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Distinctive house has real room with a view; a house inWarwick with architectural features so impressive it warranted a feature in House and Garden. Jonestakes a tour of this most unusual property.

Byline: Alison Jones

"People certainly stop and it is photographed quite a lot. We have quite a few coming up and asking if it is for sale or will it be," The interested passers-by who have regularly knocked at John Ratcliffe's door over the 20 years he and his wife Anne Marie have lived at 18 Castle Lane in Warwick finally have their answer.

The lane's most unusual property has just gone on the market as they now plan to spend more of their time at their other home in France and are preparing to pass on their beloved family home to someone else who will appreciate the unparalleled views it offers.

The Ratcliffes bought the property in 1989. They planned to have a house built for them just outside Stratford-Upon-Avon and had rented a house around the corner from Castle Lane in the meantime.

"I used to walk past (the house) with the dog. I really liked it but my wife wasn't so keen..

" Then it came on the market when I was away and Anne Marie came round and had a look and just fell in love with the inside." It's quite possible they wouldn't have given the building a second glance a decade e rlier when it was just a derelict twostorey house bought at auction by Neil Stair, a lecturer in art and design.

He was attracted by its proximity to the castle and convenience for the town. The building itself, with its warren of rooms, tarmac yard and wooden potting shed all filling a rather unusual triangular plot, offered a daunting prospect for development.

Mr Stair called on architect Rex Chell to turn it into a striking three storey town house that still retained some of the original building at its core.

Mr Chell used old roof space create a second storey studio that is completely glazed along one side.

He also designed large balconies running along the length of the first floor and jutting out from the second. Unsurprisingly these bold architectural embellishments led to a lengthy battle for planning permission.

It was two years before objections to the modern white building with black overhanging balconies could be overcome and work commence on the project.

The results were so impressive they were considered worthy of a feature in House and Garden magazine.

"It was quite controversial," says Mr Ratcliffe. "But as time has gone on people have become used to it and they generally appreciate it. But it is a bit different and you either like it or you don't.

"I have always been passionate about architecture. I went to Birmingham School of Art and started studying it, I wanted to be Frank Lloyd Wright, but I don't think I was really suited to it. Instead I ran a recruitment business.

"I like the fact that this house looks very modern and on the top floor it is. Downstairs though it is all oak beams and bookshelves, very cosy English. "

The Ratcliffes have done little to change the house although they took some wooden bars off the windows and redecorated to suit their mix of modern paintings and older furniture and to cater to Mr Ratcliffe's fondness for books.

"Neil Stair walks past it most weeks and he seems quite happy with it," he says.

Though the shape of the property made it impossible to have a conventional lawned garden, there is plenty of greenery thanks to a courtyard and garden room on the ground floor and a roof terrace on the first floor.

The Ratcliffes are looking forward to spending more time in France, where Anne Marie's family are from and where they enjoy their love for cycling "But if we had to live here for in this house for another 20 years we'd be quite happy," says Mr Ratcliffe.

The property stands just 200 yards from Warwick Castle.

Most of the accommodation is open plan with a variety of outdoor zones in- cluding a rare courtyard garden and roof terrace.

On the ground floor there is a dining area with open access to the fully fitted kitchen and the sitting area, all of which have exposed ceiling beams. In the sitting room is the original rear stone wall and full height window overlooking the rear courtyard.

The stone wall is continued in the garden room which has raised flowers beds and tiled floor.

On the first floor there are two bedrooms and a family bathroom and an en suite which incorporates a wet room style shower. The roof garden makes an ideal spot for outdoor dining and also offers access to the shed/workshop.

On the second floor there is a third bedroom with an adjoining dressing room, which could be converted to an en suite, and a large L-shaped living space with full width floor to ceiling window looking out towards the castle and offering access to the large balcony.

The house is being sold for a guide price of pounds 795,000 by Knight Frank. For more information ring the Stratford-Upon- Avon office on 01789 297735..


One of the pages devoted to 18 Castle Lane in House and Garden magazine
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 29, 2009
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