After a slightly patchy start to the year, the country-house market in the Cotswolds is finally up and running. This week sees the launch-or relaunch-onto the market of some classic Cotswold houses, and although the real showstoppers are still in short supply, there will be plenty to tempt the London buyer out onto the M40 in the coming weeks.

Described by selling agent Rupert Sweeting as ‘the first decent house on the road leading west out of Oxford’, Shipton Manor at Shipton-on-Cherwell, between Kidlington and Woodstock, will appeal to those with children headed for one of Oxford’s many outstanding schools. For sale through Knight Frank (020-7629 8171) at a guide price of £6.25 million, the 9,236sq ft manor house, listed Grade II, has had a succession of illustrious owners since it was built by the Standard family some time in the 1600s.

In 1804, Shipton Manor was bought by the watercolourist William Turner, who renovated the house internally and created a park around it. In 1867, the manor and park were bought by the Blenheim estate and sold in 1920 to Frank Gray, former Liberal MP for Oxford, who significantly extended the kitchen wing and renewed much of the exterior stonework. He also horrified his neighbours by using the manor for the rehabilitation of young tramps. In 1971, Richard Branson bought and renovated the manor, converted the outbuildings into a recording studio for Virgin Records, and dammed a small stream that previously formed the parish boundary, to create a lake in front of the house.

Latterly the country home of the Marquess of Headfort, Shipton Manor stands in 26 acres of beautiful gardens and parkland, and has five reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, four bedroom suites, four further bedrooms, a bathroom and a self-contained staff flat. Out-buildings include an impressive party barn, a range of garden buildings and a bothy with planning consent for conversion to a two-bedroom cottage.

A few miles south-west of Witney, imposing, Grade II*-listed Cote House at Cote, near Bampton, was part of Bampton Manor in Anglo-Saxon times, and was owned by the Horde family and its descendants from 1553 until 1920, when the estate was split up and sold off, with most of the land being bought by its tenant farmers.

The earliest part of Cote House is the Tudor east wing, typical of houses built between 1500 and 1600. Bet-ween 1630 and 1662, Sir Thomas Horde rebuilt two-thirds of the house in the Elizabethan E-form; his son, also Thomas, further modified it between 1663 and 1715, when the west wing was substantially altered. Since then, the house has seen only small-scale changes, apart from some periodic modernisation.

Cote

Currently for sale through Savills (01865 339700) at a guide price of £4m, Cote House stands in 6½ acres of exquisite gardens, and has four fine reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, a master suite with two bathrooms, six further bedrooms and three bath/shower rooms. By contrast, picturesque Manor Farm at Nether Worton, eight miles from Chipping Norton on the northern edge of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, is a renovation project waiting to happen. For sale through Savills (01865 269179) at a guide price of £3.25m following the death of its elderly owner, the sheltered, late-17th-century main farmhouse, with 19th- and 20th-century additions, now needs total refurb-
ishment.

It stands in 103 acres of rolling pasture and woodland in the heart of Heythrop hunt country, and has accommodation on three floors, including three reception rooms, kitchens and staff quarters, seven bedrooms, four bathrooms and five attic rooms. As the former home farm to the Nether Worton estate, the farmstead incorporates a range of traditional and modern farm buildings, including stabling. Across the county border in Gloucestershire, the celebrity sale of the year so far is arguably that of the Hon Robert Hanson’s Garden House at Westonbirt: Strutt & Parker (01285 653101) quote a guide price of £5m for the pristine, 70-acre equestrian estate as
a whole, or in two lots.

The property has a special significance for Sam Trounson of Strutt & Parker, as not only does it involve him in one of the most prestigious sales of the year to date, but the house was his family home before his parents sold it to Mr Hanson in the 1990s. Built in the former nursery garden of Westonbirt House for Capt Guy Hanmer in 1939, the Garden House was the last complete house designed by Norman Jewson, a leading light of the Cotswold group of the Arts-and-Crafts movement, whose greatest claim to fame as a craftsman architect was probably the restoration of romantic Owlpen Manor in 1926. For Pevsner, however, the Garden House was ‘one of Jewson’s best works’, being designed in the more restrained William and Mary manner than in the romantic Elizabethan Cotswold style.

Substantially refurbished during Mr Hanson’s tenure, the main house has four reception rooms, seven bedrooms, four bathrooms and a gym. There is also a three-bedroom, Cotswold-stone secondary house. Predictably, the beautifully maintained gardens are an outstanding feature, as are the state-of-the-art equestrian facilities, which include 15 loose boxes, four foaling boxes and a full-size, tournament-standard polo pitch. The land is divided into several paddocks, all with water laid on and well fenced for horses.

For Mr Sweeting, anyone in search of the classic Cotswold idyll need look no further than the enchanting Church House at Bibury, described by William Morris as ‘the most beautiful village in England’. Set in 16 acres of delightful gardens and grounds on the banks of the River Coln, The Church House, listed Grade II, dates mainly from 1802, but has early-18th-century origins. Knight Frank (01285 659771) quote a guide price of £3.85m for the house, which comes with two secondary houses, a coach house with stab-ling and extensive private fishing on the Coln. The main house ‘needs some work doing to it’: it has three/four reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, eight bedrooms and four bathrooms.

Down in the Wiltshire Cotswolds, Rory O’Neil of Carter Jonas in Marlborough (01672 514916) quotes a guide price of £1.25m for Grade II-listed Hil-marton Manor at Calne, a gem of a Cotswold stone manor house that also needs some TLC. Built in the mid 1800s, with a substantial rear wing added in 1910, the manor was designed as a shooting lodge, before becoming the main house of the surrounding Hilmarton estate. In recent years, it has been the home of antique book dealer and publisher the late Charles Baile de Laperriere. It stands in almost five acres of secluded gardens and grounds and has four well-proportioned reception rooms, including a 24ft drawing room, six bedrooms and three bathrooms.