A foreword: we've tried our best to gather some information on the history of Jameswood. We are not, however, historians, nor did we consult one in making this blog post. As I am not referencing texts, please just take this as an interpretation of the stories we've heard since moving to the area.
Jameswood itself does not have a tremendously interesting history. However, Sandbank, the village located alongside Dunoon, where the building is located, has a rich and prolific history. One which makes Jameswood and the rest of the community a special place to live and explore.
Where to begin?
Why don't you knock it down and start over?
This is a question Cal and I get A LOT.
To be honest, it's not a bad question. Even our structural engineer, who has been a fantastic help on the project, recommended we knock Jameswood down - THREE TIMES, in the same report! The Argyll and Bute council have taken the same stance on the place, recommending we demolish in nearly every meeting we have had with them face to face.
So why didn't we?
We just wanted to start off this post by saying THANK YOU to everyone who has donated to our GoFundMe page! You've helped us get a little bit closer to making our dream of restoring Jameswood a reality!
As we said before, we will be including the names of everyone who has donated to the project somewhere in our house!
If you are interested in supporting the Jameswood Restoration, you can visit
We are blown away by the incredibly kind messages of support we receive from all over the world. Thank you SO much.
To catch up on the progress we had made before May, you can check out progress report #1 and #2 here!
PROGRESS REPORT #3: May - June, 2019
Last time I posted, we had just gotten the hang of putting up scaffolding, and were about to start to making our way around the building with it.
But first, we had to move the caravan. It was at the front of the house, which wasn't ideal for traffic noise, privacy and safety (it was sitting in front of our partially collapsed wall!), but it would also get in the way of the scaffolding braces.
Our neighbour has a 4 by 4 pickup truck, and he kindly offered to lend a hand. He moved the caravan from our original driveway, around to the new driveway we had recently made for receiving scaffolding.
We've had a lot of questions from subscribers and followers about how people can support the project.
For those of you who would like to, we've set up a gofundme page, so that you can assist us in seeing through our dream of restoring Jameswood!
Our goal is to carry out the project to a high standard and to do so in an environmentally friendly way - so that Jameswood can last another 130 years and have a low impact on our planet while being here! We hope this page can help us achieve this goal.
If you do wish to donate, PLEASE leave your name, or your family's name, so that we can include it somewhere in the house when the project is completed!
THANK YOU again, to EVERYONE who has shown us support, as we restore Jameswood Villa! We can not explain to you how much it means to us to have you cheering us on!
It's been nearly four months since our last progress report, and lots has happened since then!
When you see Jameswood on a daily basis, it's really easy to forget how far you've come and notice the changes that are slowly happening. When a friend re-visits and exclaims, in shock, that, "the place has electricity!" Or, "this room is cleared out!" You realise, lots has changed since we first started the project!
It's important to allow some time for self reflection. We've taken on HUGE project, and looking back at all we've accomplished so far helps motivate us to carry on!
In our last progress report, we had managed to clear the garden - an epic task that required battling through a forest of weeds that had engulfed our property and rescuing trees from the chokehold of ivy and other climbers.
PROGRESS REPORT #2: March - April, 2019
Today, I'm having a rest. I'm doing nothing.
Well.. after waking up at 7 a.m. to unload scaffolding off a truck for 3 hours.
After that. Then, I'm doing nothing.
Cal and I realised we haven't been taking enough breaks. We typically work on the house 6 days a week, and take one day off for ourselves.
Our day off usually involves hiking up one of the various mountains in the area - a peak a week - is what we call it.
Even on our days off, we usually end up doing some work on the house. It's just hard to sit down and do nothing when there's so much to do on the place!
We're doing a good job at getting enough sleep, eating well and (naturally) getting plenty of exercise, but a key ingredient we've missed out on is rest.
Cal is usually a morning person. Staying in bed until 8 is considered a lie-in for him. It seems he has boundless amounts of energy, and he usually greets the day with a giddy smile and a bounce in his step. Seeing Cal accidentally sleep-in past 9 was a very good indication that we haven't been giving ourselves enough downtime!
Our current workload is unsustainable. Something needs to change.
We have to take self care seriously while working on this project, so that we don't burn out, and so that our relationship survives this adventure (an unrested Cal and Claire can lead to some very grumpy behavior)!
So that's why, this weekend, we're taking the WHOLE weekend off. Tools down. Feet up!
We hope everyone has a happy Easter! We'll be enjoying ours while firmly planted in some garden chairs, soaking up the Scottish Sun (Yes! It's been incredibly sunny here lately! We're loving it!).
Thank you SO, SO much for the ongoing support!
Cal and Claire
There's something I've been hiding from my readers since we first started this Blog in January.
Jameswood Villa is a building made up of four apartments. When Cal first went to auction, he only bought ONE apartment in the building.
We decided not to post too much about this because we were in the process of negotiating to buy the other units. Ironically, one of the first times we made it clear we hadn't bought the whole building was in our interview with the Scottish reporter who "broke" our story - but she didn't mention it in her final article!
This week was momentous for us, because we finally own Jameswood... ALL OF IT! And now I can finally tell you all about it.
The fact that Jameswood was split up into seperate apartments is likely a major contributing factor to the building falling into disrepair and becoming derelict over the years. Owners hadn't agreed to make the repairs needed to stop closing orders being put on the building, and apartments weren't sold together, or at the same time - putting off investors.
