DIY success story

Something to crow about!

How Richard extended his 300-year-old iconic cottage without any prior building experience

It was in 2007 that Richard and Tina Harper moved in to Burngarth, a 300-year-old Grade 2 Listed building and Bishop Monkton’s most iconic house.

They had always wanted an old house, and this one dated back to around 1720, and they loved the 30 foot high topiary cockerel standing sentry in the front garden and they being able to look out of their front windows on to the village’s crystal clear beck flowing past. Everything In the garden was lovely. 

They had found an idyllic place to live, they loved the village and had made many friends here. 

But in 2016 they wondered if the dream might have to come to an end.They had to admit reluctantly the house was really too small, especially so when their extended family came to stay. 

The choice seemed to be either to move or to extend the property with the huge costs that would involve. Neither wanted to leave Bishop Monkton so that left just the option of extending the house.

Richard thought about it long and hard and then jokingly came out with ‘I suppose I could always  build an extension on the end?’. Tina responded: ‘You could!  It can't be too difficult - it's only three walls and a roof!' Richard replied: ‘Well I'm sure it won't be as simple as that but I am sure building contrail will make sure it is done properly. I'll have a look on the internet and see if there is any help’.

They left it at that, but Tina noticed soon afterwards Richard was spending a lot of time on his computer. and he wasn’t watching Homes Under The Hammer any more! He was watching YouTube  to learn how to build a house or an extension. And from what he learned on-line gave him the confidence to undertake most of the building work himself.

Apart from learning how to build an extension, he was aware that how he did it would be particularly closely
scrutinised because this was a listed building and also because he was not a qualified builder, so everything had to be done right.

And that’s the way it has been done so that now he has an extension which fits so perfectly into the overall property so it is hard to realise it is a very come lately addition!

The task took two years to complete and involved calling on friends in the village and the occasional professional for some of the plastering and pebble dashing, but for most of it, it was Richard  who did the majority of the work.

‘Yes, it was challenge and a bit of a gamble, but Tina and I are very happy with the outcome.‘I have had five offers of work to do other people’s building jobs which I turned down but it was a rather a nice endorsement. Several people have said they can’t believe the extension wasn’t part of the original building’.

‘And Tina and I are delighted because it gives us more room and is invaluable when the family come to stay’.

Richard understands Burngarth was built around 1720. Possibly originally named Forge Beck, for much of its existence the building provided two  tiny cottages side by side (the original second front door has now been converted into a window).The cottages were most likely occupied by two agricultural workers and their families This was a time when Bishop Monkton had perhaps 20 working farms in the Parish.

Today the cottage is the most photographed building in Bishop Monkton and Richard and Tina have grown used to having visitors stopping to admire the house and the giant cockerel sentry!

Richard is to be congratulated on his building skills and is happy that people tell him that the extension fits so
seamlessly into the overall ambiance.

But this isn’t quite the end of Richard’s success story. He is now midway through converting a detached garage in the garden into an additional  room, shower room and utility room..

Some might say It is now not only the cockerel which has something to crow about!

Tracing the progress of the extension that Richard built .......


This embroidery by The Stitchers shows the cottage before the extension was added.