Tonge Mill is huge, 6000 Sq ft, Georgian, freehold building nestled in the Kent countryside between the historic market town of Faversham and Sittingbourne. It offers one-of-kind family accommodation but with many extras, all of which make this space a unique household to settle in if you're considering leaving the urban life behind and looking to combine home and work.
This was not a project for the faint hearted.
In 2013 the current owners decided to up-sticks and move from Bournemouth to Tonge Mill in Kent; a grade II listed, Georgian former flour mill that was pretty much exactly what they were looking for.
The mill was more or less derelict and, for them, was the ultimate renovation project, extending their personal and professional ethos of re-cycling and re-using into every corner of the 6000+ sq. ft. building. The result is a sympathetic and extensive interior refurbishment with a chic industrial theme.
Constructed in 1837, the waterside mill served the region for many years. It was eventually bought by a local family who kept it going as a working bakery for many years. Now, it’s been transformed into the most comprehensive of live/work spaces: a family home, artist’s studio, letting investment and the nerve centre, production studio and workshops for Elvis & Kresse, a luxury brand specialising in sustainable leather goods and accessories.
The Main House
The main part of the building is the living space which you enter from the rear, with the adjoining lake lapping at the pathway, which leads from the gated, private parking spaces.
The reception entrance is a particular favourite: it’s a room to decamp to when the weather’s scorching; the thick solid walls providing a nice ambient temperature on even the sunniest of days. To the left, the former wheelhouse room feels like a living museum piece. The water wheel itself may have long gone, but water still flows through the building from the lake and has the desired calming effect as only running water can.
On the other side of the entrance, a central staircase runs up through the house, whilst two more rooms on the ground floor offer utility and a fourth bedroom.
Off the first floor landing are three more bedrooms and two bathrooms, all with the owners’ signature interior style, with most enjoying views of the serene lake.
Finally, sitting proudly at the top of the building, you’ll find an impressive open-plan reception room with a mezzanine dining area and vaulted ceilings that offer sensational views in any direction, both lake and land; you really do get a lovely feeling of isolation.
This self-contained room next to the main accommodation is a private and very comfortable space. It’s currently being used as a store room but could easily be returned to its former glory. The natural light provided by the triple height ceiling and large rear facing window provide inspiration for all sorts of creative pursuits.
The far wing of the building is currently a gorgeous, income producing, two bedroom, self contained cottage. It could however, be very easily incorporated with the main house if one needed more living and bedroom space.
As elsewhere in the mill, it makes full use of those beautiful lake views. The integrity of the old stone and woodwork is wonderful and delivers huge amounts of character.
The workshop at the gated end of the building is a series of spaces and store rooms big enough for a sizeable business. The charm of the building’s history hasn’t been lost and there’s scope to change things around without loss of character (subject to consent).
Once you’re ready to drag yourself away from this serene space, Kent is ripe for exploring. Coastal or countryside, the sheer number of villages and towns to visit is very impressive and all between 20 and 40 minutes in a car. Head out and lose yourself in old-school seaside settings like Margate, Ramsgate or Broadstairs, laid back historic harbours like Whitstable or, closer to home, cool creeks in the market town of Faversham. Walking the green open spaces of the surrounding region is an absolute joy; there are miles of pathways on the doorstep taking in some dramatic scenery.
The extensive list of restaurants, pubs and coffee shops seems to grow monthly. Locally, the Three Mariners at Oare is a particular favourite of the owners, as is the Plough Inn. It’s owned by Shepherd Neame, the UK’s oldest brewery, still operating from its Faversham home.
For a Californian twist with your coffee, head to “Sondes” in Selling a colourful tea shop and general store serving an über-healthy selection of soups, salads and locally sourced produce.
If you like grocery shopping artisan style, head to Macknade in Faversham. It’s in a league of its own and has been at the heart of the local scene for well over 150 years.
Travelling around locally is easy but on those days when you may have to get in to the capital, head to the local stations, Teynham, Faversham or Sittingbourne for stopping or high speed train services to London terminals that include Victoria, St Pancras, Charing Cross, London Bridge & Cannon Street and take around an hour.
If you’d prefer to hit the roads, the M2/A2 which should see you up to London in around an hour and half, (traffic permitting, of course).
Tonge Mill, Sittingbourne, Kent ME9