Simon Kelsey knew he had met the woman of his dreams when she agreed to “move in”, knowing that it meant sleeping in a tent in the garden for four months.
The woman in question, Catherine, is now Simon’s wife and she has bravely endured many other inconveniences in pursuit of his ambition to restore the home of one of Hull’s most famous sons..
Simon bought 114 Coltman Street nine years ago when it was a semi-derelict, vandalised wreck with deathwatch beetle in the roof. The once beautiful early Victorian townhouse, set over four floors, had belonged to fish merchant, trawler fleet owner and philanthropist Christopher Pickering (1842-1920).
His was a rags to riches story. The son of a tailor, he worked his way up and did not forget where he came from. He used some of his fortune to build almshouses, a church, the glorious 25.62 acre Pickering Park and a children’s home in the west of Hull. From 1921 to 1970, his former home became the Hull Children’s Clinic before being turned into five council flats..
“I’d always known the house and was driving by one day when I saw the for sale sign,” says Simon. “I couldn’t resist it and even though it has taken a lot more time and more money than I ever expected, I have no regrets. It is an amazing house that we would never have been able to afford had it not started out as a wreck.
“We lived in the tent at first and even when we moved into the house, it had no water, no electricity and no glass in the windows. It was a proper adventure and, fortunately, Catherine was up for it.”
The painstaking restoration project is still not complete, though a £50,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery scheme paid for new windows and railings, but it is far enough down the line to allow visitors, which is why The Kelseys are throwing open their door as part of the national Heritage Open Days event.
“Christopher Pickering’s house” will be open to visitors for the Heritage Open Day event, www.heritageopendays.org.uk, between 10am and 2pm on September 16,17, 18 and 19.
Some may recall the property featuring in BBC2’s Restoration Home in the early days of the project to bring it back to life. It has progressed much further and is now a warm and inviting family home with a host of historic features with the garden a real highlight.
For details of more historic buildings open in Hull and elsewhere visit www.heritageopendays.org.uk