A Private View: Ben and Rosie Broad reflect on youth, adulthood and coming full circle at Hunston Manor
The siblings are bidding a fond farewell to their childhood home after residing there for more than three decades
- Natasha Levy
Behind the time-worn stone walls of Hunston Manor lie an abundance of memories. The 17th-century house was originally purchased by Ben and Rosie Broad’s parents in the 1990s and since then has been transformed from a state of “rack and ruin” to a cosy family dwelling filled with an assemblage of comfortable furnishings and treasured artworks. With Ben and Rosie preparing to bid farewell the house, the siblings sit down with Inigo to tell us more about the wonder of growing up there, their favourite rooms and when they hosted a “mini festival” on the surrounding grounds.
Ben: “Our parents bought the house in the early 90s and at that time Rosie and I were very young. I was five or six, Rosie was around four. It’d been derelict and unlived in for about two years and they undertook a massive restoration when they bought it, and in doing so returned it to its former glory – it had really fallen into rack and ruin. We lived on the very top floor of the house initially, which was the first liveable space to be completed, whilst the rest of the property was still very much a building site. I have amazing memories of walking down the little back staircase, through the big, long corridor and seeing teams of builders working away, plastering.”
Rosie: “And of them trying to carry a bath up the stairs! There’s this photograph of around 12 men trying to carry this heavy ceramic bath up the staircase.”
Ben: “Rosie and I used to ride our bicycles around the ground floor when it was just an earth floor; all the flagstones were raised to do some structural work underneath, our mum did a lot of archaeological digging inside the house. I have another vivid memory of these big pits in the middle of some of the rooms, where she was finding interesting bits of porcelain, old pipes and lovely bits of ceramic and teeth!
“We’ve lived here since then and used it as a family home. Our father died three years ago, and Rosie and I took the house on from that point. My wife lives here, Rosie’s boyfriend lives here, and we have a couple of great friends who live with us as well. I have a young baby and our friends also have a young baby, so there’s currently six grownups and two babies enjoying the space and making the most of it.
“We’ve been quite lucky really – “the commune”, as all of our friends refer to it, because there’s the six of us – has been a happy place to spend a very strange year with all the global goings on.”
Rosie: “You’ll usually find us in any room with a fire, and we’re spoilt for choice. The hall, which is in the middle of the house, has a big log burner in the middle. There’s a piano as well. This is the room that, in the past, we’ve never really used much, but I think over the past year with more of us being here, we’ve used a lot more. We hang out there a lot, but also in the kitchen of course. It’s an amazing kitchen for cooking and socialising in because of its size, and there’s a nice sofa around the side.”
Ben: “There’s a lovely bathroom as well on the first floor, which is a south-facing room. In the summer, or even in the winter, if it’s a bright day you can fling the windows open and have a bath, and have a nice indoor-outdoor experience.
“We’re very outdoorsy, any opportunity to be out there, we jump at it.”
Rosie: “There’s now lots of different areas around the garden that you can utilise in different ways. There’s a swimming pool, which is lovely in the summer, then there’s a terrace which is immediately outside the house. That’s an amazing suntrap; you can sit out there and have lunch, or breakfast, if it’s nice. You’ve got the back lawn which is more manicured, but further out, it gets a bit wilder and that’s where my dad’s big elephant sculpture is. We’ve also dug a fire pit; we do a lot of outdoor cooking, so we make a big structure, get a good fire going, and make a little drinks bar out there.”
Ben: “Part of the decision-making process was “is this going to make a good spot to have a gin and tonic?” [laughs]. We also built a deck over the pond at the front of the house and built little benches around some of the trees on the back lawn. Before COVID, we usually had a big party in the summer and we invite 100 or so friends down – this has happened for the last 10 years. It’s like hosting a mini festival, if you like, which is always quite a lot of fun.”
Ben: “The initial work that our parents headed up, which we were observers on, was huge. There wasn’t a lot of structural work necessarily, but there was an enormous amount of peeling back layers that had been added on over the years. In the kitchen, for instance, which has this lovely vaulted ceiling, there was a plasterboard ceiling flat across the entire room standing at about six foot two. But when our mum and dad discovered that there were these lovely beams up above, they decided to rip the whole thing down and open it up.
“Since Rosie and I have taken on the house, we’ve done more cosmetic work; we’ve done some plastering, but nothing fundamental. We’ve done a lot of work in the grounds; one of the interesting things that we did last year in partnership with the local conservation group, was planting 900 trees in an area that adjoins the house. It’s a mixture of lovely native fruit trees, oak, and yew. Within the next 10-15 years, it’ll hopefully erupt into this lovely copse which will ultimately enclose that property, which I think will be a really nice addition for whoever takes the reins.
“This house has soul, you can feel it when you come in here – everybody who even just comes for a brief visit, senses that it’s got a lovely character to it. I think that exists over and above what’s in the house; it’s the bricks, the mortar, the feel of the place and where it is. As a consequence, it’s been a lovely backdrop for a place to grow up. I’ve always been really mindful of the fact that we’ve lived here for 30 plus years, but that’s just a blink of an eye in terms of the overall life of this house. We’ve been caretakers of it, as opposed to owners. It would be lovely to feel as though whoever comes and takes it on for its next chapter is looking to enjoy it as much as they possibly can and get the most out of it, but also look after it and keep it in the spirits it’s existed in for however many hundreds of years.”
Rosie: “I’m just very, very grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to spend all this time here and enjoy this house not only as children, but as adults. Ben has gone full circle of being a child here to having a child here. We’ve got to enjoy it with so many people from our lives, they always come away from their experience here feeling fundamentally rested and almost like their souls have been cleansed because they’ve spent so much time in a very genuine house. Nothing feels forced here.
“Especially in my adult life, I think I’ve appreciated it more – maybe that’s just because I’m older and a bit wiser. I don’t take it for granted at all – to have been able to live here is a huge gift.”
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