A House That Inspired a British Novelist


Her son, Clive Lofts, still lives next door in Northgate House’s former coach house, which has been converted and is today a separate property not forming part of the sale.

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The drawing room of Northgate House has a molded ceiling and floor-to-ceiling sash windows.

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Chris Rawlings/Jackson-Stops & Staff

He said it was difficult to date the main building as a whole. “There has been a house on this site, however, for a long, long time,” he said. There is an opinion that it perhaps used to be two houses that were later joined together.”

Many of Ms. Lofts’s novels, including her Suffolk Trilogy, follow the history of specific houses and their residents over several generations.

“My mother always loved old houses, and she fell in love with this one,” he said. “It did require a lot of modernization when she bought it back in 1955. It had no central heating at that time, so she had to have a large system and lots of radiators installed throughout this huge house.”

Northgate House still embodies much of its period grandeur, with many rooms fully paneled, and with features such as marble fireplaces, Georgian door casings and architraves.

The 494-square-foot drawing room has a notable molded ceiling and floor-to-ceiling sash windows. The 408-square-foot reception hall has a fireplace and French windows opening on to the garden, while the 456-square-foot dining room can comfortably accommodate a 12-seat table.

The first floor also includes an entrance hall, kitchen-breakfast room, study and music room. A 285-square-foot sitting room and a laundry room form the lower level of what could be a separate, two-story home within the larger house. Here, one of two service staircases rises up to a shower room, kitchenette and a 285-square-foot bedroom. This accommodation could be self-contained.

The Georgian main staircase sweeps up from the center of the house to a large, second-floor landing, leading to seven well-proportioned bedrooms, together with three large bathrooms.

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Norah Lofts in the drawing room. She lived at Northgate House from 1955 until she died in 1983.

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Courtesy of Clive Lofts

One of these bedrooms, which is approximately 320 square feet, was Ms. Lofts’s study.

“This was very much the hub of the house,” Mr. Lofts said. “It was where my mother did all her writing. When the sun comes around on a summer’s evening, it is lovely in here. She had a magnolia bush planted out in the garden so she could see from her office as she wrote.”

On the third floor of Northgate House are hobby rooms, which may well have been servants’ quarters. The cellar is also extensive and could possibly have had an entrance to a tunnel leading down to an abbey that once stood on the site close to where the cathedral is today.

Northgate House sits on approximately half an acre, including landscaped gardens and a summer house dating to the 1920s. There is also a kitchen garden and off-street parking.

Ollie Peacock, of Jackson-Stops and Staff, described the property as “arguably the finest house in Bury St. Edmunds.”

“As this is a niche market, we are looking for a particular buyer,” he said, “perhaps someone who wants a large family home but does not want acres of land to look after and will enjoy all the convenience that town-center living offers.”

Ms. Lofts, who also wrote under the pen names of Peter Curtis and Juliet Astley, had dozens of books published, as well as short stories and nonfiction, while she lived at the property. In one piece of writing, which she titled “Home with a History,’’ her son explained, she discussed Northgate House.

“Architecturally hybrid, historically obscure, it just suits me,” she wrote. “And although the verb ‘to love’ is one which I, a born East Anglian, find difficult to conjugate, I can truthfully say to Northgate House, ‘I love you!’ Then all its component parts combine and speak with one voice, saying, ‘You are not the first!’ ”

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