Stour Coach House: All aboard! Victorian home with the feel of a railway station
- Credit: Archant
Property writer David Vincent visits a forgotten treasure in the beautiful Dedham Vale.
Stour Coach House is something of a forgotten treasure, tucked away at Jukes Hill, Dedham in the Suffolk/Essex borders.
In recent years it had been hidden away from people passsing in the lane by the heavily overgrown trees. It has been revealed again during its refurbishment. This unusual Victorian era home, once the servants’ quarters or the guest wing of the country house - Stour House next door - has been transformed into a modern home of style and distinction.
The striking red brick home is reminiscent of the grand railway stations created for what became the Great Eastern line.
Yet there was no railway station here at Dedham in Constable Country.
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The Eastern Union Ralway eventually built the line from Colchester to Ipswich - and didn’t go to Dedham.
It is a mystery why the Coach House looks so much like a station. Perhaps the architect also designed stations?
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It would have been for carriages, coaches and provided staff quarters.
The house has grand entrance doors which open into a vaulted reception hall/drawing room where a cast-iron staircase rises to the first floor mezzanine level, both a landing and a sitting area.
It has the feel of a station booking hall to it - to my mind the old style Liverpool Street station before modernisation, for example.
To add to the mood owner Richard Abel has some of his large collection of railway signs hanging on the brick walls.
Richard and Ruth Abel bought the house in 2011 and it has now been thoroughly restored, renovated and modernised in their care.
It was a big project, as it had been empty for 50 years, he said.
It is easy to feel you are in a former station that has been transformed into a modern house. We know that is not true.
Yet you could imagine a railway track alongside where the lawn meets the terrace, and commuters with umbrellas waiting for trains here rather than at Manningtree staton.
Stour House itself had a substantial 800 acre estate in its heyday.
The Coach House sits in about four acres of grounds and gardens with far-reaching views over the Dedham Vale.
The Coach House is approached by an in-an-out driveway, with electronic controlled gates that can be operated remotely, and with CCTV supervision as part of the full security system.
It is part of the high-tech advantages of this unique home, which included a hotel-style central heating and hot water system to supply all the bathrooms with hot water at the same time.
The Coach House dates from around 1868 and is not a listed building.
Richard said it had been in the ownership of the Ministry of Defence from 1920, and disused in more recent times, until they found it.
It is a mystery what it would have been used for during the 1939-45 War though Stour House itself was used for officers’ accommodation.
The Coach House of today has been re-wired and re-plumbed, the roofs taken off and re-roofed with original Welsh slate materials, as well as new flooring, modern bathrooms and kitchens.
Windows have been replaced in appropriate style.
There are two en suite guest bedrooms on the ground floor.
In total there are five bedrooms and five bathroom/shower rooms and a master dressing room.
French windows from the master bedroom lead out to the roof terrace.
There is a formal dining room, with access from the luxury bespoke kitchen.
All the rooms have tremendous character and appeal.
Richard Abel said: “It is very quiet and secluded here.
“It is lovely to have Dedham and all its facilities nearby.
“It is a big house, but not too big. We use all the rooms, every day, apart from the guest bedrooms.” he said.
On the first floor a special feature is the roof terrace, looking across the gardens to the south, with views towards Flatford and East Bergholt.
It would have been a perfect vantage point for a latter-day John Constable to sit and paint his landscapes.
Richard: “I like to breakfast up here every morning, even in winter, because it is quite sheltered and the views are lovely.
“There is no light pollution so it is lovely at night too.
“You can seen the estuary in the distance, and the lights of Ipswich further away.”
Richard added: “We have absolutely loved living here.
“Dedham is lovely and we can cycle to Flatford and East Bergholt in just a few minutes.”
The house is set within mature gardens and grounds of approximately four acres which include fine lawns, mature trees and hedges.
There is bluebell woodland and various outbuildings including showroom standard garaging for the cars.