Country houses for sale

East Anglian properties buck trend

As one of England’s most self-reliant regions, East Anglia is used to taking the rough with the smooth, and, so far, the downturn in the country-property market has merely rippled the surface, rather than creating tidal waves of gloom. Encouragingly, despite a 10%–15% drop in prices and fewer deals being done, there is still enough energy in the system to persuade East Anglian vendors that it’s worthwhile putting high-value country properties on the market. ‘In the current buyers’ market, there is still cash available for the right house, but the difference now is that most purchasers are reluctant to “bridge” if they have a property to sell,’ says Jeremy Smallman of Jackson-Stops & Staff in Chelmsford (01245 467468).

Having launched (jointly with Savills) the delightful, early-Georgian Woodham Mortimer Lodge with 4½ acres of grounds near Chelmsford, at a guide price of £2.95 million in June this year, the house quickly went under offer to a buyer keen to move to the area in time for the opening of the new school year in September. Some of England’s most influential people Wolsey, Nelson and Cromwell among them have come from East Anglia, where their names are remembered not just on their tombstones, but in the many historic houses associated with them. Grade II*-listed Tiptree Priory at Great Braxted, Essex, stands on the site of a 12th-century Augustinian priory, the remains of which can still be seen. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, when it was valued at £22 16s 4d per annum, Tiptree was granted to Cardinal Wolsey for the endowment of his two colleges.

Impeccably restored by its present owners, the 5,019sq ft Priory has three main reception rooms, seven bedrooms, three bathrooms, various family rooms and 2.1 acres of walled garden and grounds. Strutt & Parker (01245 258201) quote a guide price of £1.25m. In Suffolk, the top end is still performing well despite tough market conditions, say Bedfords in Aldeburgh (01728 454505). They recently exchanged contracts on former journalist Thane Prince’s five-bedroom house overlooking the River Alde for more than the £1.25m guide price, as well as on the eight-bedroom Gorse Hill with 25 acres on the edge of town, which also sold, jointly with Knight Frank, for more than its £1.75m guide.

Meanwhile, Savills (01473 234800) quote a guide price of £3.5m for one of Suffolk’s most enchanting small country estates, Broadwater (Fig 1) at Framlingham, near Woodbridge, whose owners are downsizing to spend more time in Canada. Mainly early-Georgian, with 17th-century origins, Broad-water, listed Grade II, stands in 39 acres of gardens, woodland, ponds and meadows on both banks of the River Ore, and has five reception rooms, a conservatory, a kitchen/breakfast room, seven bedrooms, five bathrooms and a two-bedroom coach house. Amenities include stabling, a swimming pool, a tennis court, a gym and a vineyard. Suffolk’s many excellent schools are a major draw for families moving to the area, whereas in Norfolk the options are more restricted, with Gresham’s School in Holt the most fought-after choice for parents who can afford the fees. Bedfords in Burnham Market (01328 730500) and Knight Frank (020–7629 8171) are handling the sale of the recently restored Godfrey’s Hall on the western outskirts of Hindringham, nine miles from Holt, at a guide price of £2.85m.

The classic Georgian-style house, listed Grade II, was built by the Waters family in 1868 on the site of a 16th-century Jacobean mansion created by Sir William de Godfreye. It stands in 19 acres of grounds in one of north Norfolk’s prettiest pockets of rolling countryside, five miles inland from the coast, and has three splendid reception rooms, seven bedrooms and three bathrooms, plus a cottage, walled formal and kitchen gardens, a stable block and a floodlit tennis court. There is also planning consent to create a lake within the grounds. A few miles further south, Savills (01603 229229) quote a guide price of £1.95m for distinguished, Grade II-listed Wood Norton Hall on the edge of Wood Norton, nine miles south-west of Holt.

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The original 17th-century house was bought in 1780 by the Norris family, who had it enlarged and altered, probably by Sir John Soane; additional colour was provided by Lady Emma Hamilton, who visited frequently, using the house as a safe haven for her trysts with local hero Lord Nelson. The house was further altered and extended in the 19th century, before the estate was finally broken up and sold off in 1928. The present owners, who bought Wood Norton Hall with three acres of parkland gardens in 2003, have imaginatively restored and refurbished the interior, which now has three reception rooms, an incredible kitchen (the former ballroom), nine bedrooms, five bath/shower rooms and a separate two-bedroom east wing.