Survey after survey confirms that the classic Georgian manor or old rectory still ticks most boxes, but are their owners a different breed now?
The buyer Successful City men bought in what’s now known as the stock- broker belt. ‘There was no necessity for partners in big firms to be at their desks at the crack of dawn,’ remembers Richard Gayner of Savills. ‘They’d be on the 9.15am from Guildford to arrive at Waterloo by 10am’.
The market Very local and, prior to 1969, when prices shot up, there was very little that couldn’t be bought for £15,000, adds Mr Gayner. ‘Don’t forget that, in this decade, country houses were still being demolished,’ says Dawn Carritt of Jackson-Stops & Staff.
Brochure language ‘A most charming residence’, oil-fired central heating and hot water, domestic offices.
Interiors Magnolia paint, wallpaper by Sanderson, furniture from Biba (although many had inherited brown furniture), Laura Ashley.
Kitchen Oil- and (towards the end of the decade) gas-fired Agas, which were used to heat the kitchen and hot water. The era of white goods had also arrived. Deep freezers replaced ice boxes in fridges; washing machines or twin tubs that rocketed across the floor were in use.
Bathroom The early days of en-suite, otherwise washbasins in bedrooms, plastic hoses attached to bath taps to create a ‘shower’ effect, separate loos, some saunas in new house.
Exteriors Formal planting, lawns with very neat stripes, grass tennis court.
Car Aston Martin DB5.
Dog Yellow labrador.
Drink Bloody Mary, sherry, Port.
Night in Doctor Who and The Forsyte Saga; Monopoly.
Night out James Bond film.
Holidays Cornwall in summer.
Dinner-party menu Chicken-liver pâté with toast; Boeuf en daube, salad with vinaigrette; Chocolate mousse or fruit salad; Beaujolais Nouveau.
The buyer Pop/rock stars whose operations were moved offshore by their managers and accountants to avoid Income Tax rates. ‘After the stock- market crash of 1973–74, you could no longer live off capital gains, so the only people who had money to spend were musicians, managers and their accountants,’ recalls Mr Gayner. Other country-house buyers were ‘real rogues who dealt in cash’. At the end of the decade, Arabs began to buy equestrian estates.
The market ‘The country-house market halved in a year: my boss at the time said that no single house was worth more than £100,000,’ says Mr Gayner. In 1974, SAVE Britain’s Heritage held ‘The Destruction of the Country House’ exhibition at the V&A, but the mood and market improved with the Silver Jubilee in 1977.
Brochure language Oil central heating, heated swimming pool, staff sitting room, hard tennis court, billiard room Interiors Wallpaper by Colefax and Fowler, Osborne & Little, shagpile carpets, rattan furniture, the Conran Shop, colour TVs, lava lamps. ‘Lots of yellow and blue and decorating treasures bought from Casa Pupo on Pimlico Road,’ remembers Giles Kime of Homes & Gardens.
Kitchen ‘Didn’t matter—they were lost at the back of the house,’ says Mr Gayner; trolleys to wheel food to dining room, Kenwood food processors.
Bathroom Blue or pink matching suites (‘but chocolate and avocado weren’t in the country—they were very much London colours,’ says Miss Carritt) and scallop shell-shaped baths. Bidets became popular.
Exteriors More elaborate gardens Car Beige Volvo 145 station wagon plus a runaround.
Dog Yellow labrador.
Drink Vodka tonic.
Night in Upstairs, Downstairs and I, Claudius.
Night out Annabel’s.
Holidays St Moritz (for the Cresta Run) and the South of France.
Dinner-party menu Parma ham and melon; Sole Florentine; Tiramisù; Chianti.
The buyer Merchant bankers, some Arabs and Americans plus ‘hoards of Swedes and Danes’, recalls Rupert Sweeting of Knight Frank.
The market Many country houses with land were turned into golf courses, others were split into apartments. COUNTRY LIFE property advertising embraced colour. Barn conversions were ‘everywhere’, says Miss Carritt. Then, the market died in 1987 after Black Monday, adds Martin Lamb of Savills.
Brochure language Utility rooms, dressing rooms, double glazing.
Interiors Chintz was big, Colefax and Fowler, Designers Guild, wallpaper borders, paint effects such as stippling, Venetian blinds, Carolyn Warrender’s books ruled, conservatories, fitted carpets.
Kitchen The Aga’s future as a must-have was sealed when Jilly Cooper wrote about one in Riders (1985). Branded kitchens such as Smallbone with central islands became popular; outdoor gas barbecues.
Bathroom Gold taps, blue or pink bathroom suites.
Exteriors Swimming-pool complexes and Jacuzzis, ride-on mowers, granny annexes, elaborate children’s climbing frames and ‘all-weather tennis courts by En-tout-cas’, remembers Mr Lamb Car Black or green Range Rover.
Dog Black labrador.
Drink Mateus rosé; Aqua Libra, if you were on the wagon.
Night in ’Allo ’Allo! and Blackadder.
Night out The Phantom of the Opera Holidays Val d’Isère and Positano.
Dinner-party menu Choice of salad leaves (rocket, red chard) served with ciabatta; Sea bass en papillote; Exotic fruit salad with a coulis; Californian white.