The classic Cotswold village is home to a new members-only country club— how is this affecting the appetite for property in the area? Arabella Youens finds out.
Move over Daylesford, there’s a new pretender to the Cotswolds on-trend throne. August 3 will see the opening of Soho Farmhouse, a cross between a members-only country club and a hotel, which is the latest in a long line of ventures from the hand of the entrepreneur with the seemingly Midas touch, Nick Jones. He began 20 years ago with Soho House, his first members’ club, in Greek Street, W1, which soon became a magnet for London’s media, arts and film world.
Fourteen ‘houses’ later—half of which are scattered throughout cities worldwide from Los Angeles to Istanbul— this time, the chosen location is the north Oxfordshire village of Great Tew. Location-wise, it’s a clever choice: the village is picture-perfect pretty, it’s 90 minutes from central London (even less from Notting Hill), only a 20-minute drive from north Oxford and an easy distance from the new Oxford Parkway station, which is due to open in September with direct services to London Marylebone. The project is a collaboration between the Soho House team and the Johnston family who own the Great Tew estate—the same family who bought the Bantham estate in Devon last August (COUNTRY LIFE, May 28, 2014). Together, they’ve converted an existing farmhouse and farm buildings into a 100-acre playground for the creatively minded well-heeled. It’s designed to appeal to long-distance members, who can rent one of the 40 one-, two- and three-bedroom wooden cabins that have been built along the edge of a lake.
Locals with families can, for an annual fee, make use of the heated indoor-outdoor pool, have a pint in the on-site, dog-friendly pub, use the Cowshed gym and spa, set up a game of five-a-side football or rounders, ice-skate in the winter, ride out on one of the 11 horses or have their hair styled by the team at Josh Wood, whose main salon is in—you guessed it—Notting Hill.
‘The impact of the opening is definitely being felt in the local property market,’ says Adam Buxton of Middleton Advisors, who has been monitoring the situation for the past two years. ‘It used to be a case that clients would ask “How far is it from Daylesford?”, but, since January this year, that’s changed to “How far from Soho Farmhouse?” That means that the search focus, which often used to be on the classic north Cotswold villages of Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Norton and Burford—the so-called ‘Daylesford Triangle’—is now shifting to Hook Norton, the Rollrights and Charlbury.’
Whatever you think about Daylesford, Soho Farmhouse has a lot more entertainment to offer than, in the words of one local, ‘a double-shot mochaccino, a Thai massage and a pretty plant—plus it’s a members-only club, which adds that extra element of exclusivity’.
Luke Morgan of Strutt & Parker agrees that the impact of the opening on the local market is already tangible and likely to grow stronger. ‘These days, the types of people who can afford the most expensive country houses are increasingly less inclined to buy somewhere isolated from any action—they want to be able to walk to the pub or have things to do close to hand. That’s where Soho Farmhouse will work so well: it’ll appeal to those buyers moving full-time with their families as well as the west London- based weekend buyer who’ll jump on the A40 every Friday night.’
A point made by all the agents is that Great Tew, and the surrounding villages of Hook Norton, Swerford and Stamford St Martin, are already on the radar of buyers either looking to do the ‘big move’ out of London or just in search of a weekend house and the supply of houses coming to the market is already tight, keeping prices higher than in other parts of the country. ‘It’s a lovely part of the world anyway,’ says Damian Gray of Knight Frank in Oxford, whose children went to the Great Tew Primary School, ‘but this is a bit of a game changer for the area.’
His colleague, Harry Gladwin, agrees: ‘It just ticks so many boxes: pretty, accessible countryside with plenty of fun things to do and the area is also well placed for a number of good schools, including Kitebrook, Bloxham and Tudor Hall, as well as the perennially popular Oxford schools such as the Dragon and Summer Fields.’
Need to know: Soho Farmhouse
- Already in ‘soft launch’, formally opens on August 3
- Membership (to Soho Farmhouse only) costs £1,200 (plus a £200 registration fee)
- The site is car-free (wellies are provided)
- On site will be a deli, wine cellar, ‘pickle room’ and ‘curing cave’ in which home-cured charcuterie will be made
- Milk floats have been converted to serve as mobile fry-up carts and cocktail bars
- The Electric Barn (sister to Portobello Road’s Electric Cinema) is a 60-seat cinema