In the current unreadable market, it’s hard to imagine a more stressful process than trying to sell a house, unless it’s trying to buy one. But it’s not all bad news, especially for buyers in the Cotswolds, where vendors who put their properties on the market are no longer just testing the water, but are firmly committed to selling. And those whose houses have failed to sell are finally prepared to reduce prices to a level that they would have considered laughable three years ago.
So, despite the perennial shortage of high-quality country property that Cotswold estate agents tend to moan about-in good times or bad-there is a very fair selection of good houses currently for sale in the £1 million -£3 million price range, which should be particularly encouraging for family buyers looking to make ‘the big move’ from the capital to the country.
That was the long-term plan of London-based solicitor Julian Stait, when, five years ago, he bought Grade II-listed Siddington Manor at Siddington, near Cirencester, Gloucestershire, a popular village that momentarily acquired celebrity status when style guru Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen and his family moved there some three years ago. Once part of the surrounding Bathurst estate, Siddington Manor dates from the 16th century or earlier; it was rebuilt in the 18th century and restored in Victorian times.
Siddingdon Manor near Cirencester. £1.85m
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The house was in good structural order when the Staits arrived, and they soon embarked on an imaginative but practical reorganisation of its substantial 6,300sq ft of internal space, knocking down walls and raising ceilings to create a large family kitchen, three fine reception rooms, seven bedrooms, three luxurious bathrooms and a playroom, and allow some historic architectural features to see the light of day once more.
Built on three floors, the manor stands in 1.7 acres of formal gardens and grounds that include a tennis court and a swimming pool. Siddington has been a much-loved second home, but with Mr Stait’s career still firmly rooted in London and their two children, aged 5 and 8, already settled in London schools, he and his wife have reluctantly decided to focus their family life in the city, and perhaps make another break for the country in a few years’ time. Meanwhile, a pristine Siddington Manor is for sale through Knight Frank (01285 659771) at a guide price of £1.85m.
Sam Trounson of Strutt & Parker describes the delightful Folly at Chavenage, near Tetbury, 11 miles south-west of Cirencester, as ‘an elegant little Georgian house, taken straight from the pages of a Jane Austen novel’.
The Grade II-listed house, once part of the historic Chavenage estate, dates from the 17th century, with 18th-century and mid-20th-century additions. Looking out across 6.9 acres of landscaped gardens and paddocks to the spire of Tetbury church, the house has more than 4,800sq ft of carefully renovated accommodation on three floors, including four reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, five bedrooms and four bath/shower rooms. A range of outbuildings includes garaging, stables and a small stone barn. Strutt & Parker (01285 653101) quote a guide price of £1.6m.
Set in the midst of the Cotswold Hills, whose thickly wooded slopes provide a spectacular backdrop in spring and autumn, the pretty, unspoilt village of Uley, seven miles south-west of Stroud, has an impressive number of fine 18th- and early-19th-century cottages and houses. Among them is elegant, Grade II*-listed Coombe House, a classic Queen Anne village house that echoes the style of Nether Lypiatt Manor at nearby Bisley, the former country home of Prince Michael of Kent.
Coombe House was bought by the present vendors in 1996, since when they have rebuilt the coach house as a comfortable three-bedroom cottage, built a garage block, added the tennis court and brought the one-acre garden back to life. Untouched by the usual well-intentioned Victorian ‘alterations’, behind the elegant façade of Coombe House is an equally delightful interior, comprising panelled dining and drawing rooms, a lovely oak staircase, a fitted kitchen, a sitting room, six bedrooms, three bathrooms and an old-fashioned sewing room.
‘Like all such marvellous properties, there is always more that could be done, but in rescuing Coombe House from a state of gentle decline, the vendors are passing on the opportunity to live in a house with a wonderful atmosphere and a real sense of history,’ enthuses selling agent Jamie Dalrymple Hamilton of Jackson-Stops & Staff (01285 653334), who quotes a guide price of £1.35m.
Illustrious Melksham Court at Stinchcombe, 12 miles west of Tetbury, which dates from about 1600 and represents a ‘very grand version of the Cotswold style’-having three unequal gables with mullioned windows and a later north wing -is in a different league altogether. Held for centuries by the Tyndale and later the Morse families, the house and its present 40-acre estate were more rec-ently owned by the late Sir Keith Joseph and then by property tycoon and hotelier Sir Maxwell Joseph, who extensively improved the house and gardens.
The present owners, who have lived at Melksham Court since 2004, have made further sympathetic improvements to the main house, which has four reception rooms, a kitchen/break-fast room, six bedrooms, four bathrooms and extensive wine cellars. Secondary accommodation and amenities include a summer house, mill house, tithe barn, staff cottage, coach house, swimming pool, artist’s studio and all-weather hard court.
Palatial equestrian facilities include indoor and outdoor arenas and a 14-box stable block. A notable casualty of the recent downturn, Melksham Court has seen several deals fall apart through no fault of its own, and looks good value for money at a reduced guide price of £2.95m through Smiths Gore (01451 832832).
A cash-rich buyer with an eye to the future may be tempted to take a long-term view on Chapel House Farm near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, which comes to the market at a guide price of £1.35m through Carter Jonas (01865 511444). For sale for the first time in more than a generation, the property comprises a 2,500sq ft Georgian farmhouse in need of total renovation (at an estimated cost of £250,000), together with a newly refurbished four-bedroom cottage, a substantial range of traditional stone barns and 47 acres of paddocks and pasture.
‘Chapel House presents a rare opportunity to acquire a residential farm with significant development and equestrian potential close to Chipping Norton, which offers a wide selection of State and independent schools and easy access to London by road and rail,’ says selling agent Mark Charter.