Who wants the bother of a country estate these days? Quite a few people, actually, says Jonathan Bramwell of buying agents Prime Purchase (01608 810662). ‘We have several buyers willing and able to buy, but they’re incredibly selective, and most of the estates on offer in the past 12 months have simply not made the grade. Most of our buyers are British, but we also have some Europeans who are attracted by the weak pound, and see this as a good time to buy a sporting estate, particularly one with outstanding driven shooting.
‘The basic requirements are the same as ever: a good rural location in beautiful, tranquil countryside within two to three hours of London, and an impressive house in a parkland setting. The estate must be realistically priced, and buyers now also want detailed information on refurbishment and running costs, what income the estate can generate, and where value can be added for the future.’
On the face of it, the only estate currently on the market that seems to fit that bill is the historic, 460-acre Biddlesden Park estate at Biddlesden, on the Buckinghamshire/Northamptonshire border, which launches in COUNTRY LIFE today at a guide price of £20 million through Knight Frank (020–7629 8171) and Savills (020–7499 8644). With Russian and European buyers entering the fray beside some heavyweight Britons who have been keeping their powder dry, Jess Simpson of Savills anticipates some serious competition for ‘the first classic country estate to enter the market this year’.
Biddlesden Park, listed Grade II*, stands on the site of an important Cistercian abbey, founded in 1147 and seized by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. By the early 18th century, the abbey was a ruin, which was eventually demolished by John Sayer, who built the present grand Georgian house in 1727. The imposing, 20,713sq ft mansion sits proudly in the centre of its land, looking out across a cascade of eight river-fed lakes, and surrounded by 390 acres of grassland and 106 acres of ancient woodland. In short, the perfect landscape for a varied and interesting family shoot, and some entertaining trout and coarse fishing.
In the 1980s, Biddlesden Park was comprehensively renovated by the present owner, who now wishes to downsize, but it still has much fine original plasterwork, panelling and joinery and an impressive 1730 staircase. Accommodation on three floors includes a reception hall, winter and summer drawing rooms, a dining room, a library, a study, a billiard room, a kitchen/breakfast room, a conservatory, a vast master suite, three guest suites and a two-bedroom guest flat.
The second floor has had its ceilings raised to provide extensive children’s and staff quarters, and could be completely remodelled, subject to listed building consent. Ancillary buildings include traditional stable and farm court-yards, an indoor school, two Grade II-listed lodges, two staff flats, a three-bedroom farmhouse in need of refurbishment, and various barns and outbuildings.
By comparison with the magnificence of Biddlesden Park, the enchanting 197-acre Plas Llanddyfnan estate at Talwrn, three miles inland from the Anglesey coast, with its delightful Queen Anne manor house and distant views of Snowdonia, is small but perfectly formed, with a ‘nice little shoot’ offering mainly wildfowl and woodcock. From the early 1700s, Plas Llanddyfnan was owned by seven generations of the Griffiths family, who were prosperous local land-owners, before it passed to Mrs Elizabeth Lewis, ‘a gentle-woman of independent means’.
The main house, listed Grade II, probably dates from the late 16th century, but was sub-stantially remodelled for John Griffiths in about 1709. It has three reception rooms, eight first-floor bedrooms, four second-floor bedrooms and four bathrooms. Just north of the main house is a picturesque stable block with a bell tower, and a coach house bearing the inscription ‘JGL 1803’; it refers to John Griffiths Lewis, grandson of the seventh (and last) John Griffiths, who married Elizabeth Lewis. She eventually left for Beaumaris, where she died aged 94. Plas Llanddyfnan is for sale through Strutt & Parker (01244 354880), at a guide price of ‘excess £2m’ for the whole, or in three lots, comprising the main house with its gardens, woodland and historic marshland, the former Home Farm with a three-bedroom farmhouse and 29 acres of parkland, and a separate 53-acre block of productive grassland.
When it comes to breath-taking scenery, nothing beats the splendour of a Scottish Highland estate, but even few of these can match the dramatic beauty of the Torridon House estate, on the northern shore of Upper Loch Torridon in Wester Ross. The 234-acre estate, with its Victorian shooting lodge, glorious gardens and grounds, four-bedroom fishing lodge, five cottages, various estate buildings and the ruins of a boathouse lost to the storms of 2006, is for sale through Knight Frank (0131–222 9600) at a guide price of £3.75m for the whole, or in three lots. This is all that remains of the vast, 17,000-acre Torridon estate and deer forest, once owned by the Lords of the Isles, but gradually sold away over the years.
Torridon House was built of the famous Torridon red sandstone in 1876, and designed for family living, but is still big enough to cater for sporting parties during the shooting and fishing seasons. It has four main reception rooms, a billiard room, a master bedroom apartment, 17 bedrooms, five bathrooms, and a huge basement and cellars.
The wonderful gardens and grounds, laid out when the house was built, run down to the sparkling River Corrie, which flows over a waterfall, down a rapid, and into a series of meandering pools at the bottom of the garden. With the estate comes salmon and sea-trout fishing on the River Torridon, salmon rights on Loch An Lasgaiche, the right to fish from a boat on Loch Damph famous for its brown trout and sea fishing on Loch Torridon.