Country houses for sale

Perfect english country houses

What could be more quintessentially English than the sound of bat on ball on a hot summer’s day, or the sight of trout leaping in a stream against the background of the Yorkshire Dales? The sale of Crakehall House at Crakehall, two miles from the medieval market town of Bedale, offers one lucky family the chance to enjoy both in perpetuity. Set in 7.5 acres of gardens and parkland in the heart of Bedale Hunt country, Crakehall House, listed Grade II, looks out on Crakehall’s village green and cricket pitch to the front, and, to the rear, across walled gardens, a ha-ha, and wooded parkland traversed by a beck, to the surrounding hills.

Strutt & Parker (01423 561274) want offers over £1.5 million for this delightful house, which has been the family home of Barry Reed, former chairman of the Austin Reed group, since 1976. During their tenure, the Reeds have enlarged and improved Crakehall House, which has five elegant reception rooms, a conservatory, six bedrooms, four bathrooms and an adjoining two-bedroom cottage. It also has a coach house, stabling, two walled gardens, a summer house, a greenhouse and a hard tennis court. The vendors are sad to be leaving this much-loved house, which, they say, ‘deserves to have a boisterous family enjoying it again’. And with the popular Aysgarth prep school almost on its doorstep, such an outcome could well be on the cards.

The hard-working agricultural county of East Yorkshire suffers from a shortage of appealing small manor houses with a few notable exceptions, one of which is historic Portington Hall at Howden, halfway between York and Hull. The Hall was built by Thomas Portington in 1582 to replace a moated Elizabethan manor house, and was sold, a century later, to the Wartons of Beverley; subsequent owners included Henry Bell, a close friend of John Wesley, and Lord Galway. By the 1930s, Portington Hall, with its associated lordships of Portington and Eastrington, was back in the hands of the Wilberforce-Bell family, descendants of Henry Bell and William Wilberforce, the philanthropist and emancipator of slaves.

Following the death of Sir Harold Wilberforce-Bell in 1956, Portington Hall appeared in Country Life at regular intervals, in 1956, 1985 and 1998, at which time it was bought by its present owners, who have enhanced it considerably. It now has five reception rooms, a conservatory, a modern kitchen, five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a state-of-the-art ‘leisure wing’, barns, outbuildings and a two-bedroom cottage, plus 3.7 acres of gardens and grounds. Carter Jonas (01904 58200) quote a guide price of £1.35m.

Almost every historic village in England can claim its quota of celebrities, but the peaceful Thames-side village of Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, appears to have more than most. The settlement dates from the Stone Age, and the Anglo-Saxons were already ensconced by the time the Roman legions left. In 688, Ine, King of Wessex, endowed the new monastery at nearby Abingdon with the manor of Sutton; the Norman Hall, built in 1190, and the Abbey nearby are among the village’s oldest surviving buildings.

In 1912, Sutton Courtenay became famous when Herbert Henry Asquith, Prime Minister from 1906 to 1916, chose The Wharf (which he built in 1913) and the adjoining Walton House as his official country residence in preference to Chequers. It was here that he signed the declaration that took Britain into the First World War. Asquith is buried in the churchyard at Sutton Courtenay, with Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell. Current villagers include Asquith’s great-great-grand-daughter, Helena Bonham-Carter, who owns the Mill House, restored by her grandmother, Violet.

Although not the most ancient of Sutton Courtenay’s many fine buildings, The Old House in High Street currently for sale through Savills (01865 339702) at a guide price of £1.98m has its own distinguished history. The original timber-framed part of the house was a 17th-century farmhouse; the rest was added in Edwardian times. For the past 30 years, the Old House has been the home of the eminent Classicist Dr Nicholas Richardson, and his wife, Jenny. They commissioned Peter Gilbert-Scott to reconfigure part of the building, but, otherwise, the house retains its pleasantly old-fashioned charm. However, with four reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, seven bedrooms, four bathrooms and a separate two-bedroom cottage, plus a large barn, stabling and 3.2 acres of gardens, there is ample room for manoeuvre.