As part of the Guernsey government’s plan to streamline its £1.5 billion property portfolio, historic Belvedere House at Fort George, St Peter Portone of the island’s most familiar landmarksis to be sold through local agents Swoffers (01481 711766) by public auction on site, on Thursday, June 12. A guide price of ‘excess £5 million’ is quoted for the 7,000sq ft Palladian mansion, which stands on a dramatic cliff-top site, with sweeping views across St Peter Port harbour and the islands of Alderney, Herm, Sark and Jersey to the French coast. Its disposal will be followed by that of other redundant state-owned properties, including the prestigious Guernsey Post offices at Nelson Place, St Peter Port and quirky Vale Milla disused windmill and former German observation post in the north of the islandthrough rival Guernsey agents Martel Maides (01481 713463).
The long-projected sale of Belvedere House follows the death last year of the mansion’s distinguished long-term tenant, Capt Michael Mellish, former ADC to the island’s Lt-Governor, who, as the last remaining officer of the garrison, was granted a unique dispensation from the War Graves Commission to be buried at nearby Fort George Military Cemetery.
The massive fortifications at Fort George were built over 30 years from 1780, to boost the island’s defences against the threat of invasion from France. Belvedere House was built between 1780 and 1816, to house the garrison’s senior officers. In 1940, the British Government withdrew from Fort George, and Guernsey was overrun by the advancing German forces, who installed a large coastal battery on the site. Then, in June 1944, the RAF launched a major attack on the fort, leaving Belvedere House one of only a handful of garrison buildings left standing amid the rubble. Post-war, the house remained in the hands of the War Department, until Capt Mellish took up residence in 1949.
In 1958, Fort George was bought by the state for £24,103, and, later, the whole site, with the exception of Belvedere House, was sold for redevelopment as an exclusive Open Market enclave, where trophy cliff-top houses now routinely fetch £6m or more. As the only original period house remaining, selling agent Matthew Henry sees Belvedere House as the undisputed future jewel in Fort George’s crown, notwithstanding the substantial investment needed to remodel the interior. The extraordinary coastal views more than make up for the small garden, Mr Henry says breezily.
Too much, rather than too little, land has been a factor in the relatively slow progress of the sale of Jersey’s most expensive property, the 10th Earl of Jersey’s spectacular, 61-acre Radier Manor estate at Grouville, which was launched on the market with a £12.5m price tag in July last year, through Knight Frank (0207629 8171) and local agents Le Gallais (01534 766689). ‘Although UK and international buyers are excited by the rarity value of a manor house in Jersey being surrounded by its own complete estate, local buyers tend to prefer a large house with just a few acres of garden,’ explains Peter Edwards of Knight Frank, who says the agents are nonetheless ‘inching’ their way towards securing a deal.
The main Regency-style house was built in the early 1800s, and substantially enlarged and remodelled by the dashing 9th Earl, George Francis Child-Villiers, grandfather of the present earl, who moved there from England in 1947. But the 9th Earl’s greatest contribution was the creation of Radier Manor’s spectacular gardens, with a grand elevated garden terrace, sweeping lawns, a large lake, and lavish plantings of camellias and shrubs to lead the eye down the valley to the sea.
Extensive accommodation in the main house includes four grand reception rooms, an upper drawing room, master and guest suites, four more bedrooms, three more bathrooms, plus a covered swimming pool. An adjacent courtyard comprises a mews gallery, a separate two-bedroom flat, a cinema/games room, barns and garaging; a further two cottages and three lodge houses are scattered around the estate. The landa mix of paddocks, pasture and farmlandis still home to the 9th Earl’s famous herd of prize Jersey cattle.