With few signs of spring to be seen elsewhere in the West Country, the camellias of Cornwall have been pulling the buyers in from across the Tamar. Already this year, Cornish estate agents Lillicrap Chilcott (01872 273473) have sold 65 houses at prices ranging from £300,000 to more than £1 million. They are hoping that another early bird will swoop on historic Penhallow Manor at Altarnun, on the edge of Bodmin Moor, at a guide price of £800,000.

The Grade II-listed former vicarage, rebuilt following a fire in 1841, was the setting for part of Daphne du Maurier?s Jamaica Inn. Currently run as an exclusive bed and breakfast, the manor stands in three-quarters of an acre of gardens and has seven en-suite bedrooms, six reception rooms, a three-bedroom coach house and a separate annexe.

The inlets and creeks of south Cornwall?s Helford estuary were the setting for du Maurier?s Frenchman?s Creek, and provide the backdrop to the Old Vicarage at Manaccan, which looks south towards Carne Creek over gardens designed by a former head gardener of the National Trust. Parts of the building date from the late 16th/early 17th century; the west wing was added between 1730 and 1740. In 1802, the rector, Richard Polwhele, paid for the north wing himself, when he was refused funding by the Bishop of Exeter.

The house was in poor shape when, four years ago, the present owners gathered a team of hand-picked craftsmen to restore and modernise it. The result is a triumph of understated elegance. Now on the market through Savills (01208 264444) at a guide price of £1.1m, the Old Vicarage has a fine panelled hall, a drawing room, a study, a formal dining room, a kitchen/breakfast room, four bedrooms and four bathrooms.

The repair and renovation of the former private chapel, now used as a library and summer dining room, won the Cornish Building Group?s award for Best Period Building Restoration in 2002.

This article first appeared in Country Life magazine on March 30, 2006.

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