Gallery: Kentwell Hall bids to be best

WITH its own moat, a thriving business literally on its doorstep and 120 acres of grounds thrown in, it must blow most of the competition out of the water.

Russell Claydon

WITH its own moat, a thriving business literally on its doorstep and 120 acres of grounds thrown in, it must blow most of the competition out of the water.

But now the nation gets to decide if Kentwell Hall, a restored Tudor manor house, has what it takes to be crowned Britain's best home.

The Suffolk mansion, situated in the picturesque village of Long Melford - voted in the top ten places to live in the country - will appear on television screens tomorrow as it battles it out for the prestigious title.

Normally making their living by being rooted firmly in the past, staff at Kentwell Hall are now hoping they can write their own piece of history on Channel Five's “I own Britain's Best Home” after it was selected for a shortlist to go to a public vote.

After Kentwell Hall was left vacant for more than a year, Patrick Phillips acquired it in 1971, where he undertook a massive renovation project with his wife Judith. The house didn't even come with a piece of furniture in it, so left the couple with a huge job to carry on the tradition of taking it back to a Suffolk family home, which goes back 500 years.

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“We have made the house liveable, which was the most important thing as it is our family home,” said Mrs Phillips. “The programme is all about a home, not a business that is run from a home. It is about the restoration we have done and how the house is today.”

From April to October most of the doors of most of the house are thrown open to the public, with bread, cheese, milk, ale and herbal remedies all capable of being made in front of people's eyes on site.

When they first moved in even their own living quarters were available for public inspection, until it became a little too intrusive.

Mrs Phillips said: “We live quite traditionally but not all Tudor - we have got comfy sofas!” she said. “We are no different from other people who like nice furniture, our private area is not like a boutique hotel though, as is popular at the minute. We are not fashionable in our style of living by any means. When we buy something it is because we really like it and it is then there forever.”

The driveway up to the house stretches about a mile long and passes over a moat filled with carp. The historic property also sits alongside the largest tree sculpture in the country and boasts a dove nesting site and an ice house - which the occupants hope to make the first present day one to store ice in the country.

Living at Kentwell is anything but boring, according to Mrs Phillips. “No two days here are the same,” she said. “There are not many jobs where people can say no two days are the same.

“It is not there is a slight variation in each day, there is a huge variation. The weather affects us and we work 24/7 - it is a huge commitment taking on a house like this.

“You cannot just say 'we are going to go on holiday' as someone has to take on what you are doing.

“There is a lot of things for children to do here. We know what children enjoy because we have bought four of our own up here.”

As well as catering for weddings, parties and business events, they also stage Tudor re-enactments where even the bins are removed to fit in with the time period. Some 16,000 school children descend on the house to learn about a bygone way of life.

Kentwell Hall will go up against two other super homes from 8pm on Thursday for the right to be judged in the grand final. The winner will receive �20,000 from the programme makers to donate towards their chosen charity.

Kentwell Hall facts:

Often used as a film location for historical dramas and period cooking programmes.

It is approached by a long avenue of limes planted in 1678.

Kentwell is a classic example of an Elizabethan E-plan manor house.

Building work is believed to have started in the reign of Henry VIII by William Clopton, who died in 1562.

Although the outside structure has barely changed, the centre and east wings were substantially remodelled by Thomas Hopper after a fire broke out in 1826.

The Cloptons held the estate until 1641, and are commemorated at the nearby Holy Trinity Church.

Kentwell passed through several hands until 1970 when it went on the market and was subsequently bought by Patrick Phillips.

The Phillips family pride themselves on not applying for grants to carry out work, instead using their own funds financed by the associated activities of the house.

The stocks in the garden are a popular attraction for school children who visit.