William Morrison of Knight Frank in Exeter has been rushed off his feet. ‘It’s as if someone flicked a switch on January 1 and set the market alight down here. In the country-house market, we have seen price-growth of more than 5% already this year,’ he exclaims.
And the boom looks set to continue, for not only is Devon still the nation’s favourite second-home location, but more and more families are moving permanently to the county on the back of rising prosperity in key south-west cities, such as Bristol, Exeter and Ply-mouth. With two separate and beautiful coastlines, two national parks, and a landscape still relatively untouched by inward migration, it’s ‘double cream all round in Devon’, as any true Devonian will tell you.
Many of Devon’s finest country houses are owned by a handful of large hereditary landowners and will never be sold. But it is a feature of the country-house scene that once a grand house is sold away from its surrounding estate, it tends to come back on the market at regular intervals.
The crème of Knight Frank’s current portfolio is historic Grade I-listed Bradfield Hall.at Uffculme, near Cullompton, 16 miles north-east of Exeter. In 1999, Knight Frank (01392 423111) sold the Hall in need of renovation for about £350,000 to interior designer Chrissie Fairlamb, who has carefully restored it and is now moving on. This time, the guide price is £1.95 million. (advertised on Countrylife.co.uk)
The seat of the Walrond family for 700 years from the 13th century until the mid 20th century, Bradfield was enlarged and remodelled in the Tudor ‘H’ style between 1592 and 1603, with a rebuild of wings to either side and behind the hall. But the heart of the house is still the spectacular medieval hall with its ornate linenfold panelling, splendidly carved woodwork and magnificent early 16th-century hammerbeam roof?described by Pevsner as ‘one of the finest of its kind in Devon’. A large Victorian wing, added in 1861, was subsequently sold off, leaving Bradfield Hall as a 10,433sq ft stately country home of manageable proportions, with six wonderful reception rooms, six bedrooms and two bathrooms, plus ample servants quarters and outbuildings, set in 25 acres of landscaped gardens and parkland.
Knight Frank quote a guide price of £2m for another distinguished Devon house, Outer Down at Chagford, in the heart of Dartmoor National Park. Built in 1911 for the Jameson whiskey family, Outer Down, which is Grade II listed, sits in the centre of its 54 acres of gardens, paddocks and pasture, overlooking Meldon Hill and the surrounding moor. The main house, which has four fine reception rooms, seven bedrooms and three bathrooms, needs ‘general updating and refurbishment’, at an additional cost of ‘about £500,000’. The property, which is being sold as a whole or in six lots, includes two cottages, a stable courtyard, and a range of traditional stone outbuildings.
During his 25 years in charge of Strutt & Parker’s Exeter office (01392 215631), Robin Thomas has counted many of the county’s best houses both in and out, and in that time has seen country-house prices rise more than tenfold. He is handling a rare disposal by the Clinton estate in the shape of Syon House at Budleigh Salterton, birthplace of Sir Walter Raleigh. Built as the land agent’s house in the early 19th century, Syon House has been used as estate offices for 40 years, but now has planning consent to revert to private residential use. A guide price of £1.5m is quoted for the unlisted 20-room building and coach house set in 2.5 acres of Clinton estate land, with ‘glimpses’ of the sea in the distance.
Prices for houses on Devon’s dramatic and heavily protected coastlines continue to rocket, due to shortage of supply, and agents rely on houses coming back to the market to keep the wheels of commerce turning. Martin Lamb of Savills’ Exeter office (01392 253344) is selling the spectacular Matthews Point Manor at Stoke Fleming in the fashionable South Hams area of South Devon, for the third time in his career.
The manor is said to have been named after a notorious 18th-century ship-wrecker who lured ships heading
for Dartmouth harbour onto the rocks below. It was built in 1886 for Capt Richard Cleland on his retirement as Commodore of Cunard Lines, and in the early 20th century was a haunt of the Fabian Society, an early member
of which, George Bernard Shaw, was a regular visitor. Following its occupation by the American military during World War II, Matthews Point Manor was restored by Lord and Lady Hollander, and meticulously maintained by the present owners, whose holiday home it has been for the past 16 years. A guide price of £2.5m is quoted for the manor, which has three reception rooms, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a heated outdoor pool, terraced gardens and private access to two beaches directly below.
The setting for The Hermitage at Welcombe Mouth, near Bideford, on North Devon’s glorious Hartland Peninsula, is no less breathtaking. Built in the late 19th century, the house was originally used as a retreat by priests from London’s Brompton Oratory, then variously as a guesthouse, small hotel and the seaside home of the poet and playwright Ronald Duncan. In the 1960s, the pop group Deep Purple were inspired to write one of their most successful albums there. The Hermitage has four reception rooms, six bedrooms, four bath/shower rooms, a two-bedroom cottage, and nine acres of paddocks and woodland, and is for sale through the Barnstaple office of Jackson-Stops & Staff (01271 377833) at a guide price of £985,000.