Leaving London: Why one family swapped Earlsfield for a ‘just liveable’ rectory in Somerset

The Weston family at their old Earlsfield home  (Handout)
The Weston family at their old Earlsfield home (Handout)

The Weston family started the summer living in a smart period house in one of south-west London’s most popular urban villages.

By the start of the autumn term the family were ensconced in a slightly dilapidated Georgian rectory in an actual country village.

Their life-changing move realised Annabelle and James Weston’s long term dream to get out of London and give their three boys the kind of country childhood they both enjoyed.

On paper the move has made fantastic sense. They sold their four bedroom, 1,600 sq ft, 1930s terraced house in Earlsfield for £1.17 million. Their new five bedroom house measures some 6,000 sq ft and cost £775,000.

“Every floor of the house is bigger than the whole of our old house,” said James.

The property comes with an adjacent field and James and Annabelle have plans to turn it into an adventure playground for their boys — Oliver, six, Archie, four, and Henry, four months — complete with tree house, football pitch, and camp site.

The Georgian rectory comes with an adjacent field (Handout)
The Georgian rectory comes with an adjacent field (Handout)

The bad news is that their new house needs so many fundamental repairs — from replacing leaking windows, to replumbing and rewiring, and replacing rotting floor joists — that they are likely to use up every penny of their surplus profit on transforming it into a family home.

“It is liveable, just,” said James. “But it is not in good shape. We have a bay window that is basically falling off the side of the house and when it rains the water just pours in.”

In the meantime — while investigating the possibility of adding solar panels and a heat pump to their house renovation shopping list — the couple are anxiously awaiting what winter brings. “We are powered by oil, and we are terrified about how expensive it is going to be to heat the place,” said James.

The property had been divided into two homes (Handout)
The property had been divided into two homes (Handout)

James, 44, and Annabelle, 41, have spent the past two decades working their way up London’s property ladder, buying and renovating properties along the way. They added value to their Earlsfield house, which they bought in 2018, by converting its loft into a bedroom, before deciding to move to Somerset, James’ home county.

Selling their property was a breeze. Family houses in leafy suburbs have been flying off the shelves during the pandemic. Finding a new home was trickier. The couple started out looking for a detached farmhouse with a couple of acres. “But so was everyone else,” said James.

Eventually they compromised on the rambling rectory which has been divided into two semi-detached homes in the village of Templecombe, 30 miles west of Salisbury.

James, an estate agent with Moveli in Wandsworth, needs to be in the office three or four days per week and the daily commute is a gruelling two hours each way; unsurprisingly he is busy getting to know the local property market so that he can set up a more local firm at the same time as planning the rectory’s renovation.

“Will there be any margin in it? I really don’t know at this stage,” he said. “It will depend on what happens to the market, but we are looking at staying for at least five years, doing the work, and then we will see what happens. We might still love it, or we might want to move on.”