People who search family tree web sites usually discover beginning and marriage data, newspaper clippings, light images or possibly a long-lost relative.

Hopwood DePree discovered a 60-room English manor.

As a toddler rising up in Holland, Mich., within the Seventies, Mr. DePree was transfixed when his beloved maternal grandfather, Pap, a historical past buff, advised him about an enormous slice of rolling land throughout the ocean the place his forebears had a grand home known as Hopwood Castle.

A citadel in Britain owned by his household? Named for his household? No method.

Fast ahead three and a half a long time. Mr. DePree, by then an actor and producer in Los Angeles, was at his pc early one evening within the spring of 2013, trawling an ancestry web site.

The previous had turn out to be a favourite vacation spot for him after Pap’s loss of life in 2008 and, two years later, the sudden loss of life of his father, Thomas, from an enormous coronary heart assault. Mr. DePree was left unmoored, unsure about the best way ahead. Tracing his roots was a consolation.

That fateful night, he noticed a hyperlink to a narrative a couple of Lord Hopwood of Hopwood Hall and an outdated black-and-white photograph of a really stately house in Middleton, England, simply outdoors Manchester. Increasingly curious, Mr. DePree made some e mail inquiries and booked a flight to see firsthand the household seat.

A 50,000-square-foot, brick-and-stone manor in-built a quadrangle round a timber-framed corridor, Hopwood Hall had seen higher centuries. The roof leaked prodigiously, dry rot was ascendant, moisture seeped from the partitions, plaster was falling from the ceilings, home windows have been lacking panes, flooring have been lacking boards, many sections of the home had been vandalized. Trees have been rising out of the chimneys.

And but … there have been doorways dotted with rivets from the medieval interval — some sections of the home date to 1426 — and doorways with their unique hand-forged {hardware}. The wood-paneled partitions in one of many parlors have been adorned with intricate carvings from baseboard to ceiling. The fire in a room referred to as the reception corridor was embellished with an iteration of the Hopwood household coat of arms; the household’s heraldic animal, a stag; and the Hopwood household motto, “By Degrees.”

“When I walked in, I felt something in me change almost immediately. I knew this place was special,” Mr. DePree, 52, stated. “But I was told during that first visit that if nothing was done, within five or 10 years, Hopwood Hall would crumble.”

He chronicles his efforts to save lots of the corridor in “Downton Shabby: One American’s Ultimate DIY Adventure Restoring His Family’s English Castle,” a memoir printed late final month.

Hopwoods lived in the home till the early Twenties, in response to the e-book. But after the 2 heirs have been killed throughout World War I, their grieving aged mother and father closed up the property and moved to London. A cotton firm used the corridor throughout World War II, and in 1946 an order of monks moved in for just a few a long time. By the late Eighties, the property had turn out to be the duty of the native authority, which had neither the need nor the wherewithal to take care of it. Then got here Mr. DePree.

The “DIY” within the e-book’s title is, maybe, greater than a bit deceptive: Mr. DePree, who bears a passing resemblance to Owen Wilson, isn’t the man reglazing the home windows, plastering the partitions, stabilizing the muse or changing floorboards. Hopwood Hall’s longtime caretaker, Bob Wall, has joked that the acronym actually stands for “Dim Inexperienced Yank.”

But credit score the place credit score is due: The Yank has come a good distance from the humiliating second when he stood in a parking zone of a Home Depot in Los Angeles, nearly in tears as a result of he couldn’t work out how you can work the stick-on tiles he had purchased for his rest room ground.

“I’ve learned how to mix mortar and make plaster molds. I’ve learned to do pointing on bricks,” stated Mr. DePree, who offered his home in Los Angeles 5 years in the past and moved full time to Middleton to immerse himself within the preservation efforts. “But I wouldn’t say at all that I’m a skilled craftsman by any stretch of the imagination.”

Still, he has achieved loads of heavy lifting since 2017, when he signed a contract with the Rochdale Borough Council, the native authority, to imagine duty for Hopwood Hall. (The Council had first verified his familial bona fides.) The deal gave Mr. DePree 5 years to provide you with a practicable and totally detailed plan to save lots of his ancestral house and create a sustainable mannequin to maintain the lights on.

