Since we got back to Jersey in August 2019, we have been engaged in a major project to renovate Maison Petit Port – my Grandfather’s old house. The house has significant family history: my Grandfather moved (from Maufant) to live here in 1946, after the Occupation. My Dad and his sister (my Aunt Laura) grew up in the house. As a child I lived in the adjacent property, Le Côtil Des Pelles, so I was in and out of my Grandparent’s house all the time.
Originally the house was only one room deep – a classic Jersey three up, two down (upstairs there were two main rooms and a small box room in the middle). The toilet was outside. My Grandfather added an extension, initially one storey, then adding a second storey sometime in the 1950’s, which made the old external wall a dividing wall in the middle of the house. That wall has come to be very significant in our renovation…
In 1996 my Grandfather moved into a home and my Dad had to take the house over. It was still really a house out of the 1950’s. No central heating. Steep, narrow-tread staircase. And in a terrible state of repair. But the most extraordinary feature was a room upstairs that was only accessible by putting a plank over the stairwell across to the doorway. It was used as a storeroom, and also had large external doors that opened onto the driveway (one storey up) so that stuff could be winched up from the outside. Still, no one knows why Grandpa made it so the only way in and out was over the stairs.
Downstairs the bathroom had another extraordinary feature. Perched above the bath on a home made steel supporting rack was an old galvanised metal bin. Just below it was a paraffin stove. The stove was used to heat water in the bin, which had a tap to fill the bath. By the time my Grandfather moved out there was a conventional hot water tap for the bath, but he never got round to moving the old bin.
Dad made internal changes in 1996/97, turning the front of the house into one big living room, putting a kitchen in the main part of the extension and blocking off the old workshop so it could be turned into his archive room. The house was then rented out for more than 20 years.
But more than 20 years have gone by and the house my father renovated was very tired by the time we came back. We wanted a house that will work for us, with easy access to the outside, a bedroom in the loft, large rooms on the first floor, and a big kitchen/diner on the ground floor.
So that’s what we’ve been working on…