Bloomfield House, Birkenhead restoration of a regency-style villa
PUBLISHED: 01:49 16 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:39 20 February 2013
A Regency-style villa dating from Liverpool's glory days has undergone an elegant transformation. Vivien Bellamy investigates the rebirth of Bloomfield House <br/>Photography by John Cocks
Tucked away in a quiet lane, surrounded by run-of-the-mill post-war suburban development, Bloomfield House, a survivor from the glory days of Liverpool's maritime hey-day, does not flaunt its understated grandeur.
The house owes its present ravishing appearance to the determination and devotion of its present owners, James and Maureen Kelly. Many people would be daunted by the prospect of purchasing, at auction, a period property with four floors containing seven bedrooms, all in a state of semi-dereliction. Especially with the constraints of Listed building status.
But this is exactly what the Kellys, both from Liverpool, and with a successful renovation of another city property already under their belts did in 2001.
They knew that it would need a complete restoration that would go far beyond the ordinary tasks of re-wiring, re-plumbing and decorating, but still this did not put them off.
After all, James Kelly is a man with a considerable range of skills at his fingertips. Trained in tile and mosaic work, he worked for many years in the environmental maintenance wing of the Corporation's building department. Maureen's professional background working for a trade union has given her the confidence and tenacity to deal with frustrating bureaucracy. Together they make a formidable team.
The classically-detailed house is faced with white-painted stucco. A preoccupation with the sunny world of classical Greece by the city's early movers and shakers goes some way towards explaining the white facades of a special group of Liverpool's early 19th century homes. Generally, the material of domestic architecture in northern industrial cities was brick.
The staircase to the attic floor, not yet broached by the Kellys, gives an idea of the huge task they faced. In the attic the stylish projecting eaves are apparently supported by classical brackets known as modillions. About 20 were missing, but undeterred, James took down one of the remaining originals and set about making replicas.
He and Maureen bought materials from a boatyard on Southport Marina, coating the original modillion with layers of latex to create a mould into which he poured fibreglass which hardened into a new modillion, indistinguishable from the model.
The carefully-placed terracotta wreaths of laurel leaves that adorn the house are a reminder of the preoccupation with classical Greece in the 18th century. The bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) was associated in Greek mythology with the sun god Apollo and used to crown the winners of competitions in athletics and poetry (as in 'Poet Laureate'). James has recreated some of these decorative wreaths.
The Kellys have put the final touch to their home in the shape of a glamorous modern kitchen. It's a sunny, south-facing room where they spend a good deal of time. Maureen is a great cook and does plenty of mouth-watering baking. Because they entertain a lot they wanted a range of cooking appliances as well as a traditional-style Belfast sink. Maureen's taste is expressed in this room in her choice of pink for the cooker, which forms the central feature of the state-of-the-art kitchen.
It's not just the interior of the property that has been revamped either, the couple have lined one side of the short drive with a series of carved stone features which the discovered buried in the garden. A stucco wall with arched entrance leads you into the rear garden, which, treated in a less formal way, has been divided into distinct sections.
You enter the house via a short drive. The Kellys have lined one side with a series of carved stone features which they discovered buried in the garden. Ahead is a stucco wall with an arched entrance into the rear garden.
Furthest from the house and entirely hidden from view of it is a large circular pond, home to a number of splendid carp and other fish. Decking to one side provides a tranquil private sitting area. There is room, too, for a small orchard and plot for growing fruit and vegetables.
At a time when so much of Liverpool's heritage has disappeared the Kellys deserve recognition for their huge achievement in rescuing this elegant home from the jaws of demolition.