Couple hope to breathe new life into Listed 17th Century cottage near Shrewsbury

Shropshire's "smallest house" – which has not been lived in for many decades – is to be given a new lease of life in a conversion to turn it into a holiday let.

Sam tries the view from the doorway.
Sam tries the view from the doorway.

The Den at Plealey is a rare heritage gem, a surviving husbandman's cottage dating back to the 17th century and Grade II listed as being of historic or architectural importance.

Rare survivor – The Den at Plealey

The tiny timber-framed property, which is said to have had as many as eight people living there in years gone by, was bought in April last year by Phil Kitson-Evans and his wife Sam.

"We have just managed to reactivate the planning permission to renovate it into a holiday let," said Phil.

"I'm a self-employed architect and we were looking for a small project as an investment that would be able to utilise my skills.

"As soon as we saw The Den on Rightmove we knew we'd found it. It's such a beautiful building and we really wanted to bring it back to life.

"Our plans are to renovate it into a holiday let. In the past it had been granted planning permission for this purpose and we agreed that this would be the best use. It keeps the building's original form and will hopefully allow lots of people to experience the Shropshire countryside and a piece of Shropshire history.

"At the moment our target is to get the timber frame repaired and the roof rethatched by the end of this year with the aim of opening for business in the summer of 2023.

"As for the history, we found out quite a lot from a Plealey Community Booklet (Some Photos of Plealey) that a neighbour was kind enough to lend us.

Sam tries the view from the doorway.

"It seems the building was last occupied in the 1930s. During that time and before it had a little lean-to extension that was a shop/kiosk.

"One interesting story was that a stonemason who worked on the widening of the English Bridge between 1925 and 1927 lived there, cycling to Shrewsbury every day. Someone also told me that one of the current Plealey villagers was born in The Den and that there used to be a family of between six and eight people living there."

The couple currently live in Lima, Peru.

"My wife is an English Literature teacher at an international school here. However, I was born in Shrewsbury and grew up in Telford so I know the area very well."

Phil is due to return to England to embark on the first part of the project, which will be building a new bat shed.

"This is to provide a new habitat for any displaced bats from The Den."

Phil planting a new hedge at the historic property with a helping hand from his dad.

The site is opposite The Forge in Plealey and planning permission was first given for it to be renovated into a holiday home in 2016.

An officer's report to Shropshire Council at that time said: “The Den dates back to around the 17th century, and is considered to be a rare, little-altered surviving example of a tradesman’s or farmworker’s cottage.”

It was described as timber-framed with red-brick infill, and a thatched roof which had been covered by corrugated metal for some time. It was of a simple two cell plan.

The Den, described as an important heritage asset, had been vacant for some time and had been on the council’s “buildings at risk” register since 1993, and the historic environment team was encouraged by the prospect of a renovation.

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