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Article by Janice Morley 


Justine and Stuart McBeath travelled a long way to live at Gun Hill Park in Aldershot, Hampshire. The last home they owned was in South Africa. Stuart’s new job in Britain was in an area near Gun Hill Park – Weston Homes’ conversion of the disused Cambridge Military Hospital into new homes – so while he and Justine sorted themselves out, they rented close by in Farnborough. Starting their search for a place of their own, they found a new-build house with a garden, by one of the UK’s biggest developers. The couple have two dogs, so the garden was an advantage. ‘Then another new property popped up on Facebook,’ says Justine, 52. ‘And it changed my whole thinking.’

  She and Stuart had never envisaged living in an apartment. ‘We have a big family who have all decided to come to the UK from Johannesburg,’ says Justine. ‘They had all left home and have partners, but we were used to big houses. Suddenly we were thinking about a new option – apartment living.’ What had attracted the couple was an extraordinary piece of history. At Gun Hill Park, Weston Homes has transformed the magnificent Grade II-listed Victorian hospital building into tall, elegant apartments and built further homes in the grounds… and it was in the grounds that a small group of low-rise apartments caught Justine’s eye.
She says: ‘I just had to go and see where it was. Basically, when you are in Aldershot you follow the spire of the hospital clock tower and drive uphill until you get there. We found this lovely old heritage building and instantly fell in love.
   ‘We searched out our plot, which was opposite woodland, and we thought, “This is it.” We pulled out of our offer on the house with a garden and put in an offer on our Weston Homes apartment. It was the best decision we’ve ever made.’
They moved into a new way of life – apartment living with two en suite bedrooms and two terraces. All the outside space that comes with their new home is thrilling for Justine, who is a keen gardener. French windows from the master bedroom open to the large terrace garden, while the second terrace is off the living area.
   Working as a financial planner, Justine also saw immediately the value in what they were buying. ‘The wood-finish floors were included, the very high-quality white goods and the kitchen, the fitted cupboards in our bedroom and two very luxurious bathrooms, and much more,’ she says. ‘It really was a good deal.’ The buying process went smoothly and the couple have nothing but praise for the Weston Homes sales office staff. ‘They were exceptionally helpful,’ adds Justine. ‘We had our mortgage in place so the money was sorted – but there was so much involved in moving in and they were wonderful.’
Stuart and Justine moved in before Christmas, and their three daughters and son have settled down near them, with jobs and their own spacious homes. Of course, all the family wanted to come to Gun Hill Park for Christmas. The proud new homeowners entertained 16 on Christmas Day, including Justine’s first husband and his wife. ‘There is something about this historical building that attracts people,’ smiles Justine. They also had the family to watch fireworks from their terrace on New Year’s Eve.
The couple are already well settled in their new neighbourhood. ‘I work from home and walk our dogs into the woods every lunchtime, and in the evening I watch the sunset,’ says Justine. ‘I am in love with historical buildings. We go into the main building here and look at all the pictures of the royal families visiting the hospital. We are living in history.’
   However, they are happy not to be saddled with the big energy bills that traditionally come with a historical home. The homes on this heritage site are designed and built with the Weston Homes focus on low bills, low energy use and sustainability.
   ‘This home is really energy efficient,’ says Justine. ‘After having rented a big house in Farnborough with huge electricity bills, it is really good to have these low costs. And with these large windows we have loads of natural light.’

The couple’s two much-loved miniature greyhounds, that curl up on their sofas and fold into their laps, seem to endorse their decision to be apartment people. ‘I thought it might be a problem for the dogs but with our large outdoor space they have settled in and love it as much as we do.’ Yes, Justine and Stuart have travelled a long way to find their happy place – but without a doubt, they have succeeded.

Photography by Juliet Murphy