The West Country has some of the most beautiful country houses for sale in the country - from Somerset, to Dorset and Devon
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the EU referendum, it’s not all gloom and doom in the West Country. According to James McKillop of Knight Frank’s country department, who proudly unveils the best of their spring collection in this week’s Country Life, ‘by April 1 this year, Knight Frank already had instructions to sell 23 prime new houses valued at more than £2 million each, located in an area stretching from Salisbury to the furthest tip of Cornwall and ranging from Grade I-listed manor houses to unlisted farmhouses with considerable acreages, although not all will be launched on the open market’.
Pride of place goes to The Manor House at West Stafford, a pretty thatched village in the Frome valley, some three miles east of Dorchester. This is the heart of Hardy country, which provided the inspiration for much of his writing. Hardy himself was born at Bockhampton, a mile or so from West Stafford, which featured as Talbothayes in his novels; the village Church of St Andrew was the setting for the fictitious wedding of Tess to Angel Clare in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Knight Frank (01935 812236) quotes a guide price of £3.5m for the beautifully renovated manor house, set in more than 20 acres of tranquil parkland and water meadows on the banks of the River Winterbourne, with formal landscaped gardens designed by the peerless George Carter of Norfolk.
The house is unusual in that each of its three main façades reflects a significant period in its history. The original, south-facing, 17th-century house was laid out in a classic U-shape, with projecting wings to the rear, and remodelled in the early 1700s for George White, who lived there until his death in 1749 and whose coat of arms adorns the central glazed door of the symmetrical east front. The northfacing Georgian entrance front was added during a further remodeling in the early 19th century.
Having bought the house in 1995, the manor’s current owners, both London-based lawyers, have carried out a substantial refurbishment of the house, its gardens and grounds. This impressive property now offers some 7,300sq ft of elegant living space on three floors, including, on the ground floor, an impressive central entrance hall, two fine reception rooms, a large study and a billiard room
On the first floor are six bedrooms, four bath/shower rooms and a charming reading room overlooking the park and, on the second floor, two large open-plan rooms are both fitted with extensive bookshelves. Secondary buildings include a two-bedroom cottage adjoining the old stable block, former stables and calf pens, a triple garage, stores and gazebos.
Fresh to the market, at ‘offers over £2m’ through Knight Frank, comes another architectural gem—Grade II*- listed The Manor House at Lower Blandford St Mary, which stands in some 34 acres of gardens, orchard and paddocks within this delightful Dorset village, some 300 yards from its 14th-century parish Church of St Mary and a mile from the Georgian town of Blandford Forum.
Built of brick under a tiled roof, this imposing house also incorporates the work of three main periods. The southwest range, containing the drawing room and the main staircase, probably dates from the first half of the 17th century. At this point, there was also a northeast wing, which was replaced, probably in about 1700, by the present north-east range, containing the dining room. Finally, in the middle of the 18th century, the interior was extensively refitted and the staircase remodelled.
These days, life at the manor revolves around the owners’ twin passions for their horses and their magnificent rose gardens, which are regularly opened to the public in aid of charity. They have also restored the house itself, which boasts more than 8,000sq ft of splendid living accommodation, including a vast billiard room, four reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, master and guest suites, six further bedrooms and four bathrooms. It comes with a separate two-bedroom cottage and extensive equestrian facilities, including traditional and modern stabling, a horsewalker and paddocks.
Also launching in this week’s West Country number is historic, Grade II*- listed Wraxall Manor in the west Dorset hamlet of Higher Wraxall, which sits in a valley of its own in the hills north of Cattistock, 15 miles north-west of Dorchester. For sale through the Wimborne office of Savills (01202 856800) at a guide price of £2m, the wonderfully symmetrical Jacobean-fronted house, with its four gables, large mullioned windows and central projecting porch, was built in the early 17th century, probably by William Lawrence, a distinguished Parliamentarian in Cromwell’s time.
