'Unlike previous generations, when parents could expect to live in the same house for 30 years or more, young families in the Cotswolds are now accustomed to moving house'
In an increasingly illiquid and sticky market that hasn’t quite fulfilled its earlier promise, the worry now is whether, following this season’s gush at the lower values, the flood of pent-up demand for prime Cotswolds properties is not already spent, says Robert Fanshawe of buying agents Property Vision. ‘Yet, unlike last year, when buyers were riddled with indecision and doubt, and only joined in the bidding when they saw others doing so, there have been instances this year of buyers moving quickly both on- and off-market and paying the asking price straight away in order to secure a deal,’ he reveals.
‘The sale of Hawling Manor (above), between Cheltenham and Stow on the Wold, was a good example of this. Following a May launch in Country Life at a guide price of £10 million through Knight Frank, the historic manor house (previously home to the software developer Kevin Lomax) quickly went under offer and exchanged after only two viewings our client being the other applicant,’ Mr Fanshawe adds.
Everyone thought the same would happen with the lovely Georgian Newnton House at Long Newnton, near Tetbury, which launched in the same issue of Country Life, through Savills, at a guide price of £8m. This time, however, the outcome, says Mr Fanshawe, was ‘an immediate bid of considerably more than the guide price, but then the buyer got cold feet and now it wanders into the autumn market’.
With many good high-value properties still searching for buyers and few new autumn launches in the pipeline, leading agents expect to see a wave of price reductions at the upper end of the market on the run-up to Christmas. On the other hand, thanks to the re-emergence of the London buyer, the market for family houses in the Cotswolds close to popular prep schools, and with good London connections, has been much more consistent, says Atty Beor-Roberts of Knight Frank in Cirencester.
‘Believe it or not, the country market in the Cotswolds is increasingly triggered by children, with families migrating across the region as their offspring change schools and moving back towards London again when the children go to university or leave home. Unlike previous generations, when parents could expect to live in the same house for 30 years or more, young families in the Cotswolds are now accustomed to moving house as their children progress from one stage of education to the next.
Consequently, the same houses tend to come back onto the market every five or six years. In fact, some people who’ve lived in a house for as long as eight years begin to think that they’ve been there so long that it’s time for another move,’ observes Mr Beor-Roberts, who has lived in his own house for 21 years.
At the top of the family tree in Cotswold house-buying terms at a guide price of £4.75m through Knight Frank (01285 659771) sits historic, Grade II-listed Horsley Court (above) at Horsley, near Nailsworth, whose current owners have lived there for an impressive nine years. The house boasts top-notch London-buyer appeal, being within three miles of Beaudesert Park School at Minchinhampton, 12 miles from Kemble mainline station and 15 miles from the Waitrose in Cirencester. Sporting opportunities include hunting with the Duke of Beaufort’s, racing at Cheltenham and polo at Cirencester Park.
Set in more than 24 acres of gardens, orchard and fields overlooking the Cotswold escarpment, Horsley Court was built in the late 1600s around an earlier Tudor core, with an even earlier two-storey wing and cider house to the rear and a central tower added in about 1840. Originally used as a courthouse, as its name suggests (the infamous Judge Jeffreys is said to have presided here), the house retains some interesting original features, including a retractable ceiling in the dining room, which could be raised to form a public gallery.
Horsley Court has impressive accommodation on three floors, including three main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, two cellars, a playroom, seven bedrooms, four bath-rooms, a study and a cinema, with a further two/three bedrooms available in the converted former coach house. A Grade II-listed dovecote in the grounds confirms the historic high status of this elegant ‘château in the Cotswolds’.
Most newcomers to the Cotswolds would give their right arm for a classic edge-of-village former rectory such as The Old Rectory at Whittington (above), a pretty conservation village made up principally of handsome stone houses, cottages and farms, five miles from Cheltenham and 16 miles from Stow on the Wold. The village also boasts a Norman church and Whittington Court, an Eliza-bethan manor house built on an ancient site close to the remains of a Roman villa.
Knight Frank (01285 659771) quote a guide price of £3.5m for The Old Rectory, listed Grade II, which dates from the 17th century, with 18th- and 19th-century additions. Date stones on the house show that the main building was extended to the rear in 1881, with a further extension added in 1889, during which time it was owned by the influential Lawrence family, local lords of the manor, several of whom were rectors of Whittington.
The present owners, who bought The Old Rectory in 2010, have meticulously updated the house, carefully retaining and restoring its many charming period features; these include fine wood panelling, a large inglenook fireplace in the drawing room, flagstone floors, exposed beams and stone-mullioned casement windows.
With 4,682sq ft of accommodation on three floors, the house is not excessively large, but still has three spacious reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, master and guest suites, three further bedrooms and two bath/shower rooms.
Additional guest accommodation is provided in the 2,185sq ft converted former coach house. The Old Rectory’s 1.8 acres of beautifully designed gardens which include a pond and stream, sweeping lawns, a kitchen garden and a well-maintained grass tennis court provide a wonderful backdrop to this delightful house.
For sale through the Cheltenham office of Savills (01242 548000), also at a guide of £3.5m, is the versatile Victorian Old Rectory at Woolstone, six miles from Cheltenham, which comes with a built-in income stream, thanks to a courtyard of four cottages, currently let on Assured Shorthold Tenancies yielding £33,000 a year. The living of the rectory descended with the Coventry family’s Woolstone estate from 1627 and several members of the family were rectors there in the late 19th century.
The present house was built in the 1890s to replace a previous, more modest rectory, which was destroyed by fire. The new house was built on a grand scale to satisfy the tastes of the wealthy Canadian wife of the rector, who was the youngest son of the Earl of Coventry. Many of the materials were shipped over from Canada, but, sadly, the rector’s wife died before the house was finished and he elected to live in a smaller house nearby.
The new rectory was then let by the Church until it was sold in the 1950s. The property was later run commercially as a wedding and holiday venue, before being bought by the current owners, who have turned it back into a comfortable family home.
Built in the classic Cotswold style of stone under a slate roof, with stone chimneys and mullioned windows, the house sits in almost two acres of terraced, lawned gardens in the unspoilt hamlet of Woolstone, near Gotherington village, overlooking the surrounding AONB. Ideal for a famille nombreuse, it has 11,000sq ft of living space, including reception and staircase halls, five reception rooms, a conservatory, a kitchen/breakfast room, eight bedrooms and four bath/shower rooms.
This article was originally published in Country Life, September 17, 2014