One of the first and most successful co-housing schemes in Britain has grown into an idyll and now there’s a rare chance to buy a home there.
When Thundercliffe Grange came up for sale in 1978, a group of six like-minded families decided to pool their resources to rescue the Georgian gem and create a utopia.
The consortium of librarians, civil and chemical engineers, teachers, local government and arts officers sold their homes and bought the house and its 22 acres for £65,000. A business loan and a hands-on approach helped the extensive renovations and, as the conversion got underway, six more families bought into one of Britain’s first co-housing schemes.
The dilapidated Grade II listed mansion and its outbuildings, which had been owned by the health authority since 1950, is now 12 self-contained homes and the social experiment set up almost 40 years ago has been an unparalleled success.
Each of the homes is a separate dwelling that can be easily bought and sold on the open market and each comes with a 12th share in Thundercliffe Grange Ltd, which owns the building, the 22 acres of grounds and the communal areas on the ground floor of the house.
Residents, who range in age from thirtysomething to eightysomething, co-manage the property and maintain it, mostly by themselves. They meet monthly to talk through financial and maintenance issues and to organise social events, including Bonfire Night celebrations, a summer garden party and Christmas carols.
All households pay a monthly sum into their non-profit-making limited company to cover maintenance, water and electricity bills and social events. This leaves residents with just a separate gas bill and council tax to pay.
It all adds up to country house ownership for a cut price and it comes with an enviable lifestyle.
Jo Davison has lived there for 16 years and admits she will be very sad to leave it behind when she sells her three-bedroom first-floor apartment.
The property in Thorpe Hesley, which is close to Sheffield and Rotherham and within easy reach of the M1, is on the market for £350,000. Jo and her husband, Alistair Haxton, MD of Haxton Koyander Architecture, are moving to be closer to her son and to look for a property project. They are keen to find the right person for their adored home.
“We fell in love with the house and its grounds, the opportunity to play a role in keeping a historical place flourishing and the chance to live in a little community where neighbourliness thrives and people look out for one another. Moving here is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. We have so loved our time in this unique and magical place and we are looking for someone special to step in with an open heart and the desire to live a life less ordinary,” says Jo.
“Thundercliffe Grange is a very relaxed example of co-living. Nothing rules us apart from democracy and living here is as sociable as you want it to be. We don’t live in each other’s pockets and we don’t eat together every week like some co-living communities do but we help each other out with things like shopping, driving each other to the station or an appointment, looking after each other’s pets during holiday periods and we work together on the upkeep of the building and garden.
“That is why it’s important to find a buyer who is happy to put a little effort and energy into that. I have really enjoyed it. I’ve mostly done decorating and gardening but I’ve also learned how to use a cement mixer and I’ve done some bricklaying. My husband has learnt carpentry, which he now really enjoys.”
Since buying her apartment, Jo has sensitively refurbished it to create a beautiful home. The first-floor flat is reached via the a sweeping cantilevered stone staircase and the rooms have ceilings almost 12ft high, along with Georgian sash windows and shutters.
A grand hall leads to a sitting room, which boasts classic Georgian symmetry at its finest, three casement windows and a black marble fireplace. The dining kitchen has bespoke cabinets painted in Farrow and Ball’s Wimborne White and a vintage draper’s chest.
There are two double bedrooms, a third bedroom with mezzanine sleeping area and a bathroom with a roll-top bath. The interiors are so exquisite they featured over five pages in Period Living magazine. The property also shares use of the communal areas on the ground floor, which includes a grand dining room, gym, a snooker room, a drawing room, kitchen/laundry, a workshop and a terrace room leading to the terrace and gardens.
The stable has two ponies and there are communal storage areas, a further workshop and a vegetable store. The shared gardens include wildflower meadows, a hay meadow, ancient woodland, a kitchen garden, orchards, a lake and a Victorian plunge pool.
Many of the original buyers are still living their dream and still have the same commitment to making the historic house a very special home.
“When you drive through the gate posts at Thundercliffe, it feels like you’re entering another world – one of peace and tranquility, friendships and sharing,” says Jo. “Yet minutes away there are corner stores, a post office and a fish and chip shop.
“Supermarkets are a five-minute drive, as is Meadowhall. Rotherham town centre is 10 minutes away and Sheffieldcentre can be reached in 15 minutes. We also have Wentworth Woodhouse stately home 10 minutes away by car or via a lovely walk through villages and open country.
“We are very sad to be leaving our idyllic and calm oasis and we will miss the beauty of the house and gardens and the freedom we have to roam. I’ve got 22 acres to walk my dog in.”
*Apartment Five, Thundercliffe Grange, is for sale with Fine and Country for £350,000, tel: 0114 404 0044, www.fineandcountry.com.
*Do you love imagining what your dream home would look like? Whether It’s luxury or something a little more left field, join our Yorkshire’s Dream Homes Facebook group to find inspiration https://www.facebook.com/groups/Yorkshirehomes/