If this week’s sneak preview of majestic Great Addington Manor, near Kettering, Northamptonshire, is anything to go by, the autumn selling season will give prospective purchasers plenty to get excited about. For sale at a guide price of £2.7 million through joint agents Carter Jonas (01604 608200) and King West (01858 435970), the immaculate, Grade II-listed Jacobean manor house, which launches officially in the September 7 issue of Country Life, heads an impressive list of high-profile country houses and estates that are due to hit the market in the coming weeks.

‘It’s unusual for a house of such importance to be offered for sale in the area, particularly one that has been so well cared for,’ says selling agent Stephen King, who oversaw the sale of the house last time round- a deal that turned out to be not so much a sale as a swap.

The previous owner of Great Addington Manor was the cartoonist and illustrator Simon Bond, probably best known for his macabre bestseller A Hundred and One Uses of a Dead Cat. Bond bought the house in the mid 1980s, but in 1993, he decided to move on. Current owners Geoffrey and Carolyn Groome were among dozens who turned up to see the manor on its official viewing day. Both natives of Northamptonshire, at the time, they were living between two houses, a classic Georgian former rectory at Langar, Nottinghamshire, and another house at Great Oxendon, Leicestershire. They were keen to find a large house in Northamptonshire to be closer to Mrs Groome’s frail father, and Great Addington Manor seemed to be just the ticket. But, as Mr Groome explains: ‘With so many people milling around, we didn’t think we had a hope of getting it, until, by chance, I asked Simon Bond where he was thinking of moving to. He mentioned a house we knew at Southwell, Nottinghamshire, not unlike our house in Langar, so, on the spur of the moment, I suggested that we swap, with us paying the difference on Great Addington, and that’s what we did.’

The best part of 20 years later, the Groomes have transformed the house and its six acres of enchanting formal gardens (in all, there are 28 acres of grounds) into the beating heart of the village, hosting charity concerts and events, and reviving the tradition of opening the gardens to the public on Easter Monday each year. The Bonds, on the other hand, remained at Langar for only two years before returning to London, finally settling back in Northamptonshire in 1999, where Simon died, aged 63, in July this year. Local records show Great Addington as having two manors at the time of Domesday.

great-addington-manor

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In 1125, one was owned by the de Vere family and later disappeared; the other, originally a grand farmhouse owned by the Abbots of Croyland, became the present manor house. In 1606-7, seven deeds confirm the sale of the manor of Great Addington, including 15 houses and 60 acres of meadow and pasture, by Gabriel Clarke to Margery Curteys and her son, Christopher. A year later, he and his wife, Dorothy, took over some of the land, a cottage and three watermills, and, within 12 months, had built themselves a new house, the core of the present manor house, as confirmed by the date-stone above the front door, which shows their initials and the year, 1610. By 1678, Great Addington Manor was owned by Thomas Andrews, who was named High Sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1687. The manor remained in the hands of the Andrews family, before being sold in the late 1700s, after which it was let several times, being described in the Northampton Mercury as ‘a handsome mansion house with stables, coach houses, brew houses, dairy, laundry and other necessary outhouses, a good walled-in garden, and seven acres and a half, planted with apple trees, with the liberty of sporting on the manors of Great and Little Addington’.

The most important change of ownership came in the late 1800s when Sir Sidney Leveson Lane, who had married the Dowager Lady Downe in 1863, bought Great Addington Manor and substantially extended it with the addition of two large wings either side of the original E-shaped building, and further buildings to the rear.

During their 18-year tenure, Mr and Mrs Groome have tirelessly restored and improved the 13,826sq ft manor house, which reputedly has 45 rooms and 35 chimneys. Yet the property, with its four splendid reception rooms, great and small kitchens, seven bedrooms and two guest annexes, is so well configured that it feels at the same time grand and intimate. Compulsive collectors both, the Groomes have filled every corner with art and antiques, some of which will be offered for sale now that they have reluctantly decided to downsize to a smaller house nearby.

The house is beautiful, but perhaps the vendors’ greatest legacy is Great Addington Manor’s six acres of glorious gardens, which, Mr Groome admits, ‘we spent the first 10 years making complicated, and the rest of the time making easier’, aided by their trusty gardener and caretaker, Andy Reid. Despite its long-term sporting associations, there was no stabling at the manor, so, reflecting Mrs Groome’s lifelong passion for horses and hunting, one of the first projects was to create a neat Scotts of Thrapston stable block in a quiet corner at the rear of the house. Another corner enclosed by hedges houses every grandchild’s ‘must-have’, a beautifully crafted outdoor swimming pool based on an Italian design. Work in the garden proper began with a blitz of clearing and replanting, one area at a time, each one becoming a ‘garden within a garden’ that now blends seamlessly with its neighbour. One of the most delightful areas is the secluded lily pond with its fountain sparkling in the summer sun-the perfect corner for a moment of reflection perhaps, before tackling the next item on the owners’ long list of things to do

* Country Houses for sale in Northamptonshire

Leicestershire property for sale – Dingley Hall

An article in Country Life (November 27, 1980) recalls Kit Martin’s landmark restoration and conversion, in the late 1970s, of derelict, Grade I-listed Dingley Hall, near Market Harborough, Leicestershire, into 10 elegant, self-contained houses-a concept that has since become a model for mansion-house conversions throughout the UK. Currently for sale through the local office of King West (01858 435970) at a guide price of £425,000, the seriously dilapidated medieval Tower House at the rear of Dingley Hall was transformed into a four-storey house with a drawing room, kitchen/breakfast room, master bedroom suite, two further bedrooms, a family bathroom and a roof terrace with views over adjoining parkland.