Historically, the country-house market in the north of England tends to be less volatile than that of the south, neither hitting the heights when times are good, nor plumbing the depths when the going gets tough. So southern buyers who are frustrated at the shortage of good country properties on their home patch may be pleasantly surprised by the greater choice of houses currently available in the North, and the comparatively low prices being asked by vendors who intend to sell.
‘With the Lake District on one side, the Yorkshire Dales on the other, and plenty of people looking to buy, we’ve remained pretty well insulated from the downward trend that has hit the market in other parts of the country,’ says a cheery Andrew Holmes of Carter Jonas in Kendal (01539 722592) as he launches a genuine Lakeland ‘one-off ’, Wood Hall at Bridekirk, near Cockermouth, on the market mat a guide price of £2 million. Prospective purchasers will be ‘blown away’, he says, by the glorious autumn colours at Wood Hall, which stands on a steep hillside overlooking the River Derwent and the spectacular panorama of the Lakeland Fells.
Two imposing houses have already stood on the site—a Georgian house, which burned down, and a Victorian Gothic pile, which was demolished. The present one, which sits above the remaining foundations of the Victorian building, has been cleverly converted from a range of early-19th-century Georgian outbuildings to create a courtyard comprising a 3,679sq ft, five-bedroom house, plus a pair of two-bedroom holiday cottages and adjoining workshops and garaging. But the property’s unique appeal is undoubtedly its 5¾ acres