Even if the UK housing market generally is crumbling around our ears, how many genuine country-house buyers would pass up the once-in-a-lifetime chance to purchase the house of their dreams? Very few, I suspect, even in these difficult times. As Freddie Dryden of Strutt & Parker in Lewes, East Sussex (01273 475411), points out, ‘when someone is buying a house to live in for the next 20 years or more, they’re less likely to worry about paying a few thousand pounds over the odds’.
It was a gamble that worked for the vendors of the early Victorian, Grade II*-listed Old Rectory at Rodmell, near Lewes, described by Pevsner as ‘the prettiest house’ in this picturesque downland village. Having launched it on the market in late September with a guide price of £1.3 million, Strutt & Parker had a sale agreed in less than three weeks. Mr Dryden is hoping for a repeat performance with the classic, Grade II-listed Old Vicarage at Chiddingly, 10 miles from Lewes, which comes fresh to the market with a guide price of £1.25m.
The brick-built former vicarage, built in about 1847, sits in an idyllic position beside the church and cricket field in the heart of this historic village, with glorious views across open countryside towards the South Downs. The 4,715sq ft house has four main reception rooms, four bedrooms, two bath/shower rooms and a two-storey, two-bedroom annexe, set in just under an acre of beautiful gardens.
The cathedral city of Winchester and its environs boast some of the most prestigious schools in the country, to the extent that school-run traffic has become a major problem in villages such as Twyford, Hampshire, whose fashionable prep school draws pupils from within a radius of 30 miles. In a bid to curtail the traffic chaos, the school now gives priority to pupils living in the village. This could prove a major selling point for Shawford Dene, a Grade-II listed family house on the edge of Twyford, from whose garden a path runs beside the Itchen direct to the school gates.
Originally a pair of cottages on the Shawford Park estate, Shawford Dene has three reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, six bedrooms, two bathrooms, and the potential for a further extension; its 6.74 acres of grounds include outbuildings and a paddock. Smiths Gore (01962 760207) and Strutt & Parker (01962 869999) quote a guide price of £1.2m. As the credit crunch bites ever deeper, some parents may be rethinking their schooling plans. As Fin Hughes of Smiths Gore points out, not only does Stockham House at Wantage, Oxfordshire, offer easy access to leading schools such as Radley and Abingdon, it has the highly rated Fitzwarren State secondary school on its boundary.
For sale at a guide price of £2.5m, the main house has a galleried entrance hall, four reception rooms, six bedrooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, four bath/shower rooms, outbuildings, stables and a period farmstead, set in 25 acres of gardens. A two-bedroom cottage, Dutch barn and 3½ acres of land may be purchased separately.