Captivated by the setting, architecture and an interesting past, businessman Mike Warren was happy to let his heart rule his head when he bought Tate Studies.
“I fell in love with it and the story behind it,” says Mike, who has written another chapter in the building’s history by turning it into a luxury holiday let.
The Grade II-listed property sits in the grounds of 18th century Swale House in Richmond and started life as a folly.
By 1800, the house was the home of James Tate, the charismatic headmaster of Richmond Grammar, and his son who took over the headship in 1843. They turned the folly into a study area for boys who boarded at the school.
Among the pupils who enjoyed using this space was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka the author Lewis Carroll, whose father was rector at nearby Croft-on-Tees. He arrived at the school at the age of 11 in 1844 and was there for 15 months before he left to take up a place at Rugby.
A brilliant mathematician, he was one of the star pupils at Richmond Grammar, which followed the Tates’ ethos of rejecting corporal punishment and a culture of fear, preferring instead to instil a love of learning in its pupils.
Swale House later became the headquarters of Richmondshire Council and the folly was used as storage until a developer bought the site from the local authority five years ago.
“I bought it from the developer as a shell in 2016 and named it Tate Studies in honour of James Tate and his son,” says Mike, who owns a number of Bang & Olufsen dealerships. “The location is exquisite. It’s hidden away in a beautiful walled garden that drops down to the park and the River Swale and yet it’s just a few steps away from the marketplace.
“The history and character of the building was also a big attraction. James Tate was an incredible man and managed to get a lot of pupils into Cambridge, where they became known as ‘Tate’s Invincibles’.”
There were stringent conditions attached to the planning permission when Mike came to convert the single-storey building into a two-bedroom dwelling with rooms in the roof, but he was more than happy to accept them.
As a result, the project took 18 months to complete and no expense was spared to ensure the building was finished to a high specification. There’s underfloor heating downstairs, topped with a combination of engineered oak and Egyptian stone from Price’s Paving in Snape, near Bedale.
Upstairs, Mike spent more than £5,000 on Victorian-style cast iron radiators and says it was money well spent. “They are the best and they really knock out a lot of heat. I remember the builder saying: ‘What on earth are you thinking?’ He suggested I put conventional white radiators in but I didn’t want them because they wouldn’t have been in keeping with the building.”
Describing Tate Studies as a “very special property”, he adds: “My heart started to rule my head when fitting it out but it’s been worth it. We get lovely reviews from guests. The building has been there for 250 years and I know it will last at least another 250 after the work we’ve done.
Mike’s partner Sandra took the lead when designing the interiors. She works for Barker & Stonehouse and had help from its creative manager, Claire Hornby. Much of the furniture and most of the accessories at Tate Studies came from the store, including the bed, drawers and wardrobe.
“Getting the bed upstairs was touch and go. In the end, it was sawn in half and rebuilt so we could get it in,” says Mike, who bought the pale grey, Shaker-style kitchen units from MKM then added an expensive granite worktop and a Belfast sink.
Altogether, the building, its conversion and fit-out came to £300,000. Tate Studies now has a kitchen leading to large, central sitting room with leather sofas. On the other side of the sitting room is a large bedroom with an en-suite shower room.
A bespoke oak and glass staircase leads to a new loft space, which houses a bedroom and en-suite shower room. A circular feature window gives a sensational view and the property’s original beams, which have been exposed, add character. Outside, there are patios and a large lawned area with a small orchard.
“This has been a labour of love,” says Mike. “I can’t see me ever selling this beautiful place and I may well move into it one day.”
Tate Studies is a holiday let with Gorgeous Cottages, www.gorgeouscottages.com