Like the relations of a jilted bride, estate agents tend to lower their voices when discussing a property where a sale has fallen through at the last minute. But vendors of houses which have failed to sell quickly this year should take heart from the news that contracts have finally been exchanged on impresario Robert Stigwood?s historic Barton Manor estate on the Isle of Wight.

Launched in Country Life on June 17, 2004, by agents Gascoigne Billinghurst (01932 588288), the estate bought by Queen Victoria in 1845 as an extension to Osborne House and sold by the Crown in 1922 found a buyer at around the £6.5m guide price, but the sale fell through. A fresh sale was agreed in March this year, followed by a series of lengthy and complex negotiations involving English Heritage and others. With all the legal niceties successfully concluded, the sale can proceed to completion, much to the relief of selling agent Stuart Cole.

Tim Page-Ratcliff of Strutt & Parker in Lewes (01273 475411) has seen the collapse of not just one, but two sales, in the case of stately Paxhill near Lindfield, West Sussex, which came on the market in April this year at a guide price of £4m.

On each occasion, the so called ?cash buyer? pulled out at the last moment, citing the failure of a related sale as the reason for withdrawal. Having enlisted Savills (020?7499 8644) to help boost the sales effort, Mr Page-Ratcliff hopes that an improving London market and the payment of healthy City bonuses in the New Year will make it ?third time lucky? for the restored Jacobean mansion, with Victorian additions and 61.7 acres of land in the heart of the countryside.

Built for the Boord family in 1595, Paxhill was sold in the mid-1800s to Northall Laurie, who restored the house and made a number of improvements, including the addition of a bathroom something of a novelty in those days. In 1877, the Lauries sold Paxhill to William Sturdy, who, by 1889, had further enlarged and improved the house, adding the south wing with its splendid drawing room overlooking the River Ouse.

The present owners have completely renovated the house which, with five grand reception rooms, nine bedrooms, five bathrooms, staff flat, substantial second floor and vast basement, is now too large for their needs.

Described by selling agents Strutt & Parker (01245 258201) and Savills (01245 269311) as a ?Georgian gem with 17th-century origins? when it was launched in Country Life on March 24 this year, The Old Rectory at Rivenhall, near Witham, Essex has so far failed to find a buyer at £1.95m.

Paddy Pritchard-Gordon of Knight Frank (020?7629 8171) is the latest agent to be recruited to the cause of finding a new owner for this quintessential 18th-century rectory which, with five elegant reception rooms, six main bedrooms, four secondary bedrooms and five bathrooms, plus an indoor pool, stabling and four acres of immaculate gardens and grounds, appears to tick all the right boxes.

This article was published in Country Life magazine, December 15, 2005

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