A thatched cottage with an intriguing past

Chris and Alison Young fell in love with a quintessential English country cottage and have slowly uncovered its hidden secrets

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Set in a quiet village behind a picket fence and enveloped by garden, Chris and Alison’s thatched cottage is at its best on a glorious summer’s day; its front borders brimming with a mix of rose bushes, petunia-filled hanging baskets, fuchsias and hollyhocks bobbing in the breeze. 

Project notes

Owners: Chris and Alison Young, both retired, live here and are often visited by their children and grandchildren

Property: A two-bedroom thatched cottage originally built around 1725 with later additions, set in a small Wiltshire village

What they did: The couple updated the kitchen, added a new bathroom and made essential structural repairs. They have decorated throughout taking care to compliment the style of the property and have created a pretty cottage garden 

Inside, the house has all the ingredients of a rural English cottage: low ceilings with rustic beams, a deep inglenook and flagstone floors, bound with a timeless country charm.

It’s hard to imagine that this cottage originally consisted of just two rooms, an upstairs and a downstairs, cobbled together within a day. ‘We commissioned a historical survey and it found that the cottage had been built using squatter’s rights under Common Law in the 1700s, which declared that if a house could be built within 24 hours, with smoke coming from its chimney, then the builder could claim the land as his own,’ explains Chris. 

‘It was a hurriedly constructed timber-frame building with wattle and daub walls – luckily these features are still intact today, so it’s a rare gem.’

Chris and Alison’s cottage has all the chocolate box features of a traditional country thatch 

As you enter the cottage you’re welcomed with beautiful original beams. The bureau is from Bressington’s antiques shop in Devizes 

The kitchen was formerly a barn, which was converted and linked to the living space in the 1950s. Chris and Alison reconfigured the room and brightened the highly varnished pine cabinets with a lick of paint 

A traditional kitchen dresser is filled with pretty floral china and old jam jars collected from various flea markets and antiques shops 

(Image: © Jody Stewart)

Decorated in a timeless country style, the living room occupies the oldest part of the house, which once formed the single downstairs room of the squatters’ cottage 

To complement the low ceiling, Chris and Alison opted for a low profile, Howard-style sofa from Sofas & Stuff. Chris and Alison Young fell in love with a quintessential English country cottage and have slowly uncovered its hidden secrets 

The inglenook originally housed the old range, which was only removed in the 1950s 

(Image: © Jody Stewart)

Chris’ silver collection is beautifully displayed in the hallway – it started with a vesta case belonging to his grandfather 

original wattle and daub

Chris and Alison uncovered some of the cottage’s original wattle and daub wall and chose to leave it exposed to celebrate the property’s history 

In the master bedroom an exposed beam partway through the wall indicates the original roof line of the cottage before it was raised and new windows were installed by later generations.  The bed is from Dunelm and Alison upcycled the lampshades using pretty floral ribbon 

Low ceilings and narrow access meant that it was tricky to accommodate big pieces of furniture, so Chris and Alison extended an existing wardrobe and picked up a selection of old leather luggage cases from flea markets, which can be easily stored above the wardrobe and under the bed 

In the guest bedroom, floral quilts and cushions from Shepton Mallet fleamarket give a traditional English cottage feel 

At the opposite end of the guest room is a pretty dressing table; for a similar rustic ladder, try Maisons du Monde 

Chris and Alison have also turned the uninspiring outdoor space into a pretty garden befitting the charm of the house. Step outside and you notice the garden is a continuation of the living space, cleverly zoned by strategically placed plants, fencing and furniture into a series of outdoor rooms 

Seating has been cleverly placed in the sun traps throughout the garden 

Chris and Alison enjoy adding quirky touches at every turn 

A rustic cart makes a pretty focal point 

The garden is dotted with vintage finds. Old washtubs make characterful planters and a rusting daybed is a quirky way to display potted plants