. A rear lobby leads to another reception room, once a cart shed but now a music room, in which there are most unusual upright radiators, sourced after much searching to fit between the long windows.

And from here a door opens into a one-bedroomed annexe, known as The Old Rectory Cottage, with two further rooms, one incorporating a kitchen area. The bedroom is en-suite, and there is also a separate wc. This area could easily be closed off to make self-contained business or living accommodation.

Back in the main house, upstairs, there is also ample accommodation provided by a very big landing, with three double and one single bedroom, as well as a master bedroom suite which boasts his and hers dressing rooms and a sizeable en-suite with a bath and separate shower cubicle.

On the opposite side of the landing are two of the other bedrooms and there is also a wc with hand basin, while the remaining two bedrooms and the family bathroom are reached along a rear landing, which has access from the back staircase.

Outside, one major alteration has been the conversion of former stabling into a triple garage and in the garden is further evidence of the work that Loui and Helen have done – the lovely, intricate, wrought iron gate that separates the garden from the paddock and the path to the church was made by Loui.

To reach this, you pass a pond and pergola and further round, between the house and the church boundary, is a huge expanse of lawn and trees. All around the house are attractive features amid lawns, mature trees and shrubs.

Linwood is a Domesday village and in the 1860s would have been far bigger than it is today, with at least three farms between the church, which was – and still is – moated and what today is the main part of the village.

Today, it is much smaller, but has easy access to Market Rasen, just two miles away, and from there the rail link to Lincoln and Newark and on to London.

Helen describes their home as "a friendly house" but with their children grown up, the couple are now embarking on something of an adventure – they are emigrating to Australia.

What they are leaving behind is definitely not a typical Lincolnshire Victorian rectory but something rather different – which is what James Fowler undoubtedly intended.

The Old Rectory, Linwood, Market Rasen is for sale through Chesterton Humberts (tel: 01522 546444) at £750,000.

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