The Vale of Evesham in south Worcestershire is a place of quirky rural charm. Sheltered by the Cotswolds, Bredon Hill and the Malvern Hills, it stretches along the valley of the River Avon below Stratford-upon-Avon, through Evesham and into Pershore. Since medieval times, the Vale has been famous for fruit-growing and is still one of England’s most prolific gardening centres. Vale villages are as varied as they are full of eccentric character, with houses and cottages of red brick, black-and-white timber and honey-coloured stone. To the north of Evesham, five pretty villages known as the Lenches are interwoven with plum and apple orchards: blossom time, from mid March to mid May, is pure enchantment.
Historic Rous Lench, six miles from Evesham, was held by the Rous family, and then the Rouse Boughtons, from 1382 to 1876. The last of the local Rouse Boughtons, Sir Charles Henry Rouse Boughton, improved the village with the addition of a splendid Gothic school, a village hall and a collection of picturesque houses and cottages, most of them sited around the village green. In 1876, Sir Charles sold out to the Chafy family, who duly added their own contribution to the village’s architecture.
Second only in terms of architectural merit to the village manor (Grade II*-listed Rous Lench Court), The Old Rectory at Rous Lench, listed Grade II, was built as a parsonage by the Rous family in 1838. Now for sale through the Stratford-upon-Avon office of Knight Frank (01789 297735) at a guide price of £1.65 million, the handsome, stucco-rendered brick building stands in 1.27 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens on the edge of the village, with spectacular long-range views over open fields and parkland to the Malvern Hills.
Recently restored by its present owners, who have taken immense care to retain its many classic, late-Georgian features while incorporating stylish modern and natural materials, The Old Rectory has more than 5,000sq ft of accommodation on three floors, including four reception rooms, a verandah, a kitchen/breakfast room, six bedrooms, three bathrooms, a garage and an outbuilding.
Nearby Atch Lench became the fiefdom of the Bomford family in the early 1700s, and for the next 200 years or so, most of the principal houses in the village were either owned or occupied by family members.
In 1810, they built a new small manor house in a commanding position on the edge of the village, with wonderful views over open farmland and the Malvern Hills. According to family historian Christopher Bomford, who lived there from 1946 to 1962, the house probably stood on the site of an earlier manor, as the cellar is built of old stone-brick was used for the later house. Currently for sale through Hamptons International (01386 852205) at a guide price of £695,000,
The Manor House, listed Grade II, is a neat, late-Georgian country house with two main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, five/six bedrooms and an adjoining two-bedroom annexe. Surrounded by formal lawns enclosed by fencing, the house retains much of its early-19th-century character, with its large inglenook fireplace, exposed oak floorboards and flagstone floors.
A few miles further west along the Blossom Trail, elegant Georgian Endon Hall at Little Comberton, a mile east of Pershore, nestles at the foot of the verdant north slopes of Bredon Hill. The house was built in the Regency style in the 1830s, reputedly by one of three brothers, all farmers, who vied with each other to create the best house of their day. According to its owner, Robert Stern who, with his late wife, Deborah, has spent several years restoring the house with its 23 acres of gardens and grounds originally laid out by Capability Brown-Endon Hall was considered the best of the three houses they built. And even if it wasn’t then, it certainly is now.
On the market through Knight Frank in Worcester (01905 723438) at a guide price of £2.5m, the hall, which is unlisted, has been remodelled and rebuilt, quite literally from the ground upwards, in an extensive programme of works that included replacing the drainage and plumbing systems and re-landscaping the grounds, as well as re-rendering the façade, re-roofing the entire house and renewing the chimneys.
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Externally, the house looks much the same as it did in August 1949, when it was advertised for sale in Country Life with three reception rooms, eight bedrooms, two bathrooms, a model farm and a dairy. Today, it has three reception rooms, a library, a conservatory, a master and two guest suites, three further bedrooms and a family bathroom, a cottage and outbuildings. The dairy farm is no more, but the acreage has been adapted to more modern country living with a tennis court, stabling and paddocks.
The fine principal rooms, with their impressive chimneypieces and high ceilings, have retained all their Regency splendour, and the striking arched reception hall is a neo-Classical nod to the period’s most influential architect, Sir John Soane. But Worcestershire-based interior designer Katie Rapp has also added a strong contemporary flavour with a daring array of colourful soft furnishings, bold striped rugs, oversized lamps and modern painted canvases and mirrors, including a particularly dazzling chandelier that once graced the ceiling of London’s Savoy hotel.
Encouraged by the rapid sale of another landmark Worcestershire house, the charming Queen Anne Doverdale Manor, near Ombersley, which sold within weeks to a Birmingham-based businessman following its launch in mid-October at a guide price of £1.95m, country-house agent Andrew Grant (01905 734735) aims to chalk up another autumn winner with the sale of The Court House at Birlingham, 21⁄2 miles south of Pershore, at a revised guide price of £2.85m.
One of three main houses-the others being The Manor House and Birling-ham House-in this sought-after south-Worcestershire village, The Court House stands high above the Avon, and boasts panoramic views from its various corners over Tiddesley Wood, Pershore Abbey and Bredon Hill.
There has been a house of some sort here since Domesday, and from the 11th to the 17th centuries, the lordship of Birlingham was held by the Abbey of Westminster. More recent residents of The Court House have included Charles Cavendish-Bentinck, a soldier, politician and former Master of the Croome Hunt, and Maj-Gen Amherst, who, in 1812, sold the property to the Porter family, who made it their family seat.
The Court House has been beautifully renovated and impeccably maintained by its current owners. Its 24 acres of gardens and grounds, orchards and woodland are designed to encourage sporting prowess, with amenities such as a heated swimming pool, a bowling green, a paddock (which is also designated a helicopter landing area) and loose boxes plus a long river frontage with mooring and fishing rights. The main house has four reception rooms, a study, a kitchen/breakfast room, seven bedrooms and four bathrooms. Ancillary buildings include a two-bedroom stable cottage, a games room and a gymnasium, with a garden room leading through to the Victorian walled garden.