Described by Pevsner as ‘an orderly and harmonious stone house of circa 1630, quite large but quite without idiosyncrasies’, the manor has been the cherished home of its present owner for the past 31 years and now needs some updating. It stands in about seven acres of mainly walled gardens and grounds and offers 7,865sq ft of living space, including a galleried staircase hall, three main reception rooms, a garden room, a kitchen/breakfast room, eight bedrooms, four bathrooms and a one-bedroom annexe.
Amenities include stabling, a swimming pool, an all-weather tennis court and a grass paddock. Across the county border in Devon, illustrious, Grade I-listed Whitechapel Manor stands in 13.5 acres of formal and walled gardens, paddocks and woodland, three miles from South Molton and 12 miles from Dulverton, well known as Exmoor’s southern gateway. The area is fieldsports Heaven, with excellent shooting in its many wooded valleys, hunting on Exmoor and superb fishing on the Rivers Exe, Mole, Taw, Torridge and Barle.
The present Elizabethan manor house was originally built by the Bassetts, an old north Devon family who lived there until 1603. There followed a succession of owners and the house was remodelled inside during the 1700s. In the 19th century, Whitechapel was mainly owned by the Sanger family of South Molton, before being bought, in 1904, by the Glossops of Isleworth, who enlarged the house, terraced the gardens and excavated the swimming pool. In 1963, the estate was broken up and the manor and 14 acres were sold to a London businessman, who lived there until 1985, when the house was converted into a hotel. It reverted to private ownership in 2000, following its purchase by businessman Tim Rampling, the current vendor, who has retained former country-house agent Martin Lamb, in his new incarnation as an independent property consultant (01363 866288), to oversee the disposal on his behalf.
Selling agents Savills (01392 455745) quote a guide price of £2.65m for the main house, which has been refurbished with care over the years with a view to preserving its character, especially that of the splendid Great Hall. The manor boasts more than 8,500sq ft of accommodation, including six reception rooms, two bedroom suites and nine further en-suite bedrooms. A two-bedroom cottage to the west of the main house is on offer at £325,000.
Finally, Prunella Martin of Devon agents Marchand Petit (01803 847979) rounds off our mystery tour of amazing West Country manors with the launch onto the market of the classic Georgian, Grade II –listed Millaton House at Bridestowe, near Okehampton, on the edge of the Dartmoor National Park, at a guide price of £3.25m. Rebuilt on the site of an earlier mansion, Millaton’s English Heritage listing dates the present house from the mid 19th century and White’s directory of 1850 describes it as a ‘handsome mansion in tasteful grounds’.
The spacious 12,160sq ft house, set in seven acres of beautifully landscaped gardens adjoining parkland and the national park, was the childhood home of former Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington, whose father bought the property in 1924. However, its glory days were long gone by the time its present owner embarked on a thorough renovation of the entire building, which has been refurbished throughout in her own distinctive country style.
The house, which has ‘enviable leisure facilities, including an indoor swimming pool, a sauna, a tennis court, a gym, a cinema, a lake and a full-size snooker table’, has accommodation to match, including eight reception rooms, eight bedrooms, seven bathrooms and three kitchens.
Historic Grade I-listed Greenham Barton (right) at Greenham, near Wellington, on the Somerset/Devon border, is an important early-15th-century manor house in need of restoration. For sale with 102 acres of gardens, grounds, pasture and woodland through Humberts in Taunton, (01823 331234) it has a guide price of £1.7 million for the whole; it’s also available in two lots. According to an article in Country Life (September 9, 1933), the manor, which dates from the 12th century, was probably rebuilt in about 1404 by the Bluett family, who owned the estate until 1858, when gambling debts forced its sale to the Rev William Rayer of Tiverton.
Having deteriorated during the First World War, the house was restored by a subsequent owner, Harold Fry, before the slump of the early 1930s forced its sale. It has been in the hands of its present owner since 1957. The focal point of the interior is the Great Hall, with its double-height mullioned windows and moulded-plaster ceiling by Lewis Smallcorn of Bath.
Other ground-floor rooms include the adjoining drawing room, a study, the old kitchen, the dining room and a service wing. The first floor houses two bathrooms and five bedrooms, including the master suite and tower bedroom, with five further bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor.