As Wiltshire agents continue to bemoan the dearth of good country houses for sale, three real gems have suddenly hit the market through the pages of Country Life within a week. March 23 saw the launch of enchanting Salthrop House (pictured) at Basset Down, near Marlborough, at a guide price of £3 million through Strutt & Parker (020-7629 7282). This week, it’s a double whammy, with the offer, through Savills (020-7409 8823), of historic, Grade II*-listed Bolehyde Manor at Allington, near Chippenham, at a guide price of £4.75m, and the exquisite, Grade I-listed Walton Canonry in Salisbury’s Cathedral Close, at a guide price of £6m through Knight Frank (020-7861 1065) and Savills (020-7016 3780).
Once part of the ancient Basset Down estate, Salthrop House was built for Thomas Calley in the late 1700s and altered in 1807 by the prolific neo-Classical architect James Wyatt. In fact, the design of Salthrop, which was built as the dower house to Basset Down, closely resembles the dower house built by Wyatt at Wilton House, near Salisbury. In the early 1800s, Salthrop was bought by Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, passing on his death in 1852 to his son, the 2nd Duke, who used it as a hunting lodge. In 1861, the Duke of Wellington sold Salthrop to the Story-Maskelyne family, who added the north service wing in the late 1800s, and lived there until 1989, when the house was sold and converted into a country-house hotel. The venture was unsuccessful and, in 1997, Salthrop was bought by its present owners, John and Angela Gillibrand, who are now downsizing to one of their other properties in the area.
It took the Gillibrands a full year to restore Salthrop House, listed Grade II, to its original Regency splendour. Set in 71 acres of wildlife paradise on the edge of the Marlborough Downs, the house has three large reception rooms, a kitchen and breakfast room set around a galleried inner hall with a graceful top-lit staircase. On the first floor are five bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, a shower room and an oval office-a scaled-down version of the White House original-that mirrors the shape of the entrance hall below.
The former service wing is arranged as a separate two-bedroom annexe and a one-bedroom studio. The basement houses a wine cellar and extensive offices, and outbuildings include stabling, a former dairy and a range of farm buildings. ‘They certainly knew how to build and position a house in those days, as although the house faces north, all the main rooms are south-facing and constantly flooded with light and warmth from the sun,’ comments Mr Gillibrand.
Imposing Bolehyde Manor at Allington, three miles north-west of Chippenham, was built in the mid 17th century on the site of an earlier house occupied by one Thomas de Bolehyde, who, according to an article in Country Life (September 10, 1948), was probably a tenant of the ill-fated Abbot of Glaston-bury. At the Dissolution, the manor was bought by the estate’s steward, Richard Snell, reputedly with money held by Snell on behalf of the Abbot. In 1635, the Snells sold the manor to yeoman John Gale, whose family were to own it until 1927, when it was bought ‘in very indifferent repair’ by Mrs Mallet du Cros, who restored and modernised it. Andrew and Camilla Parker Bowles moved there in 1973, and it was later sold to its present owners, Earl and Countess Cairns.
Approached between two stone, 18th-century gatehouses, the Grade II*-listed property is every bit as impressive as you’d expect a building with such illustrious connections to be. The house, set in 80 tranquil acres, is steeped in character, from its heavy oak front door to the mullioned windows and time-worn flagstones in the two main reception rooms, one of which was the hall of the original medieval building. An ornate carved staircase leads to the first floor, where the south-facing master suite has wonderful far-reaching views from both windows. There are 10 more bedrooms and four bathrooms on the first and second floors and in the interconnecting annexe.
The outbuildings include cottages, stables, and barns, and a notable feature of the property is the series of walled and topiary gardens, which will be open to the public through the National Gardens Scheme on June 19. The classic early-Georgian Walton Canonry at the quiet southern end of Salisbury’s Cathedral Close was built, in about 1720, on the site of an earlier medieval building for Canon Izaac Walton, the son of the famous fisherman.
The north and south wings were added later. At one time, the Canonry was home to Archdeacon Fisher, a friend of John Constable’s, which enabled the artist to paint his famous views of Salisbury Cathedral from the meadows to the west and from the gardens of the Bishop’s Palace. Unusually for a house in the Close, Walton Canonry has 1½ acres of gardens running down to the River Avon, along with single-bank fishing rights-an added bonus for a weary commuter returning from the City on a summer’s evening, says an envious James Crawford of Knight Frank.
The Canonry has been in private hands since the death of Archdeacon Lear in 1914, and is still sometimes referred to as the Whistler House, after Rex Whistler, who lived there in the 1930s. Successive owners have renovated the house in recent years, without impairing its essential charm and character. The present owners, who bought the Canonry in 2007, have completed an inspirational refurbishment of the interior, which now has three splendid reception rooms, a family room, six elegant bedroom suites, a wine cellar, a media room and a gym. A state-of-the-art family kitchen has been created in the south wing; the north wing has been transformed into a luxurious, self-contained guest wing with two more bedroom suites, a living room and a kitchen.