They really don’t make them like this anymore. Bomb proof, 3m (9ft) by 3.1m and designed to defend the coast from air and sea attack. The credentials of the tiny searchlight building tucked beneath the cliffs in the pretty village of Shaldon was something that instantly appealed to Andy and Barbara Marshall.

‘We were on the lookout for something unusual and quirky and then we stumbled across this,’ says Andy, explaining that he and Barbara had already completely refurbished a derelict Georgian manor house and created two holiday lets.

‘We just saw it and thought… there’s some potential there.’

The Gun House (actually used to house giant sea searchlights, rather than guns) came on the market in 2014. The Second World War building attracted national press attention when it was sold with holiday home planning permission for a rumoured price of £200,000.

Great British Life: The house sits below the cliffs at Shaldon. The house sits below the cliffs at Shaldon. (Image: Marsdens Devon Cottages)Great British Life: Andy and Barbara Marshall.Andy and Barbara Marshall. (Image: Chrissy Harris)

Back then, the property was being used as an artist’s studio and storage room. There was no parking, no running water, no toilet and the gist of the media coverage at the time was that who in their right mind would buy it?

‘My son’s partner was working in London at the time and she saw the story in the Metro newspaper,’ says Barbara. She rang him up and said: ‘This isn’t your lot, is it?’ Yep, I’m afraid so, he said!’

Andy is chuckling as he remembers the word in the village was ‘some mug has bought that place’.

Well, somebody was going to and thank goodness it was these two. Andy and Barbara (helped by son Pete) have turned this historic lookout post into a heavenly hideaway. The once working building has been given everything it needs to become a home from home, with a fully functional kitchen, space to eat and drink, plus a cosy bedroom downstairs.

Great British Life: The tiny Gun House as a work in progress. The tiny Gun House as a work in progress. (Image: Andy Marshall)

‘…And that’s it,’ says Barbara as we complete the tour in less than seven minutes, ready to sit on the sofa upstairs and enjoy the reason everybody loves coming here.

‘You’ve just got that view,’ says Andy, gently manoeuvring out of the way so Barbara can get to the posh coffee machine they’ve managed to factor in. ‘You can sit there looking out and the hours can pass by.’

It’s really lovely in here. You feel as though you’re out on the water because the house is so close to it, plus you can see for miles. Presumably, that was the original plan.

Thankfully, there isn’t much need for sea searchlights and guard duty these days and the Gun House is now a place of peace and tranquillity. That’s mainly because comfort was factored in during the design process.

‘I did enjoy that side of it,’ says Andy. ‘It had never been lived in before and we had to think about how it was going to work. We knew it needed to be reverse level living, but the biggest challenge was space and how we were going to fit in a kitchen and everything while still maintaining that view.’

Great British Life: A downstairs room before work begins. A downstairs room before work begins. (Image: Andy Marshall)Great British Life: Downstairs is the cosy stylish bedroomDownstairs is the cosy stylish bedroom (Image: Marsdens Devon Cottages)

‘He loves challenges,’ says Barbara. She then runs through their previous property projects which have involved her and their three then very young children camping in a derelict manor house near Totnes. More recently, Andy bought and converted an old tenement block in Paris. The couple have also done up three holiday lets. So, what’s your background then, Andy, I ask.

‘I was a banker!’, he replies, and we all burst out laughing. It’s clear Andy is actually a frustrated architect, a theory confirmed by Barbara who knew that this place would be fantastic in the end. Andy and son Pete, an electrician, sailor, dive master and, by the sounds of it, an all-round useful guy to have around during a building project, joined forces with his dad on this tricky conversion.

‘I must admit, when we took it on, I went from being excited to being daunted,’ says Andy. ‘And then the storms of 2014 came along and the cliff fell down,’ he adds, describing a major setback which cost them nine months of legal wrangling.

Great British Life: Work begins on the upstairs room. Work begins on the upstairs room. (Image: Andy Marshall)Great British Life: You feel as though you're sitting right out on the water. You feel as though you're sitting right out on the water. (Image: Marsdens Devon Cottages)

‘That delayed things a lot but because the road was closed, it meant I could get a digger in and extend the outside terraces.

‘It went like that, really. Some days we were thinking, what have we done? And other days we were like, wow, this is still going to be fantastic. Pete is very hands on and on our down days, he would perk us all up. Between us all, it worked.’

The Gun House is a family affair and the couple often get together here with their children (they have another son and a daughter) plus their five grandchildren.

Not long ago, seven of them were packed in, enjoying the view. The rest of the time, the house is a popular year-round holiday let with a guestbook to prove it. One couple has racked up nine stays so far.

Great British Life: Andy and Barbara have packed a lot of luxury into this small space. Andy and Barbara have packed a lot of luxury into this small space. (Image: Marsdens Devon Cottages)

‘We’re pretty much booked up all year round because it’s nice in here whatever the time of year,’ says Andy. ‘When it’s stormy, the waves come right up and splash the windows. It’s incredible.’

And the people-watching isn’t bad, either. A couple walk by and stare up towards where we’re all sat but they can’t quite see us. It really is a good hiding place. You can even earwig what passers-by are saying - my idea of a perfect holiday pastime.

‘You can’t really help but sit back and enjoy it because there’s not a lot else to do!’ says Barbara, as a couple of gig rowing boats go by.

‘It changes all the time and there’s always something to watch.’

With a soft sofa, colourful cushions, blankets and a pop-up tv, we can all enjoy guard duty here. This is a perfectly repurposed lookout post.

Great British Life: The house sits below the cliffs at Shaldon. The house sits below the cliffs at Shaldon. (Image: Marsdens Devon Cottages)


The Gun House was originally constructed as part of Shaldon’s Second World War coastal defences. The village is located at the mouth of the River Teign and protecting the area became important, particularly after the fall of Dunkirk. Defences grew to include lookout posts, searchlights, armament and ancillary buildings for the units that manned these positions.

Today, The Gun House is a relaxing retreat. External steps to the first-floor lead to the open-plan lounge/kitchen and dining area, with a TV that can be hidden away at the touch of a button. There is also underfloor heating. Downstairs is a bedroom with ensuite shower room. 

There are two enclosed seating areas outside, each with gorgeous views over the water.