Grand Designs

In the early 1950s, London estate agents James Styles & Whitlock placed an advertisement in Country Life (Aug-ust 27, 1953) announcing the sale of Broadhanger with 51 acres of woodland and pasture at Froxfield, near Petersfield, Hampshire. Its owner, Mrs Jack Reed, an American philanthropist who liked to entertain her neighbours at extravagant picnics in the grounds, wanted an ?immediate sale for personal reasons? hence the price of ?only £10,000?.

Broadhanger was quickly snapped up by London stockbroker Roger Watson and has since been the much-loved weekend and holiday home of three generations of the Watson family, on whose behalf Savills (01962 841842) are now selling the estate at a guide price of £4 million. Like so many English country houses, Broadhanger has evolved over the years in this case from a modest flint hovel to a 9,000sq ft building with Georgian and Victorian additions. In the 19th century, it was the home of the Greenwood family, one of whose sons was a naval officer who helped to establish the wooded grounds by bringing back seeds of exotic trees from abroad.

At the time of the Watson family?s arrival, Broadhanger had already been ?modernised? according to the standards of the day, in that it had mains water, elec-tricity supplied by a heavy-duty generator, central heating, and an Aga cooker; in addition, all nine bedrooms had basins, and there were three bathrooms. Mr Watson?s Austrian wife, Gucki, was a woman of considerable energy and talent who, despite being pregnant with the second of her three daughters (now Mrs Bimbi Bellhouse, a successful interior designer), immediately set about renovating and decorating the house. She also worked with the eminent Percy Cane to create gardens which were both beautiful and labour-efficient. Mrs Bellhouse recalls ?fantastic? parties spilling out from the drawing room onto the terraces.

The house and estate have seen little in the way of renovation since then, although various rural enterprises have contributed towards their upkeep over the years. Yet with five reception rooms, nine bedrooms, five bathrooms, a tennis court, a swimming pool, stabling, endless outbuildings and a truly idyllic setting, Broadhanger still has everything a country family could wish for, Mrs Bellhouse says wistfully.