Yes - contrary to much belief we do actually have a restoration programme on the house - it is just that it goes in stops and starts and only happens when funds are available. One of the most depressing things about owning a large house is that you can spend large sums on vital 'infrastructure' such as the roof and the wiring but there are hardly any visible evidence that you have done anything! So the casual observer will still think the house is crumbling into the ground blissfully unaware that the lead work on the roof has been renewed - so no longer leaks - that the wiring has all be updated - so there is no longer a risk of the whole house going up in flames due to an electrical fault.
Finally though we have done something really visible and the effect is stunning. Our big Double Cube ballroom -or great Drawing Room (42 ft l x 21 ft x21) fell into total disrepair in 1810 when the ceiling collapsed. It had been constructed within the Tudor walls of the house and - to get the height- my ancestor had removed a floor -cutting through tie beams etc. and fatally weakening the building - the result -disaster a hundred odd years later.
In 1960 my father carried out vital structural repairs to stop the whole of that side of the house collapsing but had little money left to spend on interior decoration and installed a temporary ceiling. Now at last I have got rid of it and realised a long held dream by replacing it with a truly 'shock and awe' baroque plaster ceiling created for me by probably the greatest exponent of the almost lost art of stucco and plaster work - one Geoffrey Preston - who I found - by a fluke - living and working down the road in Exeter!
So for the last eight months we have all laboured to finish this great work Geoffrey has created a ceiling to gasp at - pictures have been rehung where they last hung over two hundred years ago and my wife and I -with some occasional desultory help from our children have personally applied no less than four coats of paint to the walls - which has been very good for our figures and entirely satisfying.
The end result was that we entered the finsihed room for the Georgian Group Architectural Awards - the Oscars of architecture - in the 'restoration of a Georgian interior' category and being on the short list hoofed it up to London to attend the awards ceremony at Chrisites. Sadly we came second - beaten by a short head by Andrew Lloyd Webber's restoration of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. Still -as they say - I think - better to have tried and lost than never to have tried at all.