It has all the makings of a made for HGTV movie.
A handsome Hollywood actor and producer whose only experience in home renovations ended with him almost in tears as he tried to figure out how to use adhesive tiles for the bathroom floor of his LA abode makes his packed up and moved to England to renovate a giant, decrepit mansion that had belonged to his family for almost 400 years. Hilarity, of course, ensues.
Only, according to a New York Times report, it happens in real life.
Shortly after his father died of a massive heart attack in 2013, Michigan-born Hopwood DePree learned that a castle his family once called home was not just a fairy tale his grandfather had spoken to him when he was a little boy – it was a real place known as Hopwood Hall located just outside Manchester, England.
And since 2017, when DePree, 52, brokered a deal with the local authority tasked with restoring the place to take responsibility himself, he’s been doing just that – while documenting his progress on YouTube and in the new book, “Downton Shabby: An American’s Ultimate DIY Adventure Restoring His Family’s English Castle.”
Since then he’s figured out a thing or two about repairing the castle dating back to 1426 which has fallen into disrepair in the years since its supposed heirs left it for good in the 1920s.
“I learned how to mix mortar and make plaster moulds. I learned to point at bricks,” DePree told The Times. “But I wouldn’t call myself a skilled craftsman at all by any stretch of the imagination.”
While in England, he hasn’t just worked on the 60-room, 25-bedroom house, which he hopes to one day turn into an arts hub, tourist destination and wedding venue. Along the way, he worked on his comedy chops at the Brighton Fringe in 2019 with his stand-up routine called “The Yank is a Manc”.
But the majority of his time was spent working with paid craftsmen and volunteers to shore up the mansion, earning grants valued at $1 million for the work, as well as the respect of some who might not have thought he had it in him to get the job done.
“His quest is truly a dream come true,” Neil Emmott of Rochdale Borough Council said in an email to The Times. “When we first heard of Hopwood’s ambitions, we weren’t sure they were a viable proposition. Nevertheless, slowly but surely, we have seen how his hard work and determination, coupled with the help of many community volunteers, turn fantasy into reality.
[New York Times] — Vince DiMiceli