Restoration of Haven Hall
In 2013, David and Arielle Barratt fell in love with the property, then called The Overstrand Hotel (see before and after pictures left). Although the house seemed to be in reasonable condition, it turned out to have a myriad of problems: leaky roof, crumbling stonework and shabby pebble dash, ivy growing through the walls, ancient plumbing and wiring, old central heating, rusting and broken leaded windows, no insulation, blocked fireplaces, flooding in the basement, etc. Nonetheless, they bravely embarked on a much bigger renovation project than either of them had ever done before.
To restore the original rooms, the partition walls built in the 1950’s to make small hotel rooms, had to be demolished. Unfortunately most of the old lath and plaster ceilings, cornices and walls also came down with that work. By March 2014, there was nothing left inside the house but brick walls, floors and rafters. The only original features from Overstrand House were the main staircase, the Arts & Crafts fireplace in the Drawing Room, a small cast iron fireplace, and a tarnished copper fireplace rescued from inside a wall. Hence all the period features of Haven Hall today have been lovingly added to enhance the original house . Local Island builders, bricklayers and stoneworkers were employed for over 3 years to complete the work.
David project managed all the major works: initial demolition, new construction, earth moving, fencing, drainage, plumbing, heating, commercial kitchen, air conditioning, CCTV security, IT & Wifi, planning & legalities, not to mention funding – plus managing up to 55 men on site.
Arielle did all the creative design work, from initially drawing plans for renovating the old building back to Edwardian splendour, to designing the new build. This included re-shaping 15 bedrooms, 9 lounges, 8 kitchens, 3 dining rooms, 22 bathrooms and 2 sheds. To stay in keeping with the late Victorian flavor, all the interior design, plaster cornices, antique fireplaces and other period features and furniture were sourced from auctions, reclamation yards and on-line. Arielle also designed the garden, adding the patio, steps, terraces, gazebo and pool house to enhance charm of the property. David managed all the building of the steps and terraces, car park & garage. The Lutyens steps were copied from original plans of the steps at Great Dixter, Kent. In 2017, The Isle of Wight Society bestowed an award for Landscaping to Haven Hall.
The original house
The original house was built in 1908 by Sam and Mary Crook, who employed an architect named Gutteridge and a builder named White of Freshwater. They named it ‘Overstrand’ which means ‘over the beach’. Lutyens also built a house named Overstrand in Norfolk which might have been an inspiration. In fact, Lutyens visited the Isle of Wight many times.
The Crooks were well off greengrocers from Southampton and wanted to retire to the island. The House was built with its quirky shape, towers and billiard room added at strange angles because asymmetric complicated designs were fashionable during the Arts & Crafts period. The House was a very much a family home with probably 4 or 5 main bedrooms on the first floor, plus some servants rooms on the second floor, accessed by a separate staircase. Although her husband died in 1928, Mary lived in the house with her maid, cook, gardener and his boy, until her death in the 1950’s. The house was very modern in its day, having three indoor toilets. It was also one of the first houses to have central heating, with coal and coke shutes going directly into the basement.
The Crooks had 9 children and many grandchildren who used to come to visit by Paddle Steamer. Mary would have the gardener put up a white flag from the balcony area to welcome them and then stand and wave as the Steamer passed by on its way to docking at Shanklin pier. The old signs for this journey can still be seen in the pub on Shanklin beach called the Steamer, although the pier went down in the great storm of 1987. Shanklin takes its name from Shanklin Chine, a small waterfall that runs down to the beach, historically known as ‘Chynklyng Chine’, even mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.
Mary must have seen and heard both World Wars from this house as she never left the island. Her grandson James told us stories of walking across a field with her when he was a boy during WWII, when a German plane came over firing machine guns at pedestrians. They crouched down and luckily were unhurt, but he laughed about how useless their crouching down had been as a way of avoiding being shot. Large areas of the seafront were destroyed during the bombing raids of WWII, but were quickly rebuilt after the war.
What is now the Patio room was the original Morning room. Mary spent most of her time at a writing table in the bay window of the Blue Room where she would sit and write her letters. The East room was a billiard room – all the rage in Edwardian times. And there was a conservatory just off the dining room where the Residence has now been built. What is now the Seaview wing was probably built as a stable and turned into a garage when cars became affordable. Few original features of the Crook’s house remain, only the main fireplace in the Drawing room and the two small fireplaces on the first floor. All the original coving, skirting boards, windows, ceilings, walls and paneling have been
replaced. The oak flooring had been covered up with carpets, but what was salvageable has been re-laid, sanded and re-finished.
Outside, the grounds were full of large mature trees including the picturesque Black Pines that add so much character to the garden. The grounds extended further West beyond the tennis court into an orchard. There was also a croquet lawn and vegetable garden where the car park is now. In front of the house was a pear shaped island that the cars drove around to reach the front door. Four huge lime trees formed a canopy that shaded the whole area of the patio.
In the 1950’s the Isle of Wight became a very popular holiday destination and many of the old houses were converted into holiday hotels. Overstrand house was bought by Hilary and David Wright. Along with another couple, they converted the house into a hotel, breaking up the gracious old rooms into lots tiny bedrooms, while they lived in a caravan parked in the garden. Phil and Gill Vale bought the hotel around 1976 and continued to run it as a B&B, and later a holiday hotel for inner city school children. As well as many other improvements, they added tiny en-suite shower rooms to the tiny bedrooms and converted the old garage into a flat for their family to live in. They also added the specially designed swimming pool for their daughter who was disabled, and a Summer House.