People often ask me when work at the Chancognie House will be finished. (For the record, my parents stopped asking this question years ago.) I answer that question with a smile and say, “Probably never.”
There is work involved with owning any home, no matter the age. Historic homes are a special undertaking, especially if work is done in a historically sensitive manner. There was no better reminder that owning a historic home can be a never-ending labor of love and well, labor than the Attingham Summer School visit to Winkburn Hall in Nottinghamshire.
One of the many highlights of the Attingham Summer School are visits to private homes such as Winkburn Hall. Our visit came midway through the course and was an “intellectual pause” according to Course Director David Adshead. It was a most delightful break in the intensive course as the owners, Richard and Jane Craven-Smith-Milnes, welcomed us, then gave us free rein to explore their lovely home and grounds for the evening while partaking of delicious food and generous amounts of wine. The couple were wonderful hosts and I admired their courage in allowing a group of 48 ardent decorative arts and architecture enthusiasts to delve into every corner of their property.
Winkburn Hall is a Grade I listed country house, built c. 1695 with few alterations having taken place since its original construction. The entrance was relocated from the garden side of the house and a new cast-iron staircase was installed in 1837. In the 1840s the original mansard roof was modified to accommodate a third storey.
In 1980, Richard repurchased the property which his father had been obliged to sell in 1934. The property was in a rather derelict state at that point and since then Richard and Jane have carefully restored the house and grounds, doing much of the work themselves. Winkburn Hall was the smallest house that we visited during the course and it is significantly larger than the Chancognie House, so I can identify with the effort that they have put into their property and admire their dedication to its conservation.
And they are not done yet. In addition to regular maintenance, Richard and Jane plan to restore the stables on the grounds. When will the work at Winkburn Hall be done? Probably never.