In 1947, after the love of her life passed away unexpectedly, May Alice Savidge bought a house to restore.
A few years later, she was told by the town council that her house was to be destroyed to make way for a road. Needless to say, May didn’t take that lying down: she fought the town … and lost. But Savidge never gave up:
In 1969, when she was 58, the bulldozers reached her gate. Her response was to number each beam and pane of glass so that her home could be reassembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
Dismantling the heavy oak timber frame, held together with tapered wooden pegs, was both difficult and dangerous. A team of local demolition contractors helped May. She traced over a sample of brickwork using greaseproof paper and crayons so that she would know which bond to use and how thick to lay the mortar.
She continued to live in the house as it was taken down, sleeping beneath the stars in the freezing cold. […]
She found a site in the seaside town of Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk, and obtained planning permission and laid foundations. A lorry made the round trip to Norfolk 11 times to carry every part of the house.
So began a life of hardship. She had no electricity and worked by the light of Victorian paraffin lamps. She used an alarm clock to set herself targets each day, noting how many nails she extracted from oak beams per hour, as she dismantled the house and prepared for rebuilding. […]
Two years later, the framework was fixed to the foundations by a local carpenter and May started to infill the brickwork. She had no experience of brickwork, but was determined to lay every single brick perfectly.
It would be another eight years before the roof tiles were put in place and the property made watertight.
By the time she was into her 70s, however, May had moved in and the house stood proudly in its new gardens, each old oak beam in place, the brickwork nearly complete and many of the walls plastered.
Savidge continued to work on the house until she died at the age of 82. Her niece, Christine Adams, continued the job to finish the house and now recounts the amazing life story of her aunt.