The fact that the building was split into apartments is ALSO the reason for Cal's (now famous) auction mix up. You can read more about how we accidentally bought Jameswood here.
Three of Jameswoods apartments were up for sale on the day of the auction. The first was sold to another bidder, the second was sold to Cal and the third had no bidders.
Later that day, the Auction house called Cal and asked if we'd like to buy the third apartment that had been up for sale that day.
We hadn't yet seen the place, but we knew that if the last apartment had to go to auction again, we could be waiting months before there was another investor on board for common works to commence. We saw the unsold third apartment as a loose end that needed to be tied up - so we agreed to buy the flat for a discounted auction fee.
Now we owned half the building. And this is when Cal first went and saw Jameswood. As most of you could probably guess, seeing the building for the first time was a bit of a shock. It was definitely more than the "upgrades throughout" that we were expecting from the auction description. Luckily, our good friends Barry and Dexter were there to calm Cal when he first saw the place. Together they did an initial survey of the building, and started to uncover the problems that would have to be solved to repair the building.
Wow! What a whirlwind.
About a week ago, Cal and I thought we were going to be in one Scottish newspaper, having done an interview with a reporter after they had seen our story in Dunoon's local paper.
As the day progressed, we were shocked to find the story spreading, first to other UK papers, and then across the globe.
We were soon getting messages from people in Australia, New Zealand, North and South America, Russia and Thailand.
At first it was a bit overwhelming. It's a very weird feeling, knowing so many people know who you are, and know about your little mix up at an auction. The stories seemed to get more and more sensationalized as the day progressed, and unlike here on my blog, we had absolutely no control over how things were told by all these news sources.
But what came from having our story spread all over the internet was amazing. Cal and I are incredibly moved by the enormous amount of support, the incredibly kind words of encouragement and the general positivity we have been sent by so many people.
From all over the world, people have taken some time out of their days to follow our Facebook, Instagram and Blog, and to email, message and comment us such lovely well wishes.
The scale of this project can feel very daunting at times. It is so nice to know that so many people from all over the world are supporting us as we take this on.
We would just like to say a heartfelt and sincere thank you to everyone who has sent us encouragement.
I will be posting a new update very shortly, but for now, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Cal and Claire
A few of the articles we've found about our story.
While taking on a restoration project of this scale, we inevitably find ourselves hitting road bumps at nearly every step of the way. Finding a new problem seems to be a daily occurrence here at Jameswood.
To keep our spirits high, and stay motivated, Cal and I like to reflect on some of the small victories we've had, instead of the huge hurdles ahead of us.
So here they are...
Finding the elusive electricity wire
The first, and arguably, the best win we've had in the past week has been finding the cut electricity wire, that used to connect the property to mains electricity.
Soon, I'll post a blog explaining just how hard it was to find this wire, but for now, just know that we have been searching for this wire since November!
Hopes of finding the wire were starting to dwindle in the past few weeks, and the gravity of the situation was starting to become clear. If we couldn't find the wire, we were going to have to pay a hefty fee to have the pavement dug up, to be reconnected to the main line.
We were told to look for a little black box, where the cut end of the wire would be sheltered, about 500mm deep in the ground. We were also given a map of the property that indicated (inaccurately) where the wire was supposed to have run.
This week, while digging out drainage pipes at the front of the property, Cal stumbled upon a cut end of a thin, black wire, wrapped tightly in black electrical tape, lying in the ground, with no "black box" in sight.
It was the live electricity wire and we are so relieved to have found it! (And very excited to have electricity on site in the near future!)
Getting a driveway laid
One of the first things Cal did when he first got to Jameswood was clear a Ford Transit-sized space at the front of our property, to facilitate access to our building site.
Now, Transits are incredibly helpful to have when restoring a home, and I'd recommend them to anyone looking to take on a project like ours. However, I would not recommend them to those of you looking for an off-road vehicle..
Our van has gotten stuck in the slick, deep mud on our "driveway" too many times to count. And with such a heavy vehicle, pushing it out (with the help of our friendly, but exasperated neighbours) is not an easy task.
For a while, we would lay old plaster out on the driveway while we were clearing the house. The plaster was a great temporary driveway, but it was a bit too water soluble for the wet conditions we get here in Scotland. Once it had rained, the plaster just added more gunk to the the messy mud our van was getting stuck in.
This week, we were excited to receive our first on-site delivery: 10 tonnes of aggregate, about a quarter of which has gone into making a nice, new, sturdy resting spot for our van!
Our New Home - A Caravan!
As much as I love #vanlifeYoutube videos, trying to live in our Ford Transit, while also using it as a working van, has not been ideal. This week, we've found a new home!
We are now living in a little, 1990's, two berth caravan. It's a dry, clean space to retire to at the end of the day (and has way better closet space compared to the Transit.)
I am absolutely thrilled!
So, as frustrating as this house can be at times, Jameswood is helping Cal and I remember to appreciate the little things in life, and focus on our small victories, instead of the constant problems we encounter.
I hope we have many more little victories for me to write about soon!
Thinking of moving to Argyll and Bute?
The council has a great new website with useful information to help facilitate your move.
They recently posted a lovely story about our move!
You can check it out here