The ambassador and the magical house
Occasionally a property comes onto the market and the owners are as interesting as the building itself.
Uppincott Barton near Crediton and its owner Jenny Balfour-Paul are one such example.
The Grade II listed Tudor property is made of cob and stone and has exposed beams, fireplaces, an oak staircase and sixteenth century wooden panelling.
The owner is an author, a craftswoman and the widow of a British Ambassador.
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Jenny calls me on the telephone just as I'm about to leave the office, already breathless with enthusiasm because I'm interested in her story.
It's been four years since her husband died and Jenny's anxious to get all of the house's history, hers, and her family's, down in print because she
knows moving will dissipate it.
"My late husband spent most of his life in the Arab world, as an archaeologist, a diplomat and a writer. My own work in textiles, dyes and writing has been influenced by the house and somehow the house lends itself to arts and crafts. It really is a magical house."
Jenny's husband Glencairn Balfour Paul (September 23, 1917 – July 2, 2008) was the British Ambassador to Iraq, Jordan and Tunisia before becoming an academic at Exeter University.
The pair married at the embassy in Amman not long after Jenny took a job as his social secretary.
"My husband spoke fluent Arabic and we travelled in Lebanon, Syria and then North Africa. I developed
a love of the Arab world, their arts and crafts and textiles.
"It's an amazing house for displaying arts and crafts – it has so much character.
"It has high ceilings and bags of wonderful light. There's a wonderful feel about the house and it suits oriental textiles and furniture."
Jenny travelled around India in her early teens and soon developed a keen interest in indigo dyeing.
Later, whilst living in the Arab world in her early twenties, she became fascinated by local textile skills and she learnt weaving and batik.
She adds: "I came back to England and my husband got a job as a research fellow at Exeter University.
"I was taken on by Susan Bosence, a well-known fabric printer and designer and I became her apprentice.
"She was passionate about indigo dyeing and encouraged me to return to Yemen in 1983 when I told her its age-old indigo traditions were on the verge of collapse.
"I applied for a grant and I went to Yemen and the Red Sea to study indigo dyeing."
Jenny ended up with a PhD Indigo in the Arab World, which was later published at Exeter University.
Jenny then travelled all over the world writing a book for the British museum on indigo dyeing called Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans.
She says: "My trips to Yemen were extraordinary, taking place when the country was little known and visited.
"I was sharing meals with the friendly dyers of Zabid, sitting on the ground by big clay dye pots in a courtyard made from patterned mud bricks."
Eventually settling into life at Uppincott, Jenny and her family had a small holding, keeping pigs and ducks and growing her plants for dyeing in the garden.
The decision to leave hasn't been an easy one and even now Jenny's gentle self-persuasion is not entirely convincing.
She says: "I couldn't bear to leave, there was such comfort staying here, but once you have got your head around losing someone you realise life must go on.
"The grieving process has taken me to this point and I think it's time another family moved in here. It's a fantastic family home."
Uppincott is on the market at £850,000 with firstname.lastname@example.org