At home with former England rugby player Alex Bennett
PUBLISHED: 11:09 14 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:37 20 February 2013
Danebank House in Lymm is a family home which played an important role in the recovery of the former England rugby player who owns it when he sustained frightening injuries
When former England rugby player Alex Bennett was lying in his hospital bed after breaking his neck, all he could think about was Danebank House. The 37-year-old sporting star, known as Bosh, suffered the injury at a game between Lymm Rugby Club, where he was player-coach, and Sandals RFC in Wakefield last February. Doctors had feared he would be left paralysed. But the lure of returning home to his wife, Antonia, and three children, William, Elizabeth and Tommy, spurred on his recovery.
He said: I had some dark times after what happened but being back home was my sole motivation for getting better. I knew I had to get better. All I wanted to do was get back to the house, back to Antonia and the kids. It was that which kept me going.
When youre lying in your hospital bed knowing three young children all under five are at home wanting their dad, theres no greater pressure than that. I did it with help of course. Antonia was amazing. She kept me positive. Im used to dealing with the pressure of the sports field, with expectation and disappointment but I have never seen anyone be so amazing, calm and composed as Antonia was after my accident.
It took an emergency operation, a period of painful traction and learning how to breathe without a ventilator, but only 11 weeks later Alex took his first steps. Six months after the accident, he moved back home permanently.
He said: It was brilliant to finally come home. To just be home to be with the kids and Antonia, to do the things every family does, it was just such a fantastic feeling.
The couple bought the main part of Danebank House in 2002. Its believed it was oncer the home of a mill owner and would once have been the main manor house to the nearby village of Lymm. It also operated as a hotel in the 1950s and 1960s. After falling derelict, it was redeveloped and split up into different homes. Coronation Street and Loose Women star Sherrie Hewson is believed to have once lived in the property.
For Alex and Antonia, it was the Georgian grandeur, its proximity to Lymm and the history that immediately made them fall in love with the house. Apart from four years living in North Carolina after retiring from professional rugby Alex had a medical company the couple have poured their efforts into making this beautiful property their home. In fact, they had only completed the renovations just a few months before Alexs accident.
They have perfectly combined the buildings remaining Georgian features many had been stripped out before they bought it with contemporary styling including an open-plan kitchen, lounge and dining area.
A mezzanine, once home to the kitchen, has been transformed into a luxury grown ups only area complete with Antonias prized Steinway piano. She is a grade eight pianist. The couple also replaced a wooden rail with a glass balustrade to make the most of the uninterrupted views across Cheshire to North Wales.
They have made many cosmetic alterations to the three-storey property including installing new bathrooms and changing the layout of the main staircase twice to create room for a bathroom, back door and landing. The original features that remained, including huge Georgian windows have been accentuated, and they reinstated high skirting boards as a nod to its history.
Personal mementoes fill the home. Family photographs, antiques Alex has collected and treasured trinkets all feature as well as a striking chandelier in the open plan lounge and kitchen which was a gift from their family.
Alex said: We think weve found that right mix between contemporary and period. It shows the house off. And its a house that definitely needs to be shown in its full glory. We love the Georgian period. Unfortunately, many features had been stripped out over the years but we hope weve made the most of those that are still here.
Unfortunately , the family have now outgrown Danebank House. Alex, who wants to campaign to help people forced out of their homes because of serious injury or sickness, is unable to climb the three storeys of stairs.
They are moving into a more suitable home nearby. Despite the daunting challenges and personal trials Alex has faced over the past year, this grand Georgian property holds happy memories for all of his family.
The former Saracens player, who now works for London-based executive search firm CTPartners, said: Were having to move on. There is nothing wrong with that because life presents different challenges. We will always love this house: this was our kids first place and its a shame we didnt get to enjoy it more.
Im very proud of our home and what we have created. It may be grand but it is also very homely. Now, I want to be able to go upstairs and kiss my children goodnight.
At the moment I cant get up three flights of stairs to do that. It has been a wonderful place for us and now it is time for it to be a wonderful family home for someone else to enjoy.
Danebank House in Lymm is for sale through Savills in Wilmslow for 799,950. For more information contact 01625 417450.
The property is also available to rent through Gascoigne Halman in Lymm. Telephone 01925 758345 for further details.