This blog tells the story of my family’s return to Court Lodge in Kent from New Zealand, and our attempt to restore and renovate it, and make it commercially viable in the 21st Century.
Court Lodge has been in the Morland family for nearly 300 years. It’s currently owned by my parents, Nick and Gwenda Morland, who have been managing it since the early 1980s. At the end of 2012 I moved back from New Zealand with my husband, Ian, and my two children, Ruby and Damian, to take over the reins from my parents, as it had started to become a bit of a struggle for them.
Before my father inherited Court Lodge it was owned by his uncle, William Morland. William divided the house into flats between the late 1940s to the 1960s, and let them out to tenants. When Dad took over from his uncle the house was in a pretty poor state, and he did a lot to improve it. In recent years, however, the maintenance has not been kept up to date, and the house is again in need of a lot of TLC.
The major problem that we face is that, as a residential lettings business, Court Lodge is currently not bringing in enough income to pay for its huge heating, maintenance and gardening bills. We need an alternative plan. We spent our first year here getting to grips with the place, and formulating our rescue plan. We are going to change the flats from residential lets to holiday lets. We are also going to make the larger rooms in the house available for weddings and functions. In combination these projects will bring in more income than Court Lodge currently makes, and will enable us to schedule and pay for all the maintenance and restoration work that needs to be done on the building.
There are lots of strands to this project. As well as updating and renovating the flats, and the main function rooms, there is the garden which, we have discovered is historically significant. Part of it was designed by the well known Victorian firm of garden designers James Pulham and Son in 1868. The garden has also been let go in recent years, and we plan to apply for grant funding to restore it to its former glory.
We are also finding out lots of interesting things about the history of Court Lodge and its occupants from reading all the archive material that is both here in the house and at the County archives.