Four years ago the Randalls bought a run-down country cottage in the heart of Norfolk. They set about renovating it themselves and found a pamment floor that could well date back hundreds of years.
Jim Randall said:
“Until recently we had always lived in modern houses in built-up areas. When the children lived with us it seemed the easiest option. There was little maintenance to do, which meant we could spend our spare time doing things we all enjoyed.
Moving to an older property
When our last child started applying for universities, however, my wife Shirley and I began to think about moving out to the country.
Although we were both still working we thought we could commute easily if we did not have to drive teenagers around as well. Initially, the plan was to buy a fairly new house again in an attractive location – but the more properties we viewed the more we thought we would actually like something with a bit more character.
It was a lovely sunny Saturday when we first went to look at the cottage – and we both fell head over heels in love with it immediately. It was in a stunning spot, close to woodland and beautiful walks, yet it was also within reach of market towns and the beach. The problem was it needed a huge amount of work.
It was daunting but despite having been people who had done little DIY in the past, we were determined to give it a go. Shirley saved up her holiday and persuaded her bosses to let her take four weeks off work in one go. I did the same but also took two months of unpaid leave at the end of it.
Removing the later additions to the house
With advice from friends and family in the building trade we set about working on the house – removing 1960s’ and 1970’s additions and restoring any features that seemed original.
We were told the heart of the house could well have dated back to the 15th century but no-one knew for sure. Along the way, however, we made some discoveries that seemed to support this. Behind a panel in the sitting room was an enormous inglenook fireplace into which we installed a wood-burner and behind false ceilings we discovered old oak beams.
We also decided to tackle the floor. The whole of the ground floor of the cottage had been carpeted, probably about 30 years ago, and was now incredibly worn. We ripped this up to find boarding underneath.
We nearly laid new flooring on top of the boards
The initial plan was to lay a new flooring on top of this – perhaps Tile in the Kitchen and Solid Wood in the sitting room. But one night after dinner, I decided to lift one of these pieces of board to check there was no damp beneath.
To my amazement I found small squares of old, terracotta coloured, Norfolk pamment beneath. I called Shirley and in our excitement we pulled up some more board and discovered the whole kitchen was laid with it.
Over the course of the next few days we uncovered pamment flooring in the hall and sitting room as well. It was very worn, particularly by the front door and in the sitting room but it was wonderful. In one or two places pamments were missing or broken but I visited a nearby salvage yard and discovered we could buy pieces that would fit in perfectly in size and colour.
After living in new houses, it was a drastic change to have a floor that was so uneven running through the whole of the ground floor but it suited the old cottage perfectly and we thought it looked beautiful alongside the oak beams and original fireplace in the sitting room and the range cooker and wooden units we fitted in the kitchen.
We consulted a stone expert then cleaned and sealed the floor
We Cleaned the Floor carefully and sealed it with a product that was recommended to us by a stone expert. Then we bought a few rugs to throw on top of the pamments in the sitting room to give the space a cosier feel.
We love our cottage and the fact we discovered the floor ourselves still gives us great pleasure. Sometimes I sit in the kitchen or sitting room and wonder about all the people who have walked over that floor in the past, slowly wearing it away in different places. It was hard work renovating the property but now it really does feel like home – and our floor just adds to the unique character of the place.”