Historic building conversions barely leave a trace of their past life but visitors to Dalesend Cottages are left in no doubt about their original use.
They can still hear the clip-clop of hooves and are sure to catch a glimpse of saddles, stirrups, bridles and reins, even though the handsome 200-year-old stable block has been reworked into a multi-functional space.
The decision to convert part of the Grade II listed property into holiday lets came after Charles and Emma Ropner moved to Patrick Brompton Hall, near Bedale, seven years ago. The stone-built stable is adjacent to their Grade II* listed Queen Anne house and was in desperate need of renovation.
“It was in danger of falling down so something had to be done and we wanted to make it more useful,” says Charles, who grew up at the hall and on the surrounding estate, which has been in the Ropner family since 1958.
He and Emma came up with a radical plan to retain the original stables for their horses while converting the rest of the space into four “cottage” apartments.
They hired an architect to design the scheme but they project managed the work themselves and had help from a friend who can tackle everything from bricklaying to joinery and plumbing.
There are now three luxurious apartments on the first floor and one on the ground floor, and they all have an equestrian theme, which fits perfectly with the building and its impressive claim to fame.
It was once the home of jockey Billy Nevett, who is famous for winning the English Derby on Dante in 1945. The achievement has never been bettered and Dante remains the last horse trained in the north to win the epic race.
Billy bought Patrick Brompton Hall in 1948. He helped cultivate the gardens and entertained well-known friends, including George Formby.
“The horsey theme seemed very fitting,” says Emma, who has named the properties, Tack Room, Head Lad, Groom’s Rooms and Hayloft.
She was also responsible for the clever layout and interior design, both of which have brought rave reviews.
All the apartments have their own distinctive classic contemporary look and Hayloft, which used to store hay and straw for the stables below, is a stunning, open-plan loft-style space.
“I changed things as I went along as it became clear what was working and what wasn’t,” says Emma
Hayloft is a good example. The original idea was to have a wall separating the kitchen and living area from the bedroom.
“It just looked oppressive and you couldn’t see the beams which make the space so spectacular, so I had the builder make it into a small dividing wall,” she says.
It was an inspired idea, which gives the apartment a feeling of space while creating separation from the sleeping area and the free-standing bath.
The kitchen area is also beautifully thought out. It features a high breakfast bar with the worktop and appliances set lower behind it so they are hidden from view. A trio of oversized industrial lights from Habitat add impact and are teamed with Plumen lightbulbs.
Sourcing furniture and furnishings for four dwellings was a challenge. Emma shopped everywhere from Cox and Cox to Oka. Some of the brightly-coloured rugs were from WB Rugs of the World in Darlington and there are fabrics from Cabbages and Roses. She painted vintage furniture and “raided” the attic of her home to help dress the rooms, which helps to add character. Old tack, including saddles, were mounted on the walls of the Tack Room and there are paintings by Dales artist Barbara Braithwaite, along with pictures Emma found at a brocante in France.
To bring texture and interest to the walls behind the beds in three of the apartments, she panelled half of them in tongue and groove before treating them to a coat of Farrow and Ball paint.
The exterior space is something that Charles has taken charge of. There is a decked terrace and seating areas, along with a little bridge across a trout-filled stream, which leads to a wooded area overlooking meadows
It’s an idyllic spot and one that is perfect for the hot tub area that Charles is building there. It is for the exclusive use of visitors to the Tack Room.
“It just seemed like the ideal place for guests to go and relax and it’s something different,” says Charles, who helps manage the estate while staying hands-on with everything from landscaping to building the hot tub shelter and laying fires for the apartments.
Former owner Billy Nevett would have loved it, especially after a hard morning on the gallops.
“He loved this place, as do we. It’s very pretty and very private,” says Emma, who is enjoying her new role managing the holiday lets.
“I’ve tried to think of everything, including leaving some wellies out in case anyone has forgotten theirs,” she says, “And we enjoy meeting and greeting guests and telling them about the area and the house.”
Although Patrick Brompton Hall, built in 1703, is not open to the public, visitors will see why it has earned a Grade II* listing.
Each owner has been careful to preserve its façade and period features when modernising. Charles and Emma’s main contributions so far are restoring the stable block and installing a biomass boiler to fuel the heating and hot water.
“There was no central heating before that just open fires and hot water bottles, so that is progress,” says Emma. “The biomass boiler is in the stable too. All in all the building is very useful.”