Estates of Perfection

What do you give an estate which has everything?a classic Georgian manor house, wonderful landscaped gardens, and 300 acres of prime farming land at the foot of the Quantocks? In the case of the glorious Weacombe Estate, near Taunton, west Somerset, which has been in the present owner?s family since 1870, the answer is a lifetime of loving care and attention.

Now Will Morrison of selling agents Knight Frank (01392 423111) needs to find a worthy successor to Somerset legends John and Marian Greswell, who between them have lived at Weacombe for a total of 114 years?he since moving there with his parents in 1938, and she since their marriage in 1958. As befits the perfect estate, the perfect buyer is out there, even at a guide price of £5 million.

Only a handful of families have owned the manor of Weacombe since the Conqueror?s day, when it was held by one Roger de Cursell. It then passed to the Pavely family of nearby Dunster Castle, and after the Dissolution was bought by Sir Bernard Malet of St Audries, another local estate.

Between 1534 and 1789, Weacombe was owned alternately by the Harrison family and the incumbents of Dunster Castle, before passing to the present owner?s great-grandfather, the Rev Ottiwell Sadler, who bought it in 1870.

Weacombe House, listed Grade II*, was built in 1760 in the classical Georgian square style, since when its layout has remained virtually unchanged. Apart, that is, from a few ?cosmetic changes? made by the Greswells, such as re-siting the old kitchen nearer to the dining room, and adding such modern essentials as central heating, a tennis court, and a vast amount of planting in the gardens, grounds and potager, where, according to his employer, 79-year-old Denis Hayes still does ?a week?s work in a couple of days.?

Weacombe?s landscaped gardens, and its famous rhododendrons in particular, are still their owners? pride and joy; locals will have what may be a last chance to view them this coming Sunday, May 15, when they will again be open to the public in aid of the Somerset Red Cross.

The house, which looks directly across the Brendon Hills and onto Exmoor, has a fine entrance hall, a spectacular inner staircase hall, four main reception rooms, six bedrooms and a staff flat. There is also a separate three-bedroom apartment, a five-bedroom farmhouse and a pair of cottages. The estate comprises most of the hamlet of Weacombe, and Weacombe Combe provides perfect cover for an in-hand shoot.

By comparison, the Hon Mrs Monck?s 60-year tenure of the historic 545-acre Yaverland Manor Estate (Fig 2), between Bembridge and Sandown, Isle of Wight, may seem almost short, but her estate and its Grade I-listed Jacobean manor house have benefited in similar fashion from exemplary stewardship over that period.

The present manor house, built by Jermyn Richards in 1620, has earlier Norman

origins dating back to Domesday, and is said to be one of the finest 17th-century manors in southern England. Expertly modernised by Mrs Monck and her late husband, it has four very fine reception rooms, a kitchen/ breakfast room, a master bedroom suite, five further bedrooms, a bathroom, three attic bedrooms and an annex flat. Of particular note are the original stone-flagged great hall (Fig 3) with its huge fireplace, and the carved Jacobean oak staircase.

For the past 25 years, the estate has been managed by land agent Martin Lowry of Dreweatt Neate (01962 842742), who is now handling its sale jointly with local agents Hose Rhodes Dickson (01983 521144). A guide price of £3.55m is quoted for the Yaverland Estate as a whole (£2.5m for the house, gardens, buildings and immediate grounds).

This article was originally published in Country Life magazine, May 12, 2005. To subscribe click here.