Given the high costs associated with buying a country property these days stamp duty, legal fees, removal expenses, and so on it is surprising how many houses sold within the last two years have already come back on the market. The reasons for a rapid resale can be many and varied, but currently the two most common seem to be either an unexpected career move, or an impending divorce.

Neither of which applies in the case of the pristine Old Rectory at Lowick, near Thrapston, Northamptonshire, which was bought by its present, happily married owners, Graeme and Rita Chapman, for £2.4 million in August 2003. The classic, Victorian-Gothic former rectory was built in 1855 for the Rev Pretyman and occupied in the 1870s and 1880s by the Rev William Collins, who entertained such literary friends as George Eliot and Anthony Trollope within the rectory?s stout stone walls. Miss Eliot is said to have based her fictitious Middlemarch on Lowick village, and for Northamptonshire-born Mr Chapman, it was ?just like coming home? when he and wife moved into the Old Rectory back in the autumn of 2003.

The imposing stone house with its Puginesque interior, listed Grade II, had been renovated from top to toe, with no expense spared, but its 17 acres of newly landscaped gardens and grounds adjoining the Drayton estate on the one side and overlooking 15th- century St Peter?s church on the other were definitely lacking in colour and warmth. Two years on, the addition of a conservatory, a summer house, a heated outdoor pool and some inspirational planting including an avenue of lime trees flanking the drive have done much to soften Lowick?s somewhat austere silhouette.

Originally, the Chapman?s extended family were expected to join them at Lowick, but this has proved impossible, and Mr and Mrs Chapman have regretfully decided to sell the Old Rectory and rejoin the family back in Bedfordshire.

Meanwhile, Jackson-Stops & Staff (01604 632991) are seeking offers ?in the region of £3m? for this important Northamptonshire house, with its four reception rooms, six bedrooms, three bathrooms, cottage annexe, and coach house with planning consent for conversion.

This article first appeared in Country Life magazine on March 2, 2006.

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