Country houses for sale

Houses fit for City boys

As chairman of a number of engineering and manufacturing companies, entrepreneur and management strategist Rick Edmondson has a track record of taking on failing businesses and turning them round a talent which has served him equally well on the home front. Having bought Homefield at Knockholt, near Sevenoaks, Kent, at the bottom of the market in 1979, he and his wife Julia gradually transformed a sorry wreck of a once-grand Victorian mansion into an elegant, spacious family country home 17 minutes from London via Orpington. But now, with their children gone, the Edmondsons ‘rattle around’ in Homefield’s 16,000sq ft of gracious living space, and the house has been put on the market through Savills (01732 789700) at a guide price of £5 million.

Homefield was built in 1881 for Sir Alfred Smithers, the chairman of South Eastern Railway, which had opened some 25 years before and was the first to run from London to Dover. It seems that each time his company opened a new station along the line, Sir Alfred added a few more rooms to his house, which resulted in a somewhat higgledy-piggledy layout of rooms many of them small with few bathrooms. Yet despite a radical reshaping of the interior to create light and space, the original footprint has changed little: the Italianate domed swimming pool, for instance, replaces a former servants’ wing. And with five grand reception rooms, 10 bedrooms, four bathrooms, and 6.5 acres of landscaped gardens and grounds with distant views of Canary Wharf, even the biggest corporate ego could not feel stifled here.

In the 1930s and early 1940s, when Quakers’ Orchard at Peaslake, Surrey, was the home of Sir Adrian Boult, the flamboyant conductor added a large music-room extension, and one of the biggest private swimming pools in the country. Originally a Quakers’ meeting house, it had already been altered several times, notably when a Georgian façade was added around 1750, with further alterations carried out in the late Victorian era. For 40 years or more it has been the much-loved country home of the Garnett family, and it retains an old-fashioned charm rarely found in trophy houses in this prestigious corner of the Surrey Hills. The mellow red-brick house, listed Grade II, stands in 25 acres of gardens, grounds, paddocks and fields, and has three good reception rooms, seven bedrooms, three bathrooms, two cottages and various outbuildings. Savills (01483 796820) quote a guide price of £4m.

The name of Sir Edwin Lutyens is synonymous with houses built in the Surrey or Sussex vernacular, usually for wealthy City businessmen and captains of industry. An article in Country Life (July 19, 1913) traces the aggrandisement of Ruckmans House at Oak- wood Hill, Surrey, from a humble line of 17th-century cottages to a substantial 10,650sq ft, eight-bedroom country house, a process completed by Lutyens over a period of 20 years. Lutyens’ alterations were highlighted to good effect by wonderful formal and informal gardens inspired by Gertrude Jekyll. Today, Ruckman’s House and its gardens are the focal point of a ring-fenced, 506-acre, traditional country estate with a dower house, farmhouse, six estate cottages, stabling, barns and outbuildings, surrounded by undulating farmland and beautiful mature woodland. ‘Excess of £10m’ is the guide price quoted by Alex Lawson of Savills (020?7499 8644) for this ‘immaculate residential estate’, six miles from Horsham mainline station, from where the fastest train journey to London Victoria takes 50 minutes.

You don’t often hear of a house as appealing as the impeccably restored, 17th-century Holmbushes at Wisborough Green, near Billingshurst, West Sussex, coming back on the market because the vendors have moved on to bigger things before even a drop of Champagne had been spilt. So the new owners of this bijou equestrian property, with its Grade II-listed, five-bedroom main house, guest cottage, pool and tennis court, stabling, sand school and paddocks 56.5 acres in all can enjoy all the comforts of a beautifully modernised period house, with none of the hassle. Holmbushes, in glorious wooded countryside on the Surrey/Sussex border, is for sale through Hamptons (01403 262828) at a guide price of £2.55m.

Hampshire’s tranquil Meon Valley is prime banker territory, where the City’s financial elite can meet discreetly behind classic Georgian façades, without fear of intrusion from prying eyes or ears. Few facades could be more classically Georgian than that of lovely Meonstoke House in the pretty village of Meonstoke, which is equally well placed for the genteel commuter hubs of Winchester and Petersfield. The previous, long-time owners of Meonstoke House had been content to let the fabric of the Grade II-listed building crumble gently around them, but not so the present vendors, a husband-and-wife partnership of gifted interior designers, whose talents are no less evident in the landscaping and layout of the spectacular riverside gardens and grounds.

Meticulous attention to detail is evident throughout the house, which is designed for living and entertaining at the highest level, with four fine reception rooms, a billiard room, three luxury bedroom suites, five further bedrooms, two further bathrooms and two staff flats. Knight Frank (01962 850333) quote a guide price of £8m for the exquisite 11,000sq ft house set in 34 manicured acres, with a swimming pool, tennis court, and single- and double-bank fishing on the sparkling River Meon; a three-bedroom cottage is available separately.