A report from property website Primemove.com, based on Land Registry figures, suggests that the mainstream housing market in England and Wales took ‘a significant dive’ last year. Only 989,665 properties sold in 2007, compared with 1,283,459 in 2006 a drop in numbers of 23%, despite a record 2.9 million properties being offered for sale. Primemove spokesman Henry Pryor maintains that average asking prices have already fallen by 5%, as a result of the global credit crunch, butwhether this signifies a short-term ‘correction’ or impending recession, only time will tell. In the meantime, country house agents are delighted when the harbingers of national gloom and doom focus their attention on something other than the latest ‘crisis’ in the UK property market.

‘Thank heavens for the Archbishop of Canterbury,’ exclaims Jill Mitchenall of Jackson-Stops & Staff in Sevenoaks (01732 740600) as she prepares for her firm’s first major launch of the year, that of historic, Grade II listed Ightham Place at Ightham, near Sevenoaks in Kent, which comes to the market with a guide price of £2.25 million. It’s a valuation the agents see no reason to downgrade, given the sustained demand for good family houses in this popular part of Kent, and the impressive credentials of Ightham Place itself. Originally built in the 18th century, Ightham Place is thought to be one of only two private houses influenced by the Victorian Gothic architect William Burges, who extended and refurbished it in 1869 for his friend the Rev James Sandford-Bailey, then incumbent of Ightham’s St Peters church. Set in an acre of enchanting gardens in the heart of the village, the house has six reception rooms, five bedrooms and three bathrooms, plus a new kitchen/breakfast room extension. Happily, not all media coverage has been negative of late, and when Arundel, West Sussex, was voted Britain’s best county town to live in by a national newspaper poll in January, the owners of pretty River Coppice at nearby Warningcamp gave the green light for its launch in next week’s Country Life, selling agent Tim Harriss of Knight Frank reveals.

The pristine, brick-and-flint Georgian village house, built in 1790 and listed Grade II, stands in more than an acre of immaculate gardens and grounds, with spectacular views to the rear over Arundel Castle and the South Downs. Knight Frank (01483 565171) quote a guide price of £2.25m for River Coppice, which has four reception rooms, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a two-bedroom converted barn, and a further two-bedroom guest annexe. Nor is the emergence of Cambridge as Britain’s most recession proof town in another recent poll likely to prove detrimental to the sale prospects of Houghton Manor at Houghton, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, for which Carter Jonas (01223 368771) quote a guide price of £1.695m. Built in 1906 in the Arts-and-Crafts style by the Rev Frederick Oliphant, who was an architect as well as rector of the local church, Houghton Manor became a care home in 1972, before being restored, in 1997, to private ownership and its former glory.

The present owners have completed the rehabilitation process, refurbishing Houghton Manor’s splendid Arts-and-Crafts interior, which includes five main reception rooms, six bedrooms and three bathrooms, and reviving its Edwardian gardens. The enduring power of the written word may even have played a part in the rapid sale of the charming Dower House at Chalfont St Peter, near Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, which came to the market on January 4

with a guide price of £1.85m through the local office of Hamptons International (01753 886464), and went under offer within two weeks following competitive bidding between three determined buyers. Back in 1967, an advertisement for the Dower House in Country Life inspired American humorist Ogden Nash, a self-confessed ‘lover of names’ and admirer of houses’ to write a poem about it, entitled If there were no England, Country Life could invent it. For many City bonus earners, it’ll be a good place to start.