“His quest really is the stuff of dreams,” Neil Emmott, the chief of the Council, wrote in an e mail. “When we first heard about Hopwood’s ambitions, we weren’t sure if they constituted a viable proposal. Nonetheless, slowly but surely, we have seen how his hard work and determination coupled with the help of many community volunteers is turning the fantasy into reality.”

“Hopwood was just feeling his way when I first met him, but he’s become more confident,” stated Geoff Wellens, an area historian. “I truly believe that if anyone can get the job done, it’s him. It’s his family’s old home. He has that family tie.”

Bit by bit, Mr. DePree has turn out to be the general public face of the trouble, its cheerleader in chief and devoted fund-raiser. Recent grants from Historic England, a authorities company, and the Rochdale Borough Council complete greater than $1 million.

Thanks to an acquaintance, Mr. DePree was additionally invited to hitch Historic Houses, an affiliation comprising the house owners of lots of Britain’s largest non-public residences. At the primary gathering of the group that he attended, he met the very welcoming Lord and Lady Carnarvon — “Geordie and Fiona” — the house owners of Highclere Castle, the place a lot of “Downton Abbey” was shot. He additionally met Julian Fellowes, the creator of “Downton Abbey” and the proprietor of Stafford House, a grand pile on the south coast of England.

“Start with the roof,” Mr. Fellowes suggested the beginner about Hopwood Hall. “Make sure it is dry and go from there.”

Soon after his transfer to Britain, Mr. DePree began a YouTube channel, posting movies for pals and supporters to chart the progress of the restoration. He additionally wrote a one-man present about his travails and triumphs, and toured it at comedy festivals across the nation.

The price ticket for the house enchancment is $13 million, with annual working prices estimated at $800,000, Mr. DePree stated. Proceeds from his present have been contributed to the trigger; a piece of the royalties from his e-book will go towards it, too.

“Many country houses in the U.K. have had to find ways to reinvent themselves to keep up with the enormous costs of operating, staffing and maintenance, and Hopwood Hall is on a similar path,” Mr. DePree stated. He hopes to show the manor into an arts hub for the area people and a vacationer vacation spot. A marriage vacation spot, too. Hopwood Hall could have round 25 bedrooms to accommodate the festivities.

There are actually typically as many as 30 paid employees and keen volunteers on the corridor on a given day. “We’re moving forward quite quickly,” stated Mr. DePree throughout a current Zoom name as he walked by way of the carriage entrance, presently a holding space for the massive squares of slate that can quickly pave the roof. “This year has been exciting because I’ve been walking into rooms that it had not been safe to walk into before.”

But progress isn’t essentially regular. “A few weeks ago, there was evidence that maybe there were bats in the hall, so we had to immediately halt what we were doing and check with experts and do a bat survey, because bats are a protected species,” he stated.

Flying mammals are among the many many problems. Hopwood Hall can be a “Grade 2* listed” constructing, a designation by Historic England for buildings of specific architectural or historic curiosity. Consequently, partitions can’t be knocked down willy-nilly; a newly found door can’t be pried open with out permission.

Slowly, Mr. DePree has grasped that he isn’t in Los Angeles anymore. “I’m learning about heritage skills and understanding that you can’t use modern materials,” he stated.

In different phrases, drywall from Home Depot shouldn’t be an possibility. Instead, it’s important to find some goat hair and, utilizing medieval methods, combine it with lime mortar. And no off-the-rack home windows — it’s important to use particular glass, Mr. DePree stated, “and load it into a leaded-glass window, which is a whole skill unto itself.”

Under the phrases of his settlement with the Council, Mr. DePree can transfer into Hopwood Hall as quickly because it’s protected to take action — maybe this yr. At some level, he’ll formally turn out to be the proprietor of the property. “We’re getting closer to the point that it can be entrusted to me,” he stated.

“Obviously, the family connection was a selling point with the Council,” Mr. DePree continued. “I don’t think any of this would have happened without that connection.”

His grandfather, he stated, could be proud. “He loved history and he loved his Hopwood identity,” Mr. DePree stated. “Maybe several hundred years from now, people will read about this project and there will be one or two lines about me.”

For weekly e mail updates on residential actual property information, enroll right here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.