Imbued with history, substantial properties like these rarely come to the market – and it’s easy to see why.
Last seen on the market in early 2010, when it was withdrawn from sale following a brief marketing campaign, one of Somerset’s most elegant small estates, Somerton Randle at Somerton—the ancient capital of Wessex that gave the county its name—re-enters the fray in this week’s COUNTRY LIFE, at a guide price of £5.75 million, through Knight Frank in London (020–7629 8171) and Sherborne (01935 812236).
Although the present manor, previously known as Somerton Erleigh, dates from the late 1700s, its origins are much older and date back to medieval times. In the late 1500s, the lease of Somerton Randolph, or Randle, was acquired by the then Bishop of Bath and Wells, who later bought the freehold. In 1657, his descendant, John Still of Shaftesbury, leased more lands from the owners of Somerton Erleigh and, five years later, sold the whole estate to John Howe of Berwick St Leonard, Wiltshire.
By the 1780s, when John Howe’s descendant, William de Erleigh, sold the manor to John Pretor Pinney, the estate consisted of ‘a house and pleasure grounds with some 40 acres of surrounding land, and a farm of 49 acres’ —precisely the acreage today.
Pinney was the enterprising descendant of Azariah Pinney, who was forced to leave Somerset in 1685 after taking part in the Monmouth uprising and went to Nevis in the West Indies, where he started a sugar plantation. Some 80 years later, John inherited the plantation and went to live there for a time, returning in 1783 to Bristol, where he set himself up as a successful sugar trader, and that same year bought the estate at Somerton Erleigh.
Pinney’s manor at Somerton, described as ‘newly erected’ in 1789, was a large, L-shaped building with a detached wash-house, stables and offices. In 1845, his grandson William inherited the estate and, the following year, had the house substantially altered to its present form of two tall storeys with attics in blue lias stone, an imposing seven-bay garden front and a new north entrance. He also extended the house to the east, and, in about 1860, added the stable court, with its striking archway entrance and ornate clock tower— the latter possibly designed by the eminent Victorian architect Edward
Successive generations of Pinneys improved the estate, buying adjoining farms and—this being the Somerset Levels—developing extensive land drainage and water courses around Somerset Randle. In 1962, after 179 years in Pinney ownership, the estate was sold to the Vaughan-Lee family, who, in 1998, sold it to the present owners, who, during their tenure, have carried out an inspirational renovation of the lovely, Grade II-listed Georgian manor, its buildings and 89 acres of gardens, woods and farmland.
The 12,249sq ft house boasts six fine reception rooms, a grand staircase, a large family kitchen, a conservatory, a leisure wing, 10 bedrooms and six bathrooms. Other impressive listed buildings include the six-bedroom coach house (used for holiday lets), three cottages, the stables and the original outbuildings.
There must be something in the water at the Owl’s Hall estate, Enfield, that breeds success and staying power, given that it’s been owned since the Second World War by three giants of British business: a prominent industrialist, the press baron Lord Matthews and its current owner, a legendary businessman who prefers to maintain a low profile while overseeing the sale of the 128-acre estate that has been his family home for the past 30 years.
Savills (020–7409 8882) quote a guide price of £10m for Owl’s Hall, claimed to be ‘the largest estate of its kind in London’, which, despite its location on the Middlesex-Hertfordshire border, is ‘completely private, with no neighbours, yet only 14 miles from central London or a 14-minute helicopter ride from Battersea’.
Formerly known as Owls Hall Farmhouse, Owls Hall’s Grade II listing describes the handsome, Regency-style main house as an ‘early–mid-19th-century stuccoed villa’, standing on high ground with far-reaching views to the south and west.
The stage is set as the visitor approaches the house through impressive wrought-iron entrance gates, along a tree-lined drive flanked by immaculate, white-railed paddocks, then through a second set of gates before stepping through the front door into the opulent, Italianate entrance hall. With 4,364sq ft of accommodation —including three main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, a study, five bedrooms and three bathrooms—the house is luxurious yet intimate, with plenty of room for guests and staff in three estate cottages.
Sport has clearly been an abiding passion at Owls Hall, where the leisure facilities are second to none and include a huge swimming pool, a tennis court, a gym, a games room and stabling and training facilities for 25–30 horses.
In fact, Lord Matthews and the hall’s present owner both ran Thorough- bred racing operations here and, by strange coincidence, also remained married to their respective wives for 50 years—which must say something about the calming influence of this unique north London estate.