Avening Court was once the manor of of Henry Brydges, who was a notorious pirate, smuggler and highwayman until he married the daughter of a prosperous Avening clothier.
Any important English country house that can trace its history from the late 11th century to the present day will have known periods of triumph, disaster and mischief of one sort or another.
It is certainly true of grand, Grade II-listed Avening Court at Avening, three miles north of Tetbury, which stands at the head of an enchanted valley in fashionable south Gloucestershire and is now for sale through Savills at a guide price of £11 million.
After the Norman Conquest, the Avening estate was taken over by the Crown and, following the death of William’s queen, Matilda, in 1083, was granted to the Abbaye Aux Dames in Caen.
The original manor house was a nunnery built by the Abbess of Caen, who held it, along with neighbouring Minchinhampton, until the Dissolution.
Listed in Cromwell’s inventory of the manor houses of Sion Monastery in 1534, Avening was granted by Henry VIII to Andrew, 1st Baron Windsor, whose descendant sold it to the Sheppard family.
It was later the home of Henry Brydges, a younger son of John, Lord Chandos – a notorious pirate in Elizabethan times before he married the daughter of the lord of the manor, Samuel Sheppard. From then on, Avening Court played a large part in the history of the surrounding area and was the site of the local assizes in the 17th century.
In 1813, the estate was bought by William Playne, a substantial local landowner, who rebuilt the house on the south and west fronts in the Jacobean Revival style. In 1884, his granddaughter married Robert Erskine Pollock, who had the latest part of the house, the west wing, built in the gracious Edwardian manner.
It includes a magnificent ballroom, designed by Cirencester architect Vincent Lawson between 1899 and 1906, for the heir to the house, Martin Pollock. Robert died in 1914 and, a year later, Martin and his brother were both killed in action. A plaque was recently erected to their memory on the west-facing terrace outside the ballroom.
From October 1917 onwards, when Martin’s heir, Capt Hamilton Rivers Pollock, announced the sale of his Avening estate with its ‘fine old Cotswold Manor House’, Avening Court featured regularly in the advertisement pages of Country Life.
In 1929, it was offered for sale ‘in first-class order’ and eventually bought by F. Trimnell, who owned it until his death in 1972, when it was sold with 102 acres of gardens and parkland, for £172,500. However, according to its listing, by 1979, Avening Court was said to be ‘completely derelict’, although it was eventually restored.
Today, Avening Court offers a spacious but manageable 14,766sq ft of living space, including five splendid reception rooms, a recently renovated kitchen/breakfast room, a luxurious master suite, seven further bedrooms, five bathrooms and a staff flat.
Additional properties include an 18th-century, four-bedroom Dower house, a stable cottage and flat, two lodge houses and a pretty Highwayman’s Cottage, the former smithy.
The gardens and grounds of Avening Court, which boast a huge variety of trees, plants and shrubs – including much new planting – are a justifiable source of pride.
Here, too, history has intervened, in the shape of a 900-year-old walnut tree, which was already ancient, when, in 1685, Judge Jeffreys came to Avening Court to try members of the Monmouth Rebellion and allegedly hung several of those found guilty from its branches.
The cream of the Cotswolds.
Paula Lester has a polo lesson at the Beaufort Polo Club.
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