Inside a beautifully built Peacehaven home

PUBLISHED: 11:55 17 September 2015 | UPDATED: 11:55 17 September 2015

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Jim Holden

Jon and Jill Dudley’s Peacehaven house was so beautifully built that it became a show home before it was even completed, and a whole company was born on the strength of it. Alice Cooke spoke to them about how it all came about

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“When we saw the first green oak beams going up, creating the framework of our new home, I was quite overwhelmed with emotion,” says Jill. And it’s no wonder, really – as a child she played around the house and garden of Broom Cottage with her parents, cousins and siblings. “This place has so many memories for me that I could never imagine letting it go.”

Jon agrees, saying “when we inherited the place from Jill’s father, we were living in a bungalow on a plot of land at the end of the garden. We thought about selling it on, as everybody told us that was the sensible thing to do, but to be honest we only considered it for a moment.”

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“For every grandchild that my parents had,” adds Jill, “they built a beech tree in the garden. How can you let that kind of history go? So now we’re here doing the same, planting trees for every new family member that comes along!”

“In fact,” laughs Jon, “it’s worked rather in our favour, as some of the earlier beech trees are now mature, and provide a wonderful screen around the garden. Despite being in the middle of Peacehaven, we’ve created our own little bit of paradise.”

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Having decided not to sell, Jill and Jon set about planning their dream home from scratch. They were ably assisted in this by an architect, but it was then that fate decided to step in. “We knew of course that we had very talented builders, carpenters and makers in our family, but we never imagined how brilliant they would be when it came to our house,” says Jill.

Their son Shaun and nephews Ben and Tom were all working in the building trade at the time, for separate companies, and, in Jill’s own words, “they made our dream come true, and what’s more they did it in the most stress-free, knowledgeable, efficient way that you can possibly imagine.”

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It was only while working together to make the Broom Cottage plans a reality that the three boys decided to go into business together – Nutshell Construction, now based in Sompting. While beavering away they were simultaneously forming ideas and coming up with a concept. “And the local neighbourhood were so impressed with it as it started to go up that they were raising their profile without lifting a finger,” says Jill. “We had local Council members and dignitaries visiting, as well as people living locally who just wanted to have a look. The first thing that went up was the garage, and I think at first the neighbours thought that was the house, and that it was going to be another bungalow – they were in for a shock when the house went up!”

The whole place has the most beautiful oak frame, held fast with traditional Medieval-style wooden pegs. There are still traditional joinery marks in the beams where the pegs went in too, just as there would have been hundreds of years ago.

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“When they were making the pegs it really did look like a traditional old English scene,” says Jill. “There was this amazing oak everywhere, and a man sitting underneath one of the beech trees whittling away at pegs by hand. It was just lovely.”

Because it was all green oak when it was built, meaning that it hadn’t dried or ‘settled’ yet, the first few weeks when Jill was first in the newly-built house were slightly unnerving. “Jon was away with work,” she says, “and I did know that the wood had to settle, but nothing prepares you for the gunshot of a crack that wakes you up in the middle of the night – it was pretty scary!”

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That combined with all the hundreds of family memories tied up in the place, meant that emotions ran high over those first few months. “But now it’s like time has gone full circle,” says Jon. “We hold Christmas here for the whole extended family every year, and there are more often than not children everywhere – it’s a real family hub.”

Jill agrees, saying, “My father would have loved it here, and that makes me love it even more.”

Nutshell Construction, Sompting; 01903 217900;


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