Earlier this year, the spotlight was shone on an enchanting restoration project in Nottingham as it was covered by hit Channel 4 TV show Restoration Man. The premise was to transform a derelict World War Two bomb-proof underground bunker into a boutique family home and hotel with a little help from Restoration Man presenter George Clarke.
The bunker, which was built and used by the RAF, was purchased on impulse by furniture maker Jamie Brown and his wife Jane at an auction in 2008. Mr Brown, who likens the design of the bunker to a Hobbit house, has been very enthusiastic for the project since he bought the site six years ago. With no previous building or renovation experience, Mr Brown has relished the challenge of renovating the bunker and transforming it into his dream hotel and home.
He said: “I know a lot of people wouldn’t have touched the site with a barge pole because it was just a shell and there was mould up the walls – but I think it is something different, a unique project really, and I love a challenge.”
During the process, the couple enlisted the help of students from Derby College to get involved in the large-scale renovation project in Watnall, Nottinghamshire. The students worked closely alongside the owners and contractors to transform the bunker, knocking down walls, building partitions and fitting new windows. Derby College construction lecturer Clive Smith, who was overseeing the students’ work on the bunker, had this to say: “This is a fantastic project because of the quirkiness and history of the building and it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students to be involved in something as unusual as this.”
Conversion and restoration work has been well under way for the past couple of years to transform the bunker into The Secret Bunker Guest House and family home, but Mr Brown has said that the project is likely to continue long into the future: “It is constantly evolving and now it looks like we will be mortgage-able, which means we can keep on going. We have been self-funding so far, with some recent help from family.”
Tiger Aspect, the production company behind the show, approached the family in July 2012 and spent 18 months filming the development of their restoration project. A spokesman for Tiger Aspect said: “The bunker has certainly been one of our most ambitious projects but we are delighted to report that Jamie and Jane worked closely with George and through sheer determination and boundless creativity transformed this deserted monolith into a delightful dwelling for the 21st century.”
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