Restoring a townhouse to its Georgian heyday

After four years of hard work – Wainman House in Wisbech has been saved for future generations thanks to a £1 million restoration project; which has seen this magnificent townhouse lovingly renovated, restored and redecorated back to its former glory…

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Situated on one of England’s ‘most perfect Georgian streets’, Wainman House was built in Wisbech during the eighteenth-century, when the merchant town was thriving. Home to surgeon and Quaker, Oglethorpe Wainman, his wife Ann and two daughters; this would have been a prestigious address in Georgian times. It’s thought Oglethorpe conducted his surgery business from the house.

In recent years, we have been carrying out a huge conservation project to reinstate the structural integrity of the building and bring it back to reflect its heyday. From fear of collapse due to a load bearing beam failing, extensive dry rot and a lack of modern amenities, structural work finally finished this summer. It has now been decorated and furnished in a Quaker style from the late Georgian period.

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If Ann Wainman were to return to her family home today, the current furnishings, their arrangements, the fabric and curtains would all be of a style familiar to her. We’ve used illustrations and inventories of the contents from similar properties of the period to help us restore the house. And when it came to the painted finishes of the walls and woodwork, we took a number of paint samples – some room’s revealed as many as thirty successive decorative schemes!

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We’ve paid huge attention to detail. Furnished with Georgian antiques and a number of modern replicas made by local craftsmen, fabrics have been made from robust modern materials, emulating Georgian patterns.

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Photo’s courtesy of Mike Henton

Along the way we’ve uncovered some unusual surprises, including a rare hand printed wallpaper dating back to 1720, originally fixed to the wall with nails. It’s now one of the earliest wallpapers in the collection of the National Trust.

The team also found some fascinating letters that had been lost behind wood panelling. One was written by Algerina Peckover (1841-1927), from neighbouring Peckover House, asking the doctor who then lived in Wainman House to pay her a visit that evening. And signed graffiti, left by a tradesman inside one of the window frames, which said ‘After riot, Nov 1913’. is believed to refer to damage caused during the so-called Doctors’ riot of October that year.

What’s great about this project is that you can now experience living in this historic gem, just as the Wainman family did. The townhouse will now start a new life as a National Trust holiday cottage   offering guests the chance to travel back in time.

“As a charity we have to target our resources and find different ways to help preserve old, unsed buildings, and turning this townhouse into a holiday let will help guarantee its future for years to come. Although National Trust holiday cottages are typically old and interesting buildings to stay in, the renovation of Wainman House goes one step further to evoke the feel of the Georgian period, with the added modern luxuries of beautiful bathrooms and a well equipped kitchen.” Nigel Houghton, Building Surveyor

It’s the perfect escape for large groups of family and friends.

 

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