Restoration drama in Whitby

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A townhouse that spent 20 years as an eyesore now dominates the approach into the seaside town of Whitby. Emma Spencer reports. Pictures by Scott Wicking.

When Nathan Jones took on Thistlebank House in 2006 after his father’s death, it had not been updated since the 1920s. There was eight feet of junk in the basement, no ceilings, no earth in the wiring and a chronic case of woodworm.



Faced with that kind of task, it is perhaps little wonder it took him seven years before he seriously set about renovating the five bedroom town house which now stands imposingly on the approach to Whitby town centre and is fully restored to its former glory.

Nathan is the first to admit it has been more than a labour of love and there were times when he didn’t want to do it anymore.

He began with a few outdoor jobs, such as tidying up the gardens, creating a parking area and putting up the railings, before deciding to get on with the rest of the project.

When it came to the inside he knew what he did and didn’t want for the Georgian property.



The street where Thistlebank House stands is lined with similar, imposing buildings but many have been converted to flats or bedsits.

“It was such a beautiful building. So many others have been converted into flats and converted badly, I just decided it was a good idea to breathe some life back into this property,” says Nathan.

“In the future buildings like this will be rare because everything has been converted.

“If I hold on to it for 20 years I will have made more money doing it this way as a house rather than a bad conversion. It would have been such a shame to split the building up.”



An architect helped with plans for a re-design and the renovation started from the upstairs down.

He used a number of local contractors and got his own hands dirty too as every room needed gutting and re-doing. He used the basement as very basic living quarters, sometimes staying over if he had worked into the night.

Nathan, a crew member with the Whitby lifeboat, says: “We didn’t do room by room, so much as floor by floor but we started at the top because dust falls and that way you’re not working up through the bits that you have finished.”

He adds: “There was no earth in the wiring and nothing had been done with the house since the 1920s. We wanted to bring it up to the 21st century and keep as many features as possible but houses don’t want to be updated – they fight against you all the time.”

Nevertheless, a master bedroom suite was created in the roof space, complete with en-suite bathroom and amazing views across the town and up to Whitby Abbey.

Across the landing is a second open plan bedroom with dressing room and on the floor below are three further bedrooms and a period bathroom with traditional Victorian-style tiles and a huge roll tap bath next to the fireplace.

The centrepiece of the property, a magnificent galleried landing and staircase, takes you to the entrance hall which leads off to a games room, drawing room, dining room and family kitchen. Every part of the house has been ripped up and re-done in such painstaking detail that you would think everything was original.

Nathan and his partner Carolyn were keen to re-instate the true character of the house, much of which had been lost or hidden.

The original stone floors, under carpets for decades, are now on show and the original cornicing and doors have been renovated and replicated.

The original fireplaces were ripped out in the 1960s and replaced with gas fires, but Nathan sourced period replacements from eBay and auction houses. He also managed to find an old Belfast sink the same way.

In fact, Nathan was pretty much an auction house regular, taking almost a year to source furniture.

His best deal was the dining table, which he got for £100 after it failed to attract any offers on the list price of £400. Another find was the nine feet long snooker table from eBay.

Inspiration for the interior came from magazines and the décor is in keeping with the period property but also suits 21st century living.

Colour schemes range from tranquil and understated aloe on the walls, simple white tiles and crisp white linen to extravagant deep green jacquard prints and a striking china blue in the kitchen.

Nathan says: “I have overspent but it is a beautiful building and it seems a shame not to do it justice. If you do it well once, it lasts a lifetime.”

• Thistlebank is now a self-catering holiday home with a difference. Visit