DIY SOS: Mixed emotions as Nick Knowles and his team help Shropshire family finish home

South Shropshire | News | Published:

The past four months have been a whirlwind for Joe Grafton and his daughter Lucy as their situation was transformed from one of desperation to joy by DIY SOS.

The BBC show, which steps in to help people whose building projects have turned into a nightmare, brought than 100 tradesman and volunteers to Joe's shell of a home in Hopesay, near Craven Arms, in February. The results will air tonight.

In Joe and Lucy's situation, presenter Nick Knowles and his team found a truly worthy cause.

The father and daughter had been living in a caravan next to their building site of a house for most of 2015 after a catalogue of tragic misfortunes, including the sudden death of Joe's wife and Lucy's mother Jessica at the age of 39 in 2014.

The following year Joe, 44, decided to dust himself off and get the house they had moved into five years earlier sorted, with money left over after Jessica's death – but nothing went to plan.

Kitchen interior at Brookside Cottage
Bedroom interior at Brookside Cottage


Nick Knowles leads the DIY SOS team

Standing in his now-completed home, he said: "I sank £90,000 into it, I even had an extra £2,000 put aside in case, and it just wasn't enough, it just ate it up.

"The builders were here from March to October last year. We hit upon snag after snag after snag.

"Between October when the money ran out, and December when the BBC said they were coming, it was like I was trapped – I thought 'I'm in a caravan and I don't know what I'm going to do'."


Joe, Jessica and Lucy moved to Hopesay while he was still working as a firefighter with London Fire Brigade, commuting for his shifts and returning home when he was off-duty.

The house needed work and was bitterly cold in the winter, he said, but they were happy enough until tragedy stuck in 2014.

First Joe was in a crash at work that hurt his back and left him unable to work.

Bedroom interior at Brookside Cottage
Bathroom interior at Brookside Cottage
Brookside Cottage in Hopesay

Then just weeks later, Jessica contracted acute leukaemia that came on over just one weekend and also developed septicaemia. She died soon after.

But Joe's fortunes, and those of seven-year-old Clunbury Primary School pupil Lucy, took a dramatic turn for the better when two neighbours wrote to DIY SOS and the BBC team agreed to work their magic. For nine days at the start of this year the small south Shropshire village became a hive of activity.

The huge outpouring of kindness and attention was overwhelming, Joe said, as he became something of an unwitting celebrity in the area.

"It's just surreal, a bit of a head rush to be honest, it's very odd," he said.

"I come from London where you literally know your neighbour next door, one side and the other, and that's it. Here everybody knows each other over quite a wide area. I wasn't allowed on site for it until the last day, but people show me photos and tell me about it.

"I walked into Tuffins in Craven Arms and I saw the Shropshire Star and and thought 'That looks familiar – that's my house!' People tell me the electricians were working with the plasterers behind them holding boards ready to put in place, saying 'are you done yet?' It just shows what can be done.

"I'm looking forward to seeing all that on the programme, because I didn't know about all that side of it, I didn't see anything."

He said the workmanship was high quality, not just made to look good on TV.

"They haven't scrimped. As you can see it's a complete transformation. It's a viable home now, it's dry and warm, there's hot water in the taps, the radiators work.

"It makes a massive difference because I've got a roof over my daughter's head. It's nice not to be under each other's feet all the time, because in a caravan you are literally just in one room all the time."

He said the prints from classic films such as Get Carter and Bullitt were his, and may have informed the colour scheme.

"The colour scheme was not one I would have gone for, but it really works and my wife would have loved it," he said.

"It's great, but I've still got my own problems.

"I'm still grieving, and it's a strange feeling to think that to get the house like this, somebody had to die.

"I've got very mixed emotions, it's just all very weird."

He said plans for the future were still in limbo as he was not able to work again as an active firefighter but was still negotiating leaving the service.

"Don't get me wrong though, I'm ecstatic that I got my house back and in such a beautiful way," Joe said.

"It's unbelievably touching, it was a deeply humbling experience.

"All these people who didn't even know me turned up at my house to do this.

"I want to thank all the people who were involved from the bottom of my heart.

"After the programme I'm going to put a statement out on social media – but it's finding the words," he said.

DIY SOS: The Big Build airs tonight from 8pm to 9pm on BBC One.

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