Couple buy Regency stately home turned ‘crack den’ for £225,000 and spend £2m restoring it to former glory
The pair made a ‘daft’ offer for the 200-year-old abode which had been taken over by squatters - and were astonished when it was accepted.
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A couple who bought a rundown “crack den” stately home for just £225,000 spent £2million and ten years lovingly restoring it to its former glory. Reg and Elizabeth Price made a “daft” offer for the 200-year-old Roswarne House - which had been taken over by squatters and fallen into disrepair.
But they were amazed when the bid was accepted in 2013 and they set about renovating the depilated graffiti covered home in Camborne, Cornwall. The stunning Regency Grade-II listed 29-room home was built between 1810-1815, but had been abandoned for six years and was being used by drug addicts.
The Greek-revival style stately home on six acres of land was so bad that when retired Reg and Elizabeth bought it it was literally collapsing. Every window was smashed, doors kicked in, historic features destroyed, the roof caved in, and all electrics and lead stolen.
The couple from Waterloo in London, restore abandoned or derelict homes into stunning flats and properties. They then spent then years and about £2m restoring Roswarne - renovating every room, roof, cellar, garden, staircase - and even the ballroom.
Former conservation officer Elizabeth, 72, had heard about the house from a friend and “fell in love” the place. Elizabeth said: “We came up here one day, there’s six acres of grounds and all the flowers were out. It was just so beautiful so we fell in love with it.
“The former owners originally wanted 750k, but it was in such a derelict state, it was clear a lot of work would be needed to restore it. We made a daft offer of £175,000, and amazingly after some negotiation we got it for £225,000.
“Nobody had lived here for around six years, and it was full of rough sleepers and naughty boys doing drugs and stealing everything. Everything had been stolen, including all of the fireplaces except one and most of the window’s glass.
‘’We spent months picking up needles in the garden and the house too. The roof had totally failed, and so when I came in the entrance hall one august afternoon not long after we had bought it, the whole ceiling had gone.
“Rainwater had just flooded all the way through the house and destroyed much of it, I remember just bursting into tears at the sight of it.
‘’Squatters had lit a fire in the middle of one of the rooms. We had to board the place up and hire security at £70,000 a year. Repairing it was a whole-family job, and the dry rot in some parts of it will never dry out, but it’s looking fantastic now.
‘’Though there is a lot of steel in there now to hold it all together. Though living there as a couple would be a bit daft, it is so large - we spend most of our time at our seaside cottage.”
Elizabeth has re-furnished the house almost entirely with era-appropriate furniture bought off Facebook Marketplace and eBay. Work on the house was largely funded by the sale of another renovated derelict property in Waterloo.
Some of the work on the house included replacing all of the plasterwork in the building, costing nearly £250,000 for replacement and asbestos removal. The entire roof also needed replacing which cost £100k alone.
Columns and staircases have been restored and fireplaces put back in every room - using virtually all local tradesmen. Reg, 73, who worked in marketing for Unilever before retiring, says that at one point there were 18 work vans outside the building.
He said: “When we bought the house there was no glass in windows, it was all boarded up. The first thing we did was to take off all the boards and put metal grills over the shattered windows to let in air to dry any rot.
“After that we replaced the roof to stop the leaks. For at least two years we had to maintain constant day and night security to keep youths and the homeless out.
“It was hard turfing people out, we felt bad, but we wanted to save the building. After the roof and windows, we left the house for about five years and returned to do the inside later.
‘’We had to remove all the doors and dry them horizontally to keep them in shape. We had a lot of difficulties with the Grade-II listing as well - but the house was just so ruined when we found it, without extensive work it would have collapsed within years.
“There was also a huge problem with asbestos, but thankfully the council were very supportive and we’re really happy with the final result. We wanted to downsize but ended up upsizing again when we bought this house. It’s just too big for the two of us.
‘’But we’ve certainly put a lot of time, money and passion into it.” Elizabeth says she hopes to use the building to support local charities and social groups such as the Scouts.
She said: “We now use the space for wellness events, to host awards ceremonies and are hoping to use it to support the local community. Everyone has been very supportive of the work we’ve done. It was very expensive, but it was worth it in the end to save such a treasure.”
She added: “We may own this house in name for few more years - but it belongs to Camborne. I want it to be used by the people of the town.”
The home has since won several awards from the Cornish Building Group and a World Heritage Award in 2021. The couple built two blocks of flats at the back of the property and converted a barn into a house to generate funds to pay for the renovation.
It was built between 1810 and 1815 by a landed gentry family which made its fortune through copper mining and smelting. The house later fell into disrepair until it was acquired by the Holman family in 1911 who made their fortune from mining.
The last resident, Percy Holman died in 1969. The building was later a care home.