Back in May, Strutt & Parker shook the marketplace with the launch in Country Life (May 14, 2008) of the Crossman family’s Tetworth Hall estate in Cambridgeshire at a guide price of ‘excess £20 million’. Less than two months later, the agents announced its sale for more than the guide price, and we applauded the country-house coup of the year. Now, in this year of crazy contrast between the UK housing and land markets, the bar has been raised yet again with the launch onto the market in September of three historic sporting estates—Encombe in Dorset, and Kelling and Easton in Norfolk at a guide of £25m, followed by the news that the Easton estate has already been sold to a European buyer.

In the UK estates market, where potential purchasers probably number no more than 150 to 200 worldwide, nothing can stand in the way of a rich man’s determination to own the ideal British sporting estate. Mark McAndrew of Strutt & Parker has been no less enthused by the response to the launch of the Deterding family’s enchanting £25m Kelling estate in north Norfolk (Property Market, September 3, 2008), for which offers are already rolling in.

Strutts and CKD Kennedy Macpherson are also reeling in prospective buyers for the Birkbeck family’s High House estate at West Acre, Norfolk, launched in Country Life on September 10 at a guide of £9.5m. And earlier this summer, a fleet-footed Mr McAndrew presided over the sale of well-groomed Wheat Hill Farm at Sandon, Hertfordshire, for considerably more than the £6m guide price. CKD Kennedy Macpherson and Moore Allen & Innocent responded with the sale of Dean Farm at Coln St Aldwyns in the Cotswolds at £7m.

Another serious candidate for English estate honours is the romantic Compton Castle on the Somerset/Dorset border, launched on the market recently by Knight Frank (01935 812236) and Bidwells Faulkner (01923 264264) at a guide of £17m. At its heart is the Grade II-listed Gothic castle, built in 1825 for Hussey Hunt around a 17th-century core, which overlooks a heart-shaped lake with a necklace of teardrop ponds, said to have been created by a heartbroken former owner whose wife ran off with the local curate. It has five Victorian reception rooms, five bedroom suites, four further bedrooms and a bathroom, plus gardens, a farmhouse, two lodges, five cottages, woods and farmland with sporting potential. Savills scored an early season hit with the rapid sale of the dreamy Longparish estate near Andover, Hampshire, for ‘way over’ the £9m guide price quoted on its launch in Country Life (March 27, 2008).

Later, they were joint agents with Knight Frank in the sale of the Swaines Hill estate at Alton, Hampshire, for the ‘excess £12m’ guide. Knight Frank had another successful partnership with Shropshire based Balfours, when the scenic Marrington estate near Church Stoke, launched in Country Life on May 14, was quickly sold to a local family for ‘well over’ the £5.5m guide price. However, not every estate was snapped up.

The Kitson family’s spectacular Morval estate at Looe, Cornwall—launched on the market by Savills (01872 243222) in Country Life on May 7, 2008 has yet to find a suitor at a guide price of £10m. Savills (020–7499 8644) also saw the grand Sawley Hall estate near Ripon, North Yorkshire (Country Life, April 17, 2008), left standing at the altar when a deal fell through at the last minute; it remains on the market at a guide of £10 million. Despite Kent’s solid showing in the country-house market, the jury is still out on the Oakhill Manor estate near Cranbrook, which was launched on the market by Savills in Country Life on June 18, 2008 at a guide price of ‘excess £15m’.

Meanwhile the vendors of the prime Irby farming and residential estate near Grimsby, Lincolnshire, which appeared in Country Life on July 16 at a guide of £9.1m through Humberts (01522 516830), have responded to the adverse market conditions with a reduction in price to £7.8m. But, given the recent surge in confidence at the top end of the country-house market, the omens are good for more recent entrants to the estates market, especially where vendors have taken a realistic view of current property values.

Clive Hopkins of Knight Frank (020–7629 8171) is confident of finding a buyer for the delightful Banks Farm at Barcombe, East Sussex, at a guide price of £5m the same price quoted by his colleague Atty Beor-Roberts in Cirencester (01285 659771) for the charming Little Barrow estate near Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. And the owner of the elegant Wyelands estate in Monmouthshire, which he bought last year, has put it back on the market through David James & Partners (01934 864350) at a guide price of £6m, because he wants more land.

Equestrian estates aren’t always the easiest to place when times are hard, but Savills (020–7499 8644) remain bullish about the prospects for the Saddlewood Manor estate at Leighterton, Gloucestershire, with state-of-the-art polo facilities and the Duke of Beaufort as a neighbour, on at a guide of £6m, and the Claxton Manor estate in Norfolk, former home of eventing hero the late Maj Derek Allhusen, currently for sale at a guide of £5.455m.

Privacy and seclusion are key, Mark McAndrew of Strutt & Parker (020–7629 7282) reminds me, as he launches the remote Emblehope estate at Tarset, in Northumberland’s Keilder Forest, on the market jointly with Savills (020–7499 8644) at a guide of £5m. Surrounded by 47,000 acres of Forestry Commission plantations, the estate, with its four-bedroom lodge, woodland, upland
grazing, substantial and grant income, is the ideal retreat for anyone keen to shake the toxic dust of the City off his feet.

English estates for sale/sold in 2008

1. Easton estate, Norfolk;
2,417 acres; £25m; sold; Savills
2. Encombe estate, Dorset; 2,000 acres; £25m; for sale; Savills/Strutt & Parker
3. Kelling estate, Norfolk; 1,657 acres; £25 million; for sale; Strutt & Parker
4. Tetworth Hall estate, Cambridgeshire; 2,499 acres; £20m; sold; Robinson & Hall/Strutt & Parker
5. Compton Castle estate, Somerset/Dorset borders;
1,271 acres; £17m; for sale; Bidwell Faulkner/Knight Frank
6. Oak Hill Manor, Kent; 376 acres; excess £15m; for sale; Savills
7. Swaines Hill estate, Hampshire; 280 acres; excess £12m; sold; Savills/Knight Frank
8. Sawley Hall Estate, North Yorkshire; 950 acres; £10m; for sale; Savills
9. The Morval estate, Cornwall; 1,130 acres; £10m; for sale; Savills
10. High House estate, Norfolk; 1,098 acres; £9.5m; for sale; CKD Kennedy Macpherson/Strutt & Parker
11. Longparish Estate, Hampshire; 170 acres; excess £9m; sold; Savills
12. Irby Estate, Lincolnshire; 1,271 acres; £7.8m; for sale; Humberts
13. Dean Farm, Gloucestershire; 392 acres; excess £6m; sold; Moore Allen & Innocent/CKD Kennedy Macpherson
14. Wheat Hill Farm, Hertfordshire; 708 acres; £6m; sold; Strutt & Parker
15. Wyelands House Estate, Monmouthshire; 258 acres; £6m; for sale; David James
16. Saddlewood Manor, Gloucestershire; 172 acres; £6m; for sale; Savills
17. Marrington Estate, Shropshire; 995 acres; £5.5m; sold; Balfours/Knight Frank
18. Claxton Manor, Norfolk; 826 acres; £5.455m; for sale; Savills
19. Banks Farm, East Sussex; 321 acres; £5m; for sale; Knight Frank
20. Emblehope Estate, Northumberland; 7,550 acres; £5m; for sale; Savills/Strutt & Parker

Total acreage: 26,451 acres

Total value: £230.255 million

Scottish estates for sale/sold

1. Yester estate, East Lothian; 500 acres; £12–£15m; for sale; Savills/Knight Frank
2. Tullybeagles estate, Perthshire; 5,100 acres; £7m (estimate); sold; Savills
3. Cherrytrees estate, Roxburghshire; 945 acres; £7m; under offer; Knight Frank
4. Skeldon estate, East Ayrshire; 659 acres; £6.95m; for sale; Knight Frank /CKD Galbraith
5. Dunira estate, Perthshire; 3,261 acres; £5.5m; for sale; Savills
6. Langwell estate, Ross-shire; 15,328 acres; £3.5m; for sale; CKD Galbraith/John Clegg & Co
7. Strathvaich estate (below), Ross-shire; 37,151 acres; half share for about £3.5m; for sale; Bowlts
8. Balfour Castle estate, Orkney; 770 acres; £2.7m; for sale; Savills/CKD Galbraith
9. Calroust estate, Roxburghshire; 2,000 acres; £2.25m; sold; Strutt & Parker
10. Camusrory estate, Inverness-shire; 8,100 acres; £1m-plus for half share; for sale; CKD Galbraith

Total acreage: 73,814 acres

Total value: £54.4 million