Antique restorer Ken Wood could barely conceal his excitement when he first viewed the former Three Mariners Smugglers Inn Museum, just yards from Scarborough’s seafront.
It dates back to the early 1300s and has a fascinating timeline of period features, from ancient beams, bracing and king posts to the original bar room, smugglers’ hidey holes and sash windows.
“To me it was one big antique. I had to have it,” says Ken, who bought the property 17 years ago with the intention of turning it into a themed holiday let.
Steeped in folklore, the old pub, which became a museum in 1918, had all the attributes needed to attract paying guests. There are tales of smugglers, famous artists and notorious renegades who supped ale, hid contraband and took sanctuary there.
It was also in a “near derelict state”, according to Ken and his wife Angie, who embarked on a long and challenging renovation project. The rare timber-framed property is grade two star listed and its fabric and contents are fiercely protected by English Heritage which kept a close eye on the bid to turn the historic building into a home.
“One of the roof beams was rotten, one of the chimney stacks had fallen down and there was no heating. We’d start one job and find three more,” says Ken, who did most of the work alongside his brother-in-law, a builder.
There were tussles between building control officers, who wanted the 17th century panelling removed, and English Heritage who did not. The Woods retained it and satisfied building regs by installing a sophisticated fire prevention system.
The couple were given consent to paint the panelling but had to use fireproof, intumescent paint that blisters in the heat leaving the wood undamaged. The colour added a bright. contemporay touch to the room but the paintwork had to be re-done as the wood, unused to central heating, shrank.
To create more space, the cellar was converted into a kitchen and dining room, and the old range that was in bits on the floor was put back together and is now a focal point. Before the work began, archaeologists dug a hole and found pottery and 14th century roof tiles made from limestone. These and other finds are now in a display cabinet. They include a book detailing sales of tobacco and pipes and a French prayer book from the 1700s, concealed above a beam away from anti-Catholic persecutors.
On the ground floor, the old bar and its antique settles were retained to create a cosy snug. The parlour, once used by bone setters to mend the fractured limbs of fishermen, is now a stylish sitting room. Upstairs, there are two bedrooms and two bathrooms plus a large study/third bedroom in the converted attic.
Ken and Angie grew so attached to the building on Quay Street that they ditched the idea of letting it and moved from their vicarage in Ruswarp to take up residence.
“I had an antique shop in Scarborough and once we got the Three Mariners liveable I started staying over. It got to the point where we thought we may as well move in.
“It’s a fantastic place to live. Although you are close to the sea, it is very quiet and tucked away,” says Ken.
Despite stories about the place being haunted, there are no ghosts. It also proved impossible to verify that notorious sea captain John Paul Jones hid in the attic after his American ships battled it out with the British at Flamborough Head in 1779. As for the coat of arms in the bedroom, it didn’t belong to Richard III, but to a knight.
“A lot of those stories were probably made up to attract people to the museum. It’s got a great atmosphere and it’s a wonderful place for parties,” says Ken, who has an antiques and art gallery on Scarborough’s South Street.
Some things are certain though. The building was originally on what was the beach before the street and harbour was built out in front of it to provide deep water for ships.
It was also much longer. The medieval makers numbered the frames and three are missing. In 1690 it was renovated and given a brick frontage and panelling with hidden spaces, including a priest’s hole. Someone also installed a window halfway up the stairs, which was perfect for checking whether customs officers were approaching the entrance.
It was a merchant’s house before becoming an inn, variously named The Three Mariners and The Blockmakers’ Arms. It was a favourite of eminent Victorian artists Atkinson Grimshaw and Paul Marny but it lost its licence in 1905, after which it became a museum.
Leaving it will be difficult, especially for Ken, who is selling the most precious antique he has ever found.
“We will never find anything like this again,” he says. “But we are selling to have one more go at restoring an old building. It’s something we enjoy and I am 65 so it’s now or never.”
*This famous 14th century townhouse is on the market with Cundalls for £375,000. It is a pebble’s throw from Scarborough Harbour, tucked away on Quay Street,
The accommodation includes an entrance hall and a lower ground floor living-dining kitchen with separate utility room. The ground floor has a snug with original bar and a sitting room with inglenook fireplace. On the first floor, there are two bedrooms, an en-suite and a house shower room. The converted loft is a study/third bedroom. Outside is a small yard.
For details contact Cundalls, tel: 01751 472766, www.cundalls.co.uk