Welcome to the first in a series titled, ‘The Object of my Affection’ where we meet people in Plymouth with a story to tell.
Greg Penn – otherwise known as Instagram extraordinaire @Manwithahammer is quickly becoming one of Britain’s best known (and often best dressed) home renovators. Owner of ex-Naval building, Admirals House in Plymouth, he’s making his name renovating the 30 roomed mansion single-handed with very little previous experience! But as a custodian of an important part of Plymouth’s history and a property that’s listed as a Grade II building – there’s a significant amount of architectural responsibility on Greg’s shoulders.
My name is Greg and the object of my affection is my trusty hammer! The reason for this is that it was a gift from my parents when I bought my first house, my first renovation. This one [Admirals House at Milfields, Plymouth] is my second (I’m covered in paint because I’m mid-renovation) but it’s the same hammer my father has had for many years, amongst others, but this one is his favourite.
I remember seeing him wield it as small child growing up, living through the renovations that they were doing and the properties that they restored. It was a sort of gesture and a bit of a good luck token for me when I continued on that journey in their path and sort of took the baton up. His is significantly more used than mine and I even remember him remaking the handle, so stacking all the little leather bits up piece by piece.
It’s a beautifully made thing and it will basically last a lifetime if it’s well looked after. So, not only is it incredibly functional and useful when you’re doing something like I’m doing but it holds a lot of happy and important memories to me as well. So that is why I’ve chosen my trusty hammer.
Renovating a really old and interesting building like Admirals House you do uncover lots of interesting things and there is a massive temptation to rush and do all the exciting stuff but it is a real labour of love. I’m hoping that this is going to be my forever home and I want to do it justice. I mean, for example, I’ve just spent five months painstakingly stripping the paint, the many, many layers of paint that the Navy painted over all the curved doors in the entrance hall!
They were covered so far up that you couldn’t actually see any of the detail and the original architraving – so it’s taken forever and it’s been a really horrible job but I just remember that it’s much better to do something once and do it well than have to go back and revisit it in five years time.
I know that for the rest of certainly my custodianship of this place and hopefully for future generations it will be a really lovely thing for people to enjoy as well as saving and protecting the building for the future.
Through sharing my journey on Instagram I’ve become known as ‘Man with a Hammer’. That’s quite apt given that we’re talking about the hammer and there’s quite a few people watching now which is amazing.
Generally speaking, 99.9% of them are incredibly supportive and actually they do, they feel like they are a rallying sort of supportive crowd as I painstakingly do what I think is really quite boring work, like stripping paint. They get really, really excited for both seeing me restore the house and bring it back to its kind of former glory and really they feel like a sort of huge crowd of cheerleaders.
It also feels like there’s a sense of responsibility, not only for doing the job right but for also teaching other people how to do a good job as well. It’s hopefully inspiring a lot of people to give it a go in their own homes as well and reinstate some of that old beauty and character and original features that these old buildings have. So it’s really exciting. It’s been completely life changing for me sharing this journey with people through Instagram. So, yeah, generally it’s a lot of work but absolutely love it.