The latest JAMES Bond film premiered last night, so what better time than to pull out the archives and look inside this house in Bracknell owned by a James Bond stuntman.
If one house could speak, this 380-year-old, Grade II listed Bracknell house would have plenty of stories to tell.
Over the years, Lynwood Cottage has been owned by a James Bond stuntman, wealthy British diamond merchant, and members of the aristocracy.
The current Guardians, as they call themselves, were so fascinated by its history and historical clues that they became detectives to uncover its history.
Lynwood Cottage is now a four bedroom house with a pool, but its beginnings were much more modest.
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The property, partly painted brick, partly timber framed by a painted brick infill, was built around 1640 as a forester’s house which would stand on the Duke of Downshire’s estate. It was built on the highest point of the region so that its inhabitants can watch over the surrounding forest. There was a room downstairs with a ladder leading to two rooms.
The estate changed hands and destination over the centuries, becoming a farm in the 1800s. By the 1920s the estate was owned by Lady Enid de Chair, wife of Admiral Dudley de Chair. And in 1925 it was sold to British diamond dealer Otto Oppenheimer, who renamed it Lynwood Chase. The estate was eventually sold in sections and part of the land became the Lynwood Chase subdivision.
Today there are visible reminders of times gone by; a slight note written in pencil on the door of the Victorian workshop, which is now a cozy basement, and the original exterior window hooks which hang redundantly.
The current owners, Gerry Brown, an electrical engineer, and his wife Jenny, a drama teacher, purchased Lynwood Cottage in 1988. Their son, Steve, based his school project on historic buildings, focusing on Lynwood Cottage. His research took him to county libraries, allowing the family to piece together the history of Lynwood Cottage.
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Steve and his father compiled a list of previous owners and key dates, including when it changed hands, for how many, and when it was extended and updated.
Mrs Brown fell in love with its warm atmosphere, its originality and the swimming pool. And the former owner – a stuntman at the movies – piqued his interest.
She said: “When we came to view the house there were pictures on the owner’s walls with huge stars of their time like Roger Moore. The lady was an understudy in the Bond movies and the Hart to Hart series, and she lived here with her babysitter.
“Upstairs, one of the bedrooms housed costumes, beautiful hats and wigs. Another bedroom was her make-up room with a dressing table and a huge mirror surrounded by lights. She also had a dressing room full of beautiful clothes. The decor was very glamorous – lots of heavy velvet curtains and crystal light fixtures.
At the time, Ms Brown wasn’t sure what it was like to own a Grade II listed home, but her husband did. With an engineering background, he took care of the maintenance work, calling in specialists when needed.
He said, “We knew there was a hidden Inglenook fireplace, so we removed the woodchip wallpaper to uncover the ends of the beams of the fireplace. The original bread oven was gone and the masonry needed a bit of attention. We therefore called on a specialist mason to renovate the fireplace using old bricks and some old bricks. He even copied the original style of marking in lime mortar.
“A few years ago we replaced the living room floor and underneath we found some old sheep teeth and pieces of leather belt.”
Historic England has stated that the purpose of the listing is to inform about the future development of the buildings. The authorization of the local council is necessary to carry out interior and exterior modifications which affect the historical and architectural interest of the building.
Lynwood Cottage has captured the attention of the public over the years. Primary schoolchildren used to draw the house on the opposite sidewalk. And a photo of the property was posted on the Historic England website with the caption “Good in April 2020”.
The next chapter in the history of the house is about to be written, as the house is now for sale.
Ms Brown said, “This is not your average home and it won’t suit everyone. But I hope the next keepers will cherish it and have fun here. We certainly have. This house has a lot of love to give.