May Savidge: The Woman Who Moved Her House 100 Miles and Spent Her Life Rebuilding It

When city council told May Savidge that her home would be destroyed to make way for a new road, this determined woman decided to take the construction materials and rebuild her historic home—by hand—100 miles away.

Home renovations are never as easy as they seem on HGTV. The moment you tackle one project, there’s always another, even bigger one that you won’t be able to rest until you finish. But for those of us who find ourselves constantly surrounded by paint tins, brushes, and stacks of tiles just waiting to be put into place, take heart: no matter how major your project might seem, it can’t compare with the scope of May Savidge’s DIY home makeover.

For this one-of-a-kind woman from Great Britain, it wasn’t so much a makeover as a move-over, in fact: When city council members in her town, Hertfordshire, told her that her 400-year-old home would soon be demolished to make way for a new road, she refused to see the house that she had lovingly restored be destroyed. Instead, she wrote the city council a letter: “If this little house is really in the way, I would rather move it and re-erect it than see it destroyed,” she said.

When the city council refused to bend, Savidge made good on her vow.  As a bulldozer rolled over her home, she walked among the debris with a permanent marker, numbering every wooden beam and pane of glass to mark where they should go when the home was reassembled. Each night after the demolishers left, Savidge slept inside the remains of the house, despite the bitter cold.

Savidge decided to relocate her home in a coastal town 100 miles away, Wells-next-to-the-Sea in Norfolk, and sent a truck on eleven delivery runs to carry all of the building materials there. Rather than hiring a construction crew to rebuild her beautiful house, though, Savidge then 58, decided to take on the entire project by herself, sleeping in a trailer on the property while working on construction.

It was eight years before Savidge could finally move back into her home, though she continued to work on improvements every day. By the time she passed away at age 81 in 1993, “the walls were up and the roof was on, but the place was little more than a shaky shell,” Savidge’s niece, Christine Adams, said in her book, A Lifetime in the Building: The Extraordinary Story of May Savidge and the House She Moved.

Adams inherited the home upon her aunt’s death, and was surprised to find decades’ worth of memorabilia, including service medals from Savidge’s wartime nursing days, hundreds of diaries, and correspondence between Savidge and a man that she had loved, who eventually left her for another woman. The house, unfinished as it was, contained the woman’s entire life history. Adams knew she must pay tribute to her aunt by transforming the home into the beautiful mansion her aunt had worked so hard to build.

Adams soon sold much of her aunt’s memorabilia, which paid for the final touches in the home’s restoration. Now, Adams lives in the stunning home and runs it as a bed-and-breakfast, where guests can stop in to spend a night in the magnificent home that a determined woman spent her entire life creating.

See photos and read more of this remarkable story in this excerpt from A Lifetime in the Building: The Extraordinary Story of May Savidge and the House She Moved in The Daily Mail, or pre-order your copy of the book from Amazon.

Originally published May 2009

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