Tranquillity is not the quality most readily associated with the busy county of Surrey, but one which buyers in the county are prepared to break the bank for, if the recent rapid sale of Park Hatch at Loxhill, near Hascombe, is anything to go by.
The Duke of Westminster?s original Park Hatch estate was broken up and sold off in 1958, and a year later a fairly ordinary four-bedroom house was built on the site of the crumbling 18th-century mansion, which had to be demolished, having fallen into disrepair during the Second World War. The present house will no doubt go the same way, for it was the rarity of the glorious 13.5-acre site on the scenic southern side of Hascombe Hill, which had buyers bidding up the £1.25 million guide price quoted by selling agents Browns (01483 267070).
The even rarer opportunity to acquire a 60-acre oasis of serenity within 3.5 miles of Guildford city centre comes with the sale by Lane Fox (020?7499 4785) of Maryland at Worplesdon, at a guide price of £4.25m. One of Surrey?s most private small estates, Maryland was bought in 1917 by the late Lord and Lady Elphinstone (née Bowes-Lyon, the elder sister of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother), and has remained in the family ever since.
But the rambling, 9,816 sq.ft former rectory and grounds are now too much for its current owner-occupiers?Mrs Woodroffe, widow of Lord Elphinstone?s son who was killed in the Second World War, and her daughter and son-in-law, Mr and Mrs James Leschallas.
?What makes Maryland so unusual for this part of Surrey is the way the house sits in the middle of its land, surrounded by gardens and parkland, and enclosed by a belt of woodland backing onto Whitmore Common,? says selling agent James Grillo, adding: ?unless you already knew, you would never guess the house was there?.
In fact, Maryland has been there in one guise or another since the 15th or 16th century. A rectory in Georgian times, the house was partly destroyed by fire in the late 1800s, and rebuilt in Victorian style round the ancient core, with later Edwardian additions. The interior, which includes four fine reception rooms, 10 bedrooms and four bathrooms, needs modernising?but with the lightest of touches, for the house, which is unlisted, has a uniquely timeless beauty which could so easily be destroyed.
The North Downs traverse the southern half of Surrey from east to west, their course broken by the valleys of the rivers Mole and Wey. The straggling village of Betchworth, which straddles the Mole in the lee of Box Hill, is perhaps best known for its popular 17th-century Dolphin Inn, but it has quiet corners, too.
Hamptons International (01483 572864) quote a guide price of £2.25m for Fryleigh at Betchworth, which stands in 2.6 acres of gardens on the outskirts of the village, overlooking farmland and bounded on one side by the river. Originally a 16th century farmhouse, the house was re-modelled in 1876 and further extended in the 1920s: it now has four reception rooms, 6/7 bedrooms, four bathrooms, a swimming pool and a large barn.
A pleasant 1.5 -mile walk along the river bank leads to the charming village of Brockham, which has one of Surrey?s prettiest village greens. Tucked away at the end of an unmade track on the edge of the village stands pretty Way House Cottage, built in about 1860 and now in need of modernisation.
Savills in Guildford (01483 796820) quote a guide price of £450,000 for this hidden Victorian gem with two reception rooms, three bedrooms, a bathroom, a conservatory and mature gardens, with lovely distant views of the North Downs.
This article was originally published in Country Life magazine, March 24, 2005. To subscribe click here.