The Story of Knackershole
Many people ask us why we live where we do, why is the house called Knackershole Barn and what we are doing at the moment. I will try to answer some of these things here and will update this page from time to time as we do some more work.
I had wanted to live in a converted barn since I was about ten years old. Don't ask why - I just did! When we both decided that it was time to leave London I managed to persuade Pam that we could convert a barn ourselves. After all it only took a bit of digging and a bit of bricklaying and as for plumbing and electrical work it was just what we had already done to our home in Greenwich. That was in 1989 and we still haven't finished!
We looked around the West Country and tried to buy various properties whilst still trying to sell the London house. We were in a hurry. It was at the height of the property boom and we were sure that prices were still going up. Ah well - you can't get it right all the time. Then we discovered Exmoor and knew very quickly that we wanted to live there. So to cut a very boring story short we drove down one Sunday (in my mum's Mini), saw the barn and decided to buy it in about ten minutes. Most of our friends and family thought we had lost the plot. They were the wise ones. We still had stars in our eyes which at our ages ought to have been put out years before. Anyway that's how we got here.
Pamela always wanted to live in a place with a rude name. We looked at Pratt's Bottom, Old Sodbury, Piddletrenthide amongst others but couldn't quite get the right property. KB's name comes from an old edition of the Ordnance Survey which names the short tunnel 100m from our house Knackershole Tunnel. This is part of the closed railway line from Taunton to Barnstaple. We had our rude name.
Jason's first visit west was not without amusement. He was a townie, born and bred. Country clothing extended to a pair of Caterpillar boots and I shall forever remember the sight of him sinking into the Somerset mud almost up to his knees whilst still trying to appear cool. (Some things never change!) You have to remember that we had sold his home and bought this tin roofed shack, miles from anywhere. Even the nearest pub was four miles away and in a different county!
KB was an old linhay. This is usually a two storied building, open for animal access at ground level and with a hay loft above. In our case the building was built into the hillside. Thus from road (lane) level all that could be seen was a low brick built building with the aforementioned rusty tin roof. From the garden (field) side everything looked far more impressive. Here the tin roof was supported by a gable wall of stone supplanted by brick and three brick pillars which had a substantial list down the slope. Between the pillars were large wooden members which carried the first floor joists. The east gable was of wooden construction. Fortunately the upslope wall which appeared to be brick, was actually a stone retaining wall with the brick on top of it, just like the west gable wall. The retaining wall continued east past the wooden gable and, although it was of poor construction, particularly towards the east, the intention of the Victorian builders was clearly to extend the linhay by building another pillar and a new stone and brick east gable, as the farm expanded. This was to prove crucial later as we were able to obtain planning permission to use this piece of land to enlarge our home relatively easily. Extensions to barn conversions are often frowned upon by the planning authorities.
At some stage, probably in the sixties, the open area below the hay loft had been enclosed by concrete blocks for the retention of animals, initially, we believe goats but at the time of our purchase, horses. None of these later walls could be utilised so the first job was to demolish them. That bit was quite fun. The boring part was getting rid of the rubble!
1 December 2005