As Helen Lear, who has owned the property since 2008, explains: “When I saw it I was amazed by the original features, particularly the cornicing and the four angels as I call them – the plasterwork heads that adorn the hall and half-landing. It is all very grand.
“Farmers have a reputation for having deep pockets and short arms, so it seemed unlikely that this house was built purely for the practical purposes of a farmhouse.”
In fact, James Graham, for whom the house was completed in 1890, was a farmer, but he was also an auctioneer. And shortly after the house was completed, a find on his land pointed to a much longer illustrious history of the site.
Two Bronze Age jet necklaces were found in a burial cist with fragments of a food vessel in 1907, very close to the house. Both were donated by the Graham family and one can still be seen in the Forfar Museum.
Pitreuchie Farmhouse today is a handsome double-fronted house offering 3,000sq ft of light-filled accommodation over two floors.
As well as the stunning plasterwork, it has sash and case windows, high ceilings and generously-proportioned rooms.
But it had fallen into a rather sorry state by the time Helen first saw it.
She recalls: “After the Graham family sold it, the farm and the land was broken up and sold on. When I saw the house it had been empty for two years and required a great deal of work.”
Although born in Scotland, Helen grew up and spent her early adult life in South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, leaving in 1996 to come home to Melrose.
After a teaching post in Perth, she says: “I had a few properties that I had renovated over the years, and I decided on a career change to property development. When my two daughters left for university I knew that I could base myself anywhere – just as Pitreuchie came on the market.”
Although this was to be a longer-term acquisition and used as her own home, the deal almost went awry from the beginning. She explains: “The whole house only had cold water with just one shower. There was no heating but there was technically a kitchen and a bathroom so it just qualified – just – to get a mortgage.
“Where other people might run screaming [from such a house] I like the unloved – to breathe new life into a home is what I really enjoy.”
The house already had a cottage built on to the rear – it was completed in 1910 to accommodate a Graham family son who was wheelchair-bound. But, in the main, the two parts were attached. Initially, Helen upgraded the cottage to a liveable state and moved in to work on the rest of the house.
Planning permission was obtained to separate the two formally, and a firewall was put in, the adjoining door closed off and a separate entrance created to make sure the two parts have privacy.
Helen says: “For a long time I worked on other properties in my day job, then came home to hang wallpaper or paint here at night. But the advantage was that I already had good relations with all the trades needed.”
She had two gardeners working full time for a couple of years – the grounds have been extensively reconfigured, cutting back the driveway, clearing the paddock and stable and creating lawns and a vegetable patch, as well as the separate cottage garden.
The outlook of the farmhouse is over open land and up to the Forfar War Memorial on Balmashanner Hill, but Forfar is only a mile away.
The driveway is spectacular, at exactly a tenth of mile long – or 176 yards – it is lined by a stone wall and specimen trees making for a suitably a grand entrance.
Pitreuchie Farmhouse, Forfar, Angus, is priced at offers over £520,000.
For more information, contact Strutt and Parker on 01738 783 350.
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