Shropshire grand design built without any drama

Malcolm Bennett's home is certainly a grand design – but you'll never see it on the popular TV programme of the same name.

Malcolm Bennett, right, and Janet Bennett, owners of the Garden House, Church Aston, with award-winning builder Mike Speed
Malcolm Bennett, right, and Janet Bennett, owners of the Garden House, Church Aston, with award-winning builder Mike Speed

His dream property, built in the grounds of a manor house, on the former railway line that once ran from Wellington to Stafford, has a host of features, including a distinctive 'boomerang' shape that follows the sun.

"In the morning, the sun shines into the kitchen and there is somewhere for us to sit and have our breakfast," said Mr Bennett of his £600,000 property in Church Aston, near Newport.

"Then, the sun will move around the house and shine into our lounge in the evening. There are also solar panels built into the roof. They aren't the ones you can see on the roof, they're inside, and they heat the water."

Although Mr Bennett, his wife Janet and mother, May, have only been living in The Garden House for several months, they say it already feels like home – partly because they lived in the next door Manor House for 35 years.

"When the railway was closed down it was bought by the people who owned the manor house, so when we bought the manor house we owned the land already," said Mr Bennett. "We now have a lovely view of the railway bridge from our house and a view across to the Wrekin."

Malcolm Bennett and Mike Speed show off the interior of the house and the award they have receieved for the build

The result has impressed judges of the Local Authority Building Control Awards, who recently named it best one-off house.

The awards have been run for the past three years by Telford & Wrekin Council and Shropshire Council to recognise the best local building projects.

About 80 delegates took part in a ceremony at Shirehall, and Mal Price, Shropshire Council's Cabinet member for planning, said: "The quality on show from all entrants was impressive, which shows that the future development in Shropshire is in good hands."

The Garden House's award was given to architect Clive Hewitt, from Alan Joyce Architects in Nottingham, who designed the property with plenty of input from Mr Bennett, and Mike Speed Building, the Newport firm which took the plans from the drawing board to reality.

"We've very much fallen in love with the house already," said Mr Bennett, who used to run car component companies. "We had no idea what it was going to feel like, but we absolutely love it. We decided to move house because I am not getting any younger and my mother, who is 95, can't get around so much any more so we have some space on the ground floor for her now.

"Also, I can't really do repairs that well any more and it's a 16th century manor house we were living in so it's not like I can get on the roof to repair it any more.

"Our children have fled the nest so we thought it was time to move. We sold the manor house to a young family who have three children and two dogs." Mr Bennett said the new build cost between £550,000 and £600,000 in total, and he tried to employ local businesses wherever possible, including Mike Speed Building.

"Mike was fantastic," said Mr Bennett.

"He was always calling me and letting me know how he got on. He was a pleasure to work with."

He added: "We have a lot of oak in the house from Venables Oak in Cheswardine, and also used local tilers and painters.

"The only thing we have to get from abroad was the windows which we had to get from Denmark."

Mr Speed, who spent a year on site, said: "The house is built in two halves with one part splitting off at a 45 degree angle. It was a difficult one to get right. It sets itself apart because of the intricacies.

"It was a challenging job but the workforce did everything right and the owner was very pleased.

"I'm very pleased to win the award.

The Garden House has certainly impressed everyone who has seen it so far.

"The conservation officer from Telford & Wrekin Council said I should go on Grand Designs," said Mr Bennett.

"But the ones they record and show are the ones with drama in, where things go wrong. I didn't want anything to go wrong with this."

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