Words by Kate Thompson
Craig Duffy’s home, on a quiet Southsea street, has got to be the city’s most rock ‘n’ roll house.
The former pub, dating back to the 1890s, has been transformed into a beautiful, light and airy home with period features lovingly preserved.
A lifetime spent in the music industry, meant Craig had accumulated some fascinating ephemera and he needed a big place to be able to display his musical memorabilia – and he knew straight away that the Taswell Arms was the home he had been searching for.
“I looked at a few places where I was living in Chichester but then as soon as I walked into this building, I knew I had to have it.“It looked imposing and was in a brilliant location, 100 yards from the centre of Southsea, but off the main roads.
“I loved the scale of the building. I didn’t want a house like every other house – I wanted something quirky and different,” he said.
He was in a position to be able to buy it for cash but had no money left to do the conversion. He re-mortgaged his house in Chichester and moved into one of the bedrooms in the pub while building work commenced.
“I lived here for eight months with no TV, no cooker and I barely had a bathroom. I had a battered old fridge and a toasted-sandwich maker all shared with the builders and to begin with I thought I would live on take-aways but after a week you soon get bored with that.“
“When I got a Foreman grill and a microwave I was sorted for months,” he said.
Spending so much time in the space meant he could see how it would work as a home. He marked out the new kitchen area in beer crates and scrap timber, formulated how the dining area would work, as well as how to create a music room that would be the envy of anyone with a love of vinyl.
His stunning home has a large open plan entertaining space on the ground floor, five beautiful bedrooms, solar panels on the roof to help with its green credentials, an original air raid shelter in the cellar, a yard for enjoying private outside space, and its location means Wimbledon Park and the seafront are moments away.
“I recently met the daughter of the landlords who had the pub from 1940 to the ‘80s, and she showed me where she used to sleep during the air raids as a four-year-old,” enthused Craig.
As you would expect from someone who has been tour manager for everyone from The Damned to Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz, Blur, and The Good, The Bad & The Queen, Craig has fitted a wicked sound system which allows him to play music all over the house.
Taswell Arms has been witness to some amazing parties since Craig took up residence. After a year as a building site, the work was completed in time for his 50th birthday party, when among others Simon and Yasmin Le Bon served behind the bar. The Damned, Gorillaz, Stiff Little Fingers, Inspiral Carpets and others have dropped by for pre- and post-show drinks
Craig captured every stage of the transformation in photos and a book – and now as he prepares to move on to pastures new, the next owners of the Taswell Arms will receive their own copy of this book as part of the sale.
“I am really proud of what we have achieved. I worked with a great team of local builders and craftsmen, and feel we saved a beautiful Southsea building that might otherwise have been lost to flats,” he said.