A former RAF radar site overlooking the North Sea in North Yorkshire has been imaginatively restored to its former glory.
The Old Guard House in Goldsborough, near Whitby, part of the award-winning Mulgrave Estate, has been converted into a luxury five-bedroom holiday home. It has already achieved a 5-Star Gold Visit England Award.
The restoration of the iconic building, which took 18 months to complete, has been undertaken by talented interior designer Sibylla Phipps.
Sibylla explained: “This was a very large project for us: We needed to restore the original building to exactly what it would have looked like during the Second World War. We were also able to put in a modern addition, which has been designed to work in harmony with the feel of the original building, but takes advantage of the sensational views over the sea.
“I was attracted to this project by its history. As a former RAF radar site, it was always a landmark and a point of interest in the area. In 2004 it was badly damaged by a fire and stood as a skeletal wreck until we began work on it last year.
“It always seemed sad to me that a building with so much historical value should be left in a state of total disrepair and disuse. My grandmother, who worked in the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) in the Second World War, had always been keen to restore it but all previous attempts, and there have been many, proved unsuccessful.
“It has been a great pleasure to work on The Old Guard House. We haven’t faced many challenges in the building process, mainly due to the brilliant work of our construction company Starline Construction, for whom seemingly no obstacle is insurmountable.
“My only regret is that the underground bunker, in which the control panels of the Guard House were kept, was beyond repair. Having been flooded for many decades it was too dangerous to recover and is now sealed off for safety reasons.”
Sibylla explained that, when decorating The Old Guard House, she had to decide between comfort and historicity.
“Should I try to entirely replicate a 1940s living environment or adapt it to a more modern design? In the end I decided that a traditional 1940s look ought to be balanced with some more modern comforts. I don’t think many people would really want to sleep in a 1940s bed!
“The interior of the original Guard House I have kept as close to a 1940s interior as possible with the distinctive wallpaper of that era. I also managed to source some fantastic 1940s pieces of furniture and other vintage pieces from local antique shops in Whitby. In the modern addition I have emphasised a sort of sprawling comfort. I like to think of it as the ‘mess room’, with big squishy sofas to lounge around on and a kitchen in the corner for snacks and informal dining.
“I wanted to do justice to the design elements of 1940s Britain and I’m pleased with how it’s turned out. The architect I worked with, Richard Waller of Peter Rayment Designs, was extremely talented and sensitive to the needs of the project.
“He was very helpful as The Old Guard House is my first foray into building design as well as interior décor. It’s been great fun to work on such a creative project and dig into some of the rich history of the RAF in North Yorkshire, of which there’s such an abundance,” Sibylla added.
The modern extension, which Sibylla mentioned, involved the restoration of the balcony allowing guests to enjoy a view of the farmland and coastal bays that run along this sensational coast.
The Old Guard House was originally developed in 1941 as an Army station to detect enemy ships approaching Britain by sea in the Second World war. In 1942, it was transferred to the control of the RAF, becoming RAF Goldsborough. It was part of the Chain Home Low radar warning system that was developed to detect low flying aircraft used by German forces.
Before this, the British were unable to detect low flying planes until they were at close range. RAF Goldsborough was one of the stations set up along the coast to fill this critical gap in coverage.
Towards the end of the war, UK radar operations were wound down and after 1945 it was assumed that they would not be needed for some time. This thinking changed dramatically in 1949 with the Soviet test of their first atom bomb. RAF Goldsborough was upgraded in 1951 to counter possible attack by Soviet bombers and was fitted with an enormous underground bunker, in addition to the original Guard House.
The Old Guardhouse sleeps ten in five bedrooms with four bathrooms.