In contrast to the continuing turmoil in the City, the country-house market embarks on its autumn campaign in a buoyant mood, following a hectic first eight months of the year. Edward Sugden of buying agents Property Vision (01488 669900) sees no sign of any fall-off in demand from London buyers as a result of the recent unrest in the financial markets. On the contrary, he says, City buyers are facing increased competition from provincial buyers whose wealth is being generated in the business parks of cities such as Oxford and Cambridge. He expects a summer which has seen a ‘staggering increase’ in coastal property values in the south and west of England to be reflected by similar demand this autumn for dozens of mouth-watering country properties from all over the country, both big and small, which are due to hit the market in the coming weeks.
Any choice of the ‘best’ country properties for sale at any one time is necessarily subjective. Therefore, in compiling my list of the top 10 country houses being launched on the market this month, I have selected neither the grandest nor the most expensive, but simply the houses in which I, personally, would most like to live. The chance, of course, would be a very fine thing indeed. In alphabetical order, then, here is my pick of this year’s autumn crop.
1 Court Farm, Worminghall, Buckinghamshire. £4.5 million
A charmingly unpretentious, Grade II-listed, 16th/17th- century former magistrates court house with 18th-century additions and 178 acres of organic meadowland on the banks of the Thame (Knight Frank, 020?7629 8171). The house has four reception rooms, a study, a kitchen/breakfast room, eight bedrooms and five bathrooms. Court Farm is wonderfully private, with beautifully landscaped gardens and grounds, two stable blocks, additional outbuildings and 50 yards of single-bank fishing. ‘Ease of access to London and the Oxford schools are major selling-points,’ says Knight Frank’s Rupert Sweeting.
2 Culmington House, Culmington, near Ludlow, Shropshire. £1.2m
A classic Queen Anne gem of a village house with a cottage, outbuildings with planning consent for conversion, and 4.7 acres of glorious gardens and grounds in the small south Shropshire village of Culmington, five miles from Ludlow (Lane Fox, 01584 873711). The 6,975sq ft main house, sensitively renovated by the vendors, has three good reception rooms, a study, a kitchen/breakfast room, six first-floor bedrooms, four bathrooms and two attic bedrooms. ‘It is rare to find a good village house with this amount of land close to Ludlow, with its restaurants, racecourse and popular schools such as Moor Park nearby,’ say selling agents Lane Fox.
3 Druid House, Ashburton, Devon. £1.95m
An idyllic, Grade II-listed, stone Georgian house and farmstead fed by natural springs, with 11.75 acres of landscaped gardens, a lake, a paddock, and breathtaking views of the Buckfastleigh valley and Dartmoor (Knight Frank, 01392 423111). The pretty, restored farmhouse, which takes its name from the remains of an ancient tribal settlement discovered in the 17th century, has three good main rooms, a study, a kitchen/breakfast room, five bedrooms, three bathrooms and a two-bedroom cottage. The owners recently received a Defra award for the best restoration of a farm buildings complex within the Dartmoor National Park. ‘This is a wonderful family house with cracking views, which will appeal to local as well as London buyers,’ says Will Morrison of Knight Frank.
4 Hatherton Lodge, Hatherton, near Nantwich, Cheshire. £4.5m
A supremely elegant, quint-essential Georgian country house, listed Grade II, with a coach house and converted stable house, set in 18.25 acres of private wooded parkland in the heart of rural south Cheshire (Savills, 020?7499 8644). This fine late-18th-century house would grace the landscape of any county in England, but is definitely a rare bird in this part of the north-west. The former seat of a baronetcy which died out in 1918, Hatherton Lodge has 16,115sq ft of living space, including five reception rooms, six bedrooms and four bathrooms the whole beautifully renovated by the current owners.
5 Machan, Gillan, near Helston, Cornwall. £4m
Arguably the most spectacular coastal property to hit the market this year, Machan was built in the 1930s in Art Moderne style, and stands in 13 acres of formal terraced gardens and woodland overlooking Gillan Creek and Falmouth Bay. Offers over £4m (Hamptons International, 01993 824546). Fans of Agatha Christie’s Poirot will drool over the great sweeping curves and authentic 1930s atmosphere of the 7,000 sq ft main house, which has been lavishly restored and modernised in recent years. Accommodation includes a huge living room, a dramatic, semi-circular dining room, a kitchen/breakfast room, a staff apartment, four bedroom suites, and an indoor swimming pool and gym-nasium. The sale includes a private mooring in the creek below.
7 Shirenewton Hall, Shirenewton, near Chepstow, Gwent. £5m
Restored historic 12-bedroom country house with famous Japanese gardens, set in 30 acres of parkland, with wonderful views of the Golden Valley, the Bristol Channel, and the Mendips and Quan-tocks beyond (Hamptons International, 01993 824546). Shirenewton Hall was built on the site of an earlier Tudor mansion in the early 1800s, and extended in 1910 by Capt Charles Liddell, who created the hall’s Grade II*-listed oriental gardens. In 1988, the house was the setting for the film The Woman he Loved the story of Edward VIII’s abdication. The entire property had been long neglected when the present owners bought it in 1997, since when they have renovated the main house, cottage, lodge and coach house, and restored the gardens. This is a seriously grown-up house with marvellous interiors, within the same driving distance of London as the most accessible parts of Devon.
8 Treemans, Horsted Keynes, near Haywards Heath, West Sussex. £3.25m
Another heavyweight historic house with eight acres of gardens and paddocks within the High Weald Area of Out-standing Natural Beauty, yet only four miles from the commuter hub of Haywards Heath (Humberts, 01273 478828; and Knight Frank, 020?7629 8171). An article in Country Life by A.J. Huxley (March 10, 1966) describes its setting as being ‘a mile south of the village in that intimate mid Sussex landscape of small hills and dips that is seldom grand, but always agreeable, combining a view with an air of seclusion’. An authentic 16th-century manor house with a William and Mary extension, Treemans was the seat of the Wyatt family until 1816, and later home to the widow of Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury. Ranged over three floors are three fine panelled reception rooms, a modern split-level kitchen/breakfast room, a garden room, a music/games room, 12 bedrooms and six bathrooms.
9 Windrush House, Inkpen, near Hungerford, Berkshire. £3.85m
A handsome, eight-bedroom Georgian house built in 1798 with Victorian extensions, set in 7.6 acres of gardens and paddocks with a cottage and stabling, in prime ‘company chairman territory’ at the foot of the Berkshire Downs: £3.85m (Strutt & Parker, 020?7629 7282). Families desperate to move within spitting distance of popular prep schools such as Elstree, Cheam and Horris Hill, and anyone who ‘feels a project coming on’ will be rushing to view Windrush House, which ticks all the right boxes, but needs modernising, especially in the kitchen and bathroom departments.
10 Wyatts Farm, Todenham, near Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. £1.85m
A quintessential 17th-century Cotswold stone farmhouse, once part of the Sassoon family’s Todenham estate, with a cottage and seven acres of gardens, orchards and a paddock, on rising ground at the edge of a popular conservation village (Jackson-Stops & Staff, 01386 840224). During their eight-year tenure, art dealer Geoffrey Roberts and his artist wife, Mimi, have extended and improved the original farmhouse to create a country home of considerable character and charm. It has a lovely drawing room, a spectacular kitchen/dining room, six bedrooms and five bathrooms; the walled garden is a delight.