Only the best is ever good enough for well-heeled buyers in Surrey, but at the moment, they’re being even more demanding than usual, local country-house agents reveal. ‘Only houses that tick all the boxes will get a second look; anything over-priced or lacking in terms of quality or setting is going absolutely nowhere,’ says Nigel Mitchell of Knight Frank in Guildford (01483 565171).
Yet buyers turned out in numbers for two classic, but very different, Surrey houses launched by Knight Frank in Country Life in recent weeks-the Arts-and-Crafts High Cognor at Haslemere, and the Regency Postford House at Chilworth, both now under offer, at guide prices of £4 million and £3.25m respectively. Built in 1931, High Cognor has the most spectacular views imaginable over the Cowdray estate, the Milland valley and the South Downs.
The present owners have spared no expense in renovating the house, which has been cleverly extended at either end with the addition of a splendid kitchen/breakfast room and basement, an impressive formal drawing room and a luxurious vaulted master-bedroom suite. In all, High Cognor (pictured) has four fine reception rooms, six bedrooms, five bathrooms and two shower rooms, plus stabling and outbuildings. Some nine acres of immaculate gardens include areas of woodland and a large, south-facing terrace where visitors can sit, speechless, drinking in the extraordinary landscape below.
For centuries, the attraction of living in beautiful countryside within easy reach of London encouraged the wealthy to build fine country houses in the Tillingbourne valley around the village of Chilworth, between Guildford and Godalming. Postford House, built in 1806, was originally part of the Duke of Northumberland’s Chilworth estate, which merged with his adjoining Albury Park estate in 1860. During this period, occupiers included Sir William Magnay, who was Lord Mayor of London in 1843, and, after 1922, Helen Lindsay-Smith, a passionate and knowledgeable gardener, who enlarged and improved Postford’s splendid gardens.
The present family has owned the nine-bedroom house, with its 20-odd acres of gardens, grounds and woodland, since 1968. The property now needs renovation, but it is easy to see why potential purchasers threw caution to the wind and rushed to view it. A similar reaction can be expected in the case of elegant, Grade II-listed Tilford House at Tilford, 3.6 miles south of Farnham, which launched in last week’s Country Life at a guide price of £5.5m through Knight Frank and Savills (020-7016 3780). Set in 43 acres of gardens, grounds and paddocks on the banks of the River Wey, the house stands on the edge of this picturesque medieval village within the Surrey Hills AONB.
The original house was built by Farnham stonemasons in 1690 for a ‘Farnham gentleman’, one John Turner, who added the folly so his servant could watch the Farnham road for sight of Turner’s coach and rush to open the gates on his return. The estate at Tilford was later bought by the Abney
family of Stoke Newington, who rebuilt the house in the early Georgian style.
In the early 1770s, the house and estate passed to Elizabeth Abney, a wealthy non-Conformist who had nowhere to worship and constantly harassed the Bishop of Winchester, who allowed her to hold worship at Tilford House, and eventually to build a chapel in the grounds. This was completed in 1776, and was eventually deconsecrated in the 1870s. Miss Abney imported her own chaplain, the Rev Taylor, who apparently ministered to her in a number of interesting ways. In any event, he inherited the estate on her death in 1782, and died there himself, aged 96, in 1831, when it passed to his daughter. She later married into the influential Ware family, who were to own Tilford House for the next 100 years.
In the past 20 years, the present owners have refurbished the house and its buildings, including the two-bedroom coach house and the former chapel, now used for entertaining. They have also added a luxurious indoor swimming-pool complex. The main house has 6,832sq ft of accommodation, including three reception rooms, a conservatory, a kitchen/breakfast room, five bedrooms and five bathrooms.
Georgian gems are something of a rarity in Surrey, where examples of medieval or Arts-and-Crafts architecture are generally more prolific. James Cleland of Knight Frank (020-7629 8171) is handling the sale of Chiddingfold House at Chiddingfold, on the Surrey/West Sussex border, an impressive Arts-and-Crafts house built at the turn of the 19th century by the architect Maurice Pocock, known in his day as ‘the complete Arts and Craftsman’.
The agents quote a guide price of £3.75m for this charming village house, which arrives hot off the press in today’s Country Life with four reception rooms, seven bedrooms and four bathrooms, plus a three-bedroom cottage and nine acres of enchanting formal and informal gardens, a swimming pool, a tennis court and paddocks. An equally impressive example of the builder’s art is medieval, Grade II*-listed Unstead Manor at Bramley, 2½ miles from Guildford, for which Surrey agents Grantley (01483 893939) quote a guide price of £1.75m. It’s one of Surrey’s most important timbered houses, and was featured in Gertrude Jekyll’s book Old West Surrey.
The earliest part of the manor is a two-bay hall house dating from about 1400; the cross-wing was added in about 1600, and, according to its English Heritage listing, the house was refronted in Victorian times. Unstead Manor has some wonderful rooms-all sympathetically renovated by its current owners-with unusually high ceilings for a house of its period, including a magnificent vaulted drawing room with exposed crown-post timbers, a galleried landing and exquisite mullioned windows. Set in 1.3 acres of gardens on the edge of the village, it has 3,300sq ft of living space, including three reception rooms, a family kitchen, a study, five bedrooms, four bathrooms and a guest suite converted from the former granary.