The discovery of Baytree Cottage was a truly wonderful find for Alan and Beverley Forrest. Looking at an original photograph from the early-1900s, it is hard to believe that the newsagents, which operated from one half of the cottage and a dairy in the other, is now a complete and glorious home. Beverley and Alan had the sheer luck of coming across Baytree six years ago. "We were looking in this area for a while but when we saw this cottage we fell in love with it straightaway and knew that our existing antique furniture and collectables would fit in perfectly. Also, the house is right in the heart of the village and close walking distance to the sea which is great for exercising our dog Leo," says Alan.
The house, originally built in 1550, was inherited from a local 'master builder', the late Jack Eschbaecher. He purchased the site in 1947 primarily for the builders' yard which lay at the rear of the cottage. The building was, during the next two years, sympathetically refurbished, modernised and extended to form a family home. Jack made all the windows as well as a new, easier going staircase constructed at the north end of the lean-to, with elm treads and risers. This provided a landing area to give access to two of the three existing bedrooms and to the first floor of the new extension.
The original structure, which can still be seen on some internal walls, was oak framed with the panels within the framing in-filled with windows and brick externally and wattle and daub internally. "It was built like a fort!" says Alan.
"And as Jack was such a perfectionist, anything he added was made to a similarly high standard."
Jack was a well-known character within the Sussex village and gave a tremendous amount of time and interest to the community. He was famous for having his own 'museum' of artefacts and pieces including Roman relics, tiles and tools which were collected over the years. The majority of these have recently been sold on to Worthing Museum.
When Beverley and Alan bought Baytree, they really just had cosmetic work to do. "The decor was pretty dated, and the kitchen was 1950s style so we fitted new cupboards, painted in cream, removed the tile effect wallpaper and replaced it with fresh white paint," says Beverley. To complement Beverley's blue and white china collection of over 20 years, Delft tiles were placed above the Aga which although original, was re-enamelled and converted to gas from solid fuel by Sussex Stoves.
The lino floor, although practical for Jack who was then in his eighties, was replaced with Venetian marble tiles. Ironically the only 50s feature now in the kitchen is an original fridge, which Alan obtained through contacts in his business of advertising. He also acquired a 1946 jukebox which handsomely stands in a recess where a bread oven used to be in the hallway. "It plays old 78s," Beverley says, adding "every time Alan comes downstairs in the morning to make a cup of tea, on it goes - always Elvis!"
Taking into consideration the dark-oak beams and heavy furniture, Beverley chose a calm, pale colour palette to decorate the house. Light colours maximise the space and as the ceilings are low, the main light source comes from wall lights. The sitting room and study were an exception; Beverley chose pretty toile de jouy wallpaper from Laura Ashley toning with a vibrant raspberry carpet creating a warm, cosy environment. In the study there is a wall mural painted on the wattle and daub infilling believed to be a quote from one of the Psalms and surrounding the text is one of the original wall decorations. "All of this was hidden behind layers of wall finishes applied by subsequent generations, but fortunately it is now framed in a glass cabinet and on full view," says Alan.
Beverley makes home-making seem quite effortless and has a knack of making rooms look both relaxed and elegant. The thought and care with which she displays groups of her favourite collectables; blue and white china, antique dolls, textiles and glassware, is evident throughout the house and her artistic eye doesn't mean she always has to spend a fortune on furnishing fabrics. "The crewelwork curtains in the spare bedroom and the lace bedspread in the blue bedroom were both from Oxfam," she says. "And the gingham lining fabric for the kitchen curtains and seat covers was school dress material!" Again, her artistry shows with the clever idea of wallpapering a small antique screen in matching toile to use as an enclosed headboard in the blue bedroom. An eye for detail and a love of antiques has enabled Beverley to indulge in her passion of spending time at antique fairs and flea markets. "I'll happily spend hours rummaging through old boxes and sifting through stalls, but I think the doll collecting must stop now - it's too expensive!" she laughs.
Walking up the beautiful elm stairs made by Jack above the semi-landing is a dramatic arched window framed by magnificent crewelwork curtains. In the master bedroom sits more of the 17th century oak furniture from The Refectory in Dorking, which adorns the house including a fabulous four-poster bed with a crewelwork bed spread from Fired Earth. Into the newly decorated guest room there is a feeling of pure elegance with an off white colour scheme and splashes of raspberry in the antique cushions and rug. It has a lighter feel with painted furniture and limed wood floorboards. Alan and Beverley also refurbished the upstairs bathroom and downstairs toilet with more contemporary fittings and basins from Concepts in Littlehampton.
The grounds of Baytree Cottage have several individual and interesting areas, being mainly flint and brick walled. On Jack's retirement he started the process of converting his builder's yard into a domestic garden, gradually demolishing the old workshops and stores and constructing several new outbuildings in keeping with their surroundings. Alan with his keen interest in gardening and water features has since completely landscaped the main garden area putting in the central circular pond. To the side of this he also paved the area incorporating a pattern originally designed by Jack. "I was rooting around one of the workshops one day and found a template he had made up, so I copied it and used some Roman terracotta and mosaic tiles which were lying around in sacks.' With such an interest in Baytree's history, and having been so inspired by Jack Eschbeacher and his amazing skills, the Forrests, with their artistic flair and sympathetic eye, have successfully brought this Yeoman's home to it's full glory.
"This house really has been a labour of love and we just hope that it will continue to be enjoyed and appreciated in generations to come."