This Tudor brewhouse-turned-des-res has the best views in Whitby. Now it’s for sale for the first time in its long history. Sharon Dale reports.
As he sits amid one of the most iconic locations in Yorkshire and drinks in the spectacular views, Dave Wright often thinks back on the “great journey” that led to the reincarnation of the 16th century ruin that is now his home.
His own solicitor strongly advised him not to buy what remained of the Tudor brewhouse in the grounds of Whitby Abbey.
It was a scheduled ancient monument and the chances of redeveloping it were “virtually nil”. Dave went ahead anyway bound by a promise he made to his friend and neighbour, the late Don Crampton.
After admiring Dave’s painstaking restoration of two historic cottages on Church Street, Don, then aged 82, took him up the 199 steps and showed him what looked like a hole in the ground. “This is a job for you,” he told him.
“He had been trying for years to get planning permission to develop it but there didn’t seem to be any chance. He made me promise that I’d do it and even stipulated that he wanted me to buy it from his estate when he passed away. Don was a great character and a lovely man. He lived in a converted chapel and owned quite a lot of old property in Whitby,” says Dave, who became the official owner of the monks’ brewery in 2001.
After its ale-making days were over, it was rendered and used as a water tank for the Whitby Headland in the early 1800s but fell into disuse in 1913.
English Heritage reminded Dave that there was no chance of anyone living in a scheduled ancient monument and he accepted it with good grace. Instead, he contented himself with going up there with his deckchair and “looking at the views and watching the world go by” until six years later when the guardians of England’s heritage sent a consultant to assess the crumbling structure that was on the “buildings at risk” register.
The expert confirmed it would be lost unless a use could be found and suggested that the only possible solution was residential.
“I couldn’t believe it. I just thought ‘wow”. I’d completely written off the idea of turning it into a home but the consultant even drew a picture of what he thought the property should like, with a glazed gable and a balcony,” says Dave, who submitted plans drawn by architect Ian Lord.
Conservation officers kept a gimlet eye on the project. Much of the original stone had been plundered and so Dave spent months trawling local salvage merchants to find anything that matched the original. His background in the building trade helped. He started in groundworks and now works for Tanks and Vessels Ltd, which specialises in stripping out old breweries. He used reclaimed oak from old beer vats to make a staircase.
However, getting materials and machinery to the site was problematic. Although there is parking nearby, there is no vehicular access to the brewhouse, so everything had to be carried down the metre-wide access route.
“I also had to have an archaeologist on site when I was doing any digging. There were so many hoops to jump through. I must admit that there were times I really wished I hadn’t made that promise to Don,” says Dave, a keen fisherman, whose main home is in Doncaster.
It took him three years to do the conversion, which was finished in 2010. He was hands-on and won an Angels award from Historic England for the craftsmanship and the attention to detail that Don Crampton had also recognised.
The original part of the brewhouse is still there in the basement of the two-bedroom home and on top is 21st century architecture that pays respect to its surroundings. The property, now reclassified as grade I listed, has eminent neighbours. At the rear is the Gothic Whitby Abbey, to the side is St Mary’s Church and the 199 steps. To the front are the rooftops of Whitby, the harbour and the sea.
The Old Brewhouse, which has two/three bedrooms, is now on the market with Dacre, Son and Hartley for £650,000. “The only reason I’m selling is because I am getting old and have health issues,” says Dave, who will miss his hard-won holiday home.“The views are magnificent. When the sun sets into the sea at Sandsend, it is an unbelievably beautiful sight I’ll be sad to leave but I am so pleased I got to build this place. I love the thought of my grandchildren looking at it and saying ‘my grandad did that’.”
* The Old Brewhouse sits in the grounds of Whitby Abbey. The grade I listed property is on the market for £650,000. It has a lower ground floor games room, which could be a bedroom, a shower room, utility cupboard and built-in storage. On the ground floor there are two double bedrooms, a bathroom and a double bedroom and a shower room. On the second floor, there is an open-plan living space with glazed gable wall and French doors onto a roof terrace with panoramic views. There are gardens to two sides, plus an outbuilding. There is parking for two cars adjacent to the visitor centre. Contact: Dacre, Son and Hartley, tel: 01845 574939, www.dacres.co.uk