In 2003, a valued customer, an imposing barrister for whom we bowed, scraped, mowed, strimmed and scrubbed in his little holiday château of only twenty something rooms, asked us to find a medieval house for a colleague of his.
"Not as big as mine, not as grand as mine and affordable from a refurbishment point of view for a man not as successful as I".
We kept our eyes open of course but we did not make any great effort, even when an austere grey house presented itself in a give away, estate agents brochure.
For several months the "ugly little grey house" as I'd christened it, was advertised for sale. We never even read the text.
One wet and windy January lunchtime Chris was flicking through the pages of a property paper and noticed that the grey barrack was still unsold. As I munched, he read, "Authentic Knights Templar etc. etc.". To kill time on a vile day I telephoned the agent with our "legal eagle" in mind.
The agent enthused to show us "A house with many authentic features" as soon as we could cover the 25 miles between home and the hovel.
We knew as we drove up the lane that the building we were looking at was special. On crossing the threshold into the Serpentine flagstone floored Guard Room we were breath taken by the understated and awed by the almost invisible.
The hewn granite fireplace, its arch towering over us, the proportions of the fabric of a house no bigger in land area than our small farmhouse and barn conversion, were awe inspiring. A vaulted cellar with stone steps winding underground. A spring welling into a granite basin in the far corner of that same cellar. A ramp staircase winding in a series of half landings and landings around a newel wall; its treads and risers in fact huge beams, set corner to corner as they rise through the house. Thirteen meurtriers (arrow loops) set into its walls. A "Latrine" (thunderbox, loo etc.) built into the thickness of the walls. The soaring beam work in the high 62° pitched roof with Pigeonnier (split pigeon loft/dovecote) built into the apex of the central chimney wall.
We forgot about the plea for the defence and our call to serve the well healed barrister.
We went home in a state of great excitement and agitation to consider the prospects for us becoming the owners, guardians, restorers and occupiers and to tread ground that had not been trod since the Knights had looked out over "Rupus Sancti Pauli " so many hundred years before.
Ordinary little people who scratch the soil and tug their forelocks to their customers in order to carve a meagre living out of life are not normally destined to be owners of historic buildings are they?