So while Lucy continued to take the rest of the wall out, Andrew sat on the tarmac for the next two weeks, chipping mortar off the bricks with one hand. The challenge was how they were going to rebuild the wall for a reasonable cost. ‘We had a few quotes which were very steep, then one man called in on his way to church to have his wedding banns read. He was so besotted with his bride-to-be that he under-quoted by half the amount of everyone else.’ What he hadn’t accounted for in his £4,000 quote was the fact that building sloped by almost a foot into one corner and the brick courses had to slope with it. ‘He had to undo several layers and create sloping string lines for it to work,’ said Andrew.
With the wall rebuilt and the ceilings down, they ferried all the rubble to a skip which was then taken by the local farmers to use for field tracks. Every inch of original skirting board, architrave and beam was removed by hand, labelled and numbered, ready for re-fitting at a later date, the collar ties were raised and the building dry-lined. Roof lights, insulation and upper floors were installed and the original windows were repaired and refitted. Fortunately the roof – which had been replaced in the 1980s as part of a Youth Training Scheme – didn’t have to be touched.
Behind the main school room was a cloakroom and toilet block, which Lucy and Andrew converted into a dining area and utility. The school had been divided into two sections by a sliding screen, which was stripped back to bare wood and reused. Reclaimed doors from a remand home were used in other areas then Andrew built the kitchen himself, for just £200, including the worktops, plus £75 for a slightly damaged Belfast sink. The Aga was given in lieu of fees for job he did and the original classroom floors – which were ‘treacle black’ with polish – were sanded so hard that the old cast nails showed through.
‘We decorated and furnished the house, buying all kinds of things on Ebay, and then had a period of consolidation,’ said Andrew. It would be several years before they applied for planning permission to start the second phase, which would create a spacious office, study, bathroom and another bedroom, turning the original T-shaped house into an H-shape.