Chapel Cleeve is a Grade 11 listed manor house – quite close to us; in fact one of its many guises throughout the years was as an hotel where Sheila, my help, remembers going to dances with chicken in a basket as the plat de jour. This was about 40 years ago. Another young girl who enjoyed the dances was Jeannie Wilkins now a delightful lady in her sixties.
Then – courtesy of Channel 4 along comes a knight in shining armour: business man and entrepreneur Simon Davis. His aim is ‘to help house owners achieve what they themselves can’t …and to stop Jeannie crying.’ Jeannie wonders if Simon hasn’t been sent from above. On a tour of the house Simon is impressed by the beauty of the rooms that have been renovated and appalled by the ones that haven’t.
The renovated rooms are freezing as Jeannie cannot afford to heat them other than by inadequate log fires. There are some magical camera shots where you can see the Minehead steam train puffing by and Chapel Cleeve with a wintry moon above its towers is the most romantic of visions.
After a restless night for Simon – listening to all the creepy sounds - he elicits from Jeannie that at least half a million pounds is needed to finish the renovation. Possibly inspired by his restless night he comes up with a number of ideas. One is to organise ghost tours enacted by a local drama group. Customers will pay £24 and be delivered by the steam train. After the ghost tour, refreshments are served which are paid for. Personally I can’t wait to try it out.
Another idea of Simon’s is to let some of the rooms to a local arts charity – a group of them came to inspect the house and became enthused after doing a tour with Jeannie. His best – most brilliant idea was to engage trainee artisans from a local college to practise plastering, decorating and carpentry supervised by their instructor. To see ten of them hard at it in one of the rooms with Jeannie beaming at them was heart-warming. Jeannie thought she was in Heaven.
Country House Rescue Channel 4