Wanted: brave new owners with patience and imagination.
Never one to beat about the bush, Jock Lloyd Jones of Jackson-Stops & Staff in Newmarket says it will take someone ‘brave and rich’ to restore imposing, Grade II-listed Poslingford House, near Clare on the Essex-Suffolk border, to its pristine glory.
The guide price of ‘offers over £1 million’ quoted by Jackson-Stops (01638 662231) reflects the substantial additional funds needed—‘anything from £750,000 to £1.5m’—to completely renovate the elegant late- Georgian mansion, which stands in a magical, 36-acre parkland setting, and comes to the market for the first time in almost 70 years. Once restored, the property could be worth about £3m, Mr Lloyd Jones believes.
Poslingford House was built by Col Thomas Weston, in about 1820, on the site of an earlier manor house owned for centuries by the Golding family, which he demolished. Poslingford’s Historic England listing describes the new house as ‘a good example of an early-19th-century house with a sophisticated neo-classical design… comprising a main range with a Greek Doric portico, a flanking north wing and a small service wing’.
All exactly as it appears today: the interior, alas, tells a very different story.
Poslingford House was owned by Maj and Mrs Darley from 1912 until the outbreak of the Second World War, when it was requisitioned by the Army. When the war ended, the house was handed back to its owners, but in such a poor state of repair that Mrs Darley apparently refused to return.
In 1946, it was put up for sale and bought a year later by the parents of William Gentle, the present owner.
In January 1963, the main building suffered a catastrophic fire caused by an electrical fault in the roof. The resulting damage included the loss of the roof and all the windows and the complete gutting of the interior, with only the external walls and the damaged portico left standing.
Restoration carried out by Mr Gentle’s father took six years to complete and included the installation of a new roof, new chimney stacks and windows and the repair of the portico.
The interior had to be completely rebuilt, with the introduction of a number of 19th-century fixtures and fittings from two important Suffolk houses, Herringswell Manor and Moulton Paddocks, which were bought at auction and installed as part of the refurbishment. The present-day lounge has a 19th-century fireplace from Moulton Paddocks and the woodwork to the doorway between the Oval Room and the Pool Room came from Herringswell Manor.
Almost unbelievably, disaster struck again in 1975, when another electrical fault caused a fire in the north wing, which not only destroyed the roof and gutted the interior, but also damaged the north and east walls of the adjoining service wing. This time, restoration included the complete rebuilding of the interior and the fire- damaged outer walls, and the replacement of the original M-shaped roof with a hipped roof. A 20th-century replica of the original glazed circular cupola surmounts the roof.
None of the 20th-century interior is covered by Poslingford’s Grade II listing, which may be a bonus when it comes to redesigning its 10,976sq ft of internal space. As it stands, Poslingford House has 32 rooms in all, including six reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, a four-room cellar, 14 bedrooms, three bathrooms and two cloakrooms.
Totally screened by trees, it stands in a peerless private setting on the edge of Poslingford village, surrounded by sweeping lawns, shrubberies, orchard and woodland, with some magnificent specimen cedar, oak and beech trees and more than a mile of private walkways and glade paths.
Marginally less daunting is the challenge facing the next owner of Grade II-listed The Gatehouse at Ditchingham, near Bungay, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, an intriguing country house that also needs ‘complete renovation’ and is for sale, by informal tender, through the Norwich office of Strutt & Parker (01603 617431) for ‘offers over £295,000’.
Following a spate of viewings and several offers, a closing date of November 24 has been set for receipt of tenders, which allows time for prospective purchasers to carry out a full structural survey should they wish to do so, says selling agent Tom Goodley, who estimates the cost of restoration at anything from £150,000 to £350,000.
The inscription ‘1613’ on the 17th- century gable of the cross-wing may be the date the house was built, although evidence of earlier work inside suggests that this may be the date when the brick skin was added.
The gable also carries the inscription ‘RH 1918’, commemorating the remodelling of the house by Sir Henry Rider Haggard, arguably the most successful novelist of his day, who lived with his wife, Louisa, at nearby Ditchingham House and was the great-great-grandfather of the current vendor of The Gatehouse.
The six-bedroom house, which sits in 1.66 acres of gardens and grounds and has 2,938sq ft of living space on three floors, also has some interesting original features, including wood-mullioned windows, curved stairways and a ‘coffin hole’, with large fireplaces in several of the rooms as well as antique wooden floors throughout.