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Bringing Gordon's Cabin Back to Life

The exterior of Gordon's Cabin in the late 1800s, Woollacombe, Devon © Ray Easterbrook

The exterior of Gordon's Cabin in the late 1800s, Woollacombe, Devon © Ray Easterbrook

Gordon’s Cabin has stood as part of the Devon village of Mortehoe for over 200 years. Eighteen months ago  it was unoccupied; standing in the North Devon Area of Outstanding National Beauty, this area has much to offer holiday makers and now there it has become a cosy bolt-hole for two which you can stay in. 

Many people have been involved in this careful transformation, learn more about the history that was uncovered and the skills which were employed during this project by our partner Woofenden Construction. These specialists in restoration work in a way that is sympathetic to character properties. Woofenden’s craftsmen  are all trained and qualified in historic building techniques such as limestone work, adaptation and structural repair of existing A-frame trusses to comply to modern building regulations to name a couple.

David Coombes, Project Manager for Woofenden Construction tells us a bit more about the project below

First impressions

"It was effectively being used as a store for the Trust rangers' tools, fence posts and other equipment. It was derelict and looking a bit sorry for itself. Village tales will explain that Gordon was apparently the farmer who used to live and work there on a smallholding. The property must have had a new roof in the last 50 years to make it weather-tight, but the floor was an old shillet stone floor, just dug out of the rock."

Uncovering the past

"You could see in the fabric of the building where the old animal pens used to be. There were notches in the stonework where candles would have been placed to light the building. Gordon would have lived on a mezzanine floor with the cattle below. You could see the pockets in the stonework where the original joists would have gone in to support that upper level."

Stonemason's delight

Woofenden's specialist restoration team found the stonework to be in a pretty poor condition and some needed re-pointing. They replaced the doors and reinstated a window that had been stoned up.

Konrad Holmes, Stonemason, was particularly pleased with this find:

"The discovery of the old opening on the East gable end was quite an exciting moment. It was a challenge to reinstate the window, which had been blocked up. We made the stonework around the edge to blend in and look as original as possible. I'm really pleased with the result."

Into the 21st century

All the walls inside the property have been plastered making the holiday home warm and cosy. Whilst staying here you too can admire the vaulted ceilings that remain from Gordon’s time. The National Trust wanted to give a sense of space and nothing was changed on the roof (it was just made it sound). Finally, the cabin was proudly completed with a bespoke hand-carved plaque of the National Trust emblem; now displayed on the outside wall.

Pasties and hot chocolates...

Ensuring this renovation project was handled with sensitivity to the friendly locals; Woofenden’s timeframe was sympathetic to the village’s busier seasons. Due to time restraints largely due to planning delays, as well as it being holiday season, Woofenden used a skeleton staff over the summer to try and be thoughtful to residents. They didn't do the road closures necessary for services to be installed until the early Autumn when holiday makers had gone home. Mortehoe offers several shops for holiday-essentials, and the construction workers got on very well with the Mortehoe shop-keepers, buying their pasties and hot chocolates locally. They even opened an account with the local post office!

Final thoughts from David

"We worked under the delegation of Rebecca Mitchell, National Trust Building Surveyor, for whom this was her first solo project. We had weekly site meetings and she liaised with the Trust and the architects on our behalf. We then worked with Tracey Mortimore on the interiors, the beds, tiles etc. National Trust rangers even came and did all the landscaping and fencing when we built a new footpath for accessing the property." This was about a 20-week project in total.

Tracey Mortimore the local National Trust Holidays Manager has said that the project was “…fun and inspiring, the cosy cabin was given a coastal theme and lots of thought went into kitting it out to be warm and welcoming. Whilst choosing the furnishings; including the comfortable bed and stripy curtains I had the guest in the forefront of my mind. We wanted the Cabin to be completed to a high standard and did so with a couple of stylish armchair’s and coastal artwork.”

Woofenden's first restoration specialist project for the National Trust was at Arlington Court, repointing bridges and re-roofing cottages on the estate before moving on to Gordon's Cabin. They are now working on re-slating the roof and carrying out internal modifications at Watersmeet. 


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  • The exterior of Gordon's Cabin, Woolacombe, Devon © Mike Henton

    Gordon's Cabin

    Woolacombe , Devon

    A former linhay, the cosy cottage is on the outskirts of Mortehoe village in North Devon.