This contemporary country property was built on the site of an old country house

Set down a long drive, in a magical position in the middle of the South Downs National Park, lies Millicent. The exterior of the house was designed in the Georgian vernacular and the interior layout— all 17,500-plus sq ft of it—which was specified by the owners, comes complete with a vast lower ground floor incorporating, among other things, a two-lane bowling alley.

It was completed in 2010 and, ‘since that time, it has been a much-loved family home, but, rather reluctantly, the owners are putting it on the market as they’ve found another project to take on,’ explains Crispin Holborow of Savills, which are marketing Millicent jointly with the Cranleigh-based agents, house., at a guide price of £19.5 million.

In an area that’s largely dominated by part-tiled Sussex farmhouses, it’s a challenge to find a property that boasts rooms of Georgian proportions, with high ceilings and long windows, so there will be interest, believes Crispin. ‘There are some precedents already set in this part of the world. It’s the first bit of unspoilt countryside you reach heading south of London and there are people who will jump over areas closer to the capital to be here. It’s close to Goodwood and Cowdray, so will also appeal to the broader international market.’

The process of building Millicent wasn’t without its difficulties—the original planning permission for the site, which had been occupied by a caravan, was for something more modest. The plot was bought by the current owners and planning was resubmitted for a more substantial property that, after appeal, was eventually granted. ‘My personal opinion is that it was the right site on which to build a new house,’ says Philip Harvey of Property Vision (01344 651702). ‘It’s down a long drive, doesn’t interfere with neighbours and is built in a beautiful, timeless style.

It’s ridiculous that we should only be building small new houses when there’s an appetite, and the wherewithal, to undertake bigger projects.’ Philip is something of an evangelist for the process of knocking down and building anew—if you have the right advice. ‘For many years now, I’ve been using the phrase “disposable architecture” to describe buildings that aren’t going to stand the test of time and I’ve been advising my clients to knock them down and replace them, which has earnt me the nickname of “king of the wrecking ball”.’

He cites two reasons for the increased interest in this approach: people struggling to find the house they want and the so-called Grand Designs effect of inspiring people to build their dream home. ‘I have a word of warning for anyone embarking on such a project: get professional advice on the sums. These are never reflected on TV programmes and the cost is considerable—simply running a site with scaffolding, health-and-safety requirements and loos can easily run to £5,000 or £10,000 a week. You need someone to really hold your hand.’

One such person might be Sandy Mitchell of the RedBook Agency (020– 7060 6222), who matches clients with professional services and who’s been described as the ‘ultimate comfort blanket’ by one fan. ‘There’s a real hunger for knocking down and rebuilding,’ agrees Sandy, who is currently advising on about eight projects. ‘I’m full of admiration for those who do it and encourage them to do it with open eyes. Often, it’s the only way to achieve something that’s better suited to their ideals than shopping for an existing house where there will  inevitably be compromises.’

He adds: ‘The key is to create an asset that works for you, but will also work for the next owner.’

Millicent stands in 40 acres and comes with seven bedrooms, a fully fitted leisure area, ancillary accommodation, a tennis court and a swimming pool. £19.5 million through Savills (020–7016 3822) and house. (01483 266705)

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