WHEN this grand Georgian house was built in 1811 for a founder member of the Royal Yacht Squadron, its soft pink hues made it an instant landmark for anyone sailing into Cowes.
It’s now just a little more than two centuries since Lord Belmore, an Irish peer, met with 41 others in a London tavern to discuss setting up a club for their shared love of yachting. The resulting club attracted the great and the good — including the Prince Regent who gave it its ‘Royal’ moniker.
Today many of the grand homes, built as seaside villas for the club members, have gone — demolished or tuned into apartments.
But three-storey Belmore House, to give it its proper title, still sits resplendent, with its pillared entrance porch, on a hill beside the waterfront, proudly proclaiming its pedigree. Lord Belmore apparently painted all his properties this signature pink.
Montreal-born Jamie Clark, who worked in the City, is an avid sailor and international yacht racing judge. He and his west Australian-born wife Joanna, who worked for the Belmont Hotel Company, had loved the house since they bought a holiday home nearby many years ago.
But when Belmore House came up for sale in 2005, Jamie feared they couldn’t afford it. ‘I insisted we at least go to look at it,’ Joanna recalls. ‘And our reactions were hilariously different. There was a lot of floral wallpaper and many dark rooms at the back of the house, including the kitchen, which seemed disconnected to the garden. There was a lot of Formica. I came away thinking, ‘‘I no longer love this place.’’ But Jamie said: ‘‘I want that house.’’’
Since the 1980s the seven-bedroom house had been significantly restructured: the staff quarters at the back had been demolished; the garden boasted terraces and an outdoor pool.
But Joanna and Jamie took things a step further, extending this gracious, Nash-style 4,853sq ft residence at the back, opening up the drawing room and dining room and creating a new bay window to the kitchen, while retaining as many original features as possible.They rewired, replumbed and put in new boilers, in a two-year renovation which left no detail overlooked. The kitchen, finished by a boat builder, has oak floors, oak worktops and exquisite bone handles on the cupboards. Four marble fireplaces were commissioned from a stonemason for the grand main living rooms of the house.
At the back of the house they pulled down a 1960s lean-to conservatory and extended the property evenly to create a larger dining area in the kitchen and a new garden sitting room. Both lead directly into the beautiful tiered garden, a patio paved with Isle of Wight stone, and the heated outdoor swimming pool. The windows perfectly reflect the size and style of the windows at the front.
‘But then I realised I had to furnish this grand house,’ Joanna says. ‘We brought all the bigger pieces from our house in London.’
They downsized in the capital to make Belmore their main home. From the entrance foyer you turn right to enter the cosy ‘winter’ sitting room, with its impressive fireplace, carriage wall lights, two enormous paned windows and views across the Solent — or left to the ‘summer room’, dressed in soft pink and lemon hues. Here, elegant archways flank the fireplace, which was boarded up when the Clarks bought the house, leading through to the formal dining room and on to the charming sun room. A separate entrance takes you to the huge utility room, while at the back the former garage has been converted into a boot storage room and shower room. There’s now a garage at the top of the garden.
Back in the house, a staircase with carved wave shapes on the wood panelling leads upstairs to the bedrooms. From the master bedroom you could watch Cowes yacht race from the bed. There’s an enormous en-suite bathroom here with a cast-iron, six-foot long bath, and a separate dressing room with walk-in robes.
There are extraordinary views across the water from almost every room in the house.
One delightful feature, retained by the Clarks, are the built-in cupboards and drawers in many of the rooms. Hand-crafted, they wouldn’t look out of place on a ship. From the second floor a secret door — next to the linen closet — leads up to two further charming attic bedrooms.
With Joanna’s sense of style, and Jamie’s determination that everything should function perfectly, this is a picture-perfect property that sits on a little slice of paradise. There’s even a Greek-style statue, known to the owners as Doris, who holds court in the garden.
So why are they selling? ‘It’ll be a wrench to leave — but we need to downsize and we want to do a lot more travelling,’ Joanna says. ‘We love the house and the garden with its seating areas on different levels. It’s gorgeous for entertaining.’
What you get for your money
■ Belmore House, £2.5million
■ A Grade II-listed slice of history — it was built by Lord Belmore, a founding member of the Royal Yacht Squadron
■ Seven bedrooms
■ Tiered garden with a large, heated outdoor swimming pool
■ Uninterrupted views across the Solent from almost every room in the house
■ Exquisite original features twinned with all the required mod cons of contemporary living
■ Just 200 metres from the Royal Yacht Squadron and located within a conservation area
■ A garage
■ Generous size gravelled forecourt for additional parking