Saturday, 24 May 2008

The Old Club, Rookhope (part two)

When I bought The Old Club in 1983, it cost me £6,300, a sum which seems ridiculously low by modern standards. But the only other interest had been from the guy who lived next door, who wanted to knock the place down and sell the stone, adding the cleared site to his garden!

It rapidly became obvious to me why there had been so little interest. A burn descended steeply into a drain at the back of the house (see pic) and the debris swept down from the fell often blocked the drain and flooded the area. Once we arrived at the house to find all the carpets floating in brown peaty water! Not a good start to a holiday. Though I dug out the drain and extended it as much as I could, the problem was insoluble without major expenditure. The back of the house, which was set into the hillside, was always damp as a consquence.

But it would have been a crime to demolish such an historic building. Besides its latest usage as the village club, the house had once been a Blacksmith's dwelling and the detached building to the right still had the relics of the blacksmith's furnace. On the left-hand side was a stable, which had also once been used by the whole village as a slaughterhouse for their livestock. In the days of the Club, its latest use had been as the Gent's urinal and this was a source of great amusement to my solicitor, Mr Ian Winskell, when he handled the sale. I can still hear his chuckling voice "I've never had a client who purchased a URINAL, Mr Bell". He's long dead now, poor soul.

Inside, the bar was still in good order and, with a bit of spit and polish and a coat or two of varnish, I soon had it in excellent condition. This was to be our kitchen area and, with high bar stools, it was possible also to use it as a breakfast bar. We got the lights on the mirrors and fixtures working and the "kitchen" became a very pleasant place to be in. One disadvantage of retaining the bar, however, was that more than once we had strangers bursting in and bellying up to the bar, ordering a drink. I remember one couple who seemed very reluctant to believe that we no longer had a license to sell alcohol and we more or less had to push them out the door!

The Old Club had been well-beloved in the past and was to see some good days yet, as you shall hear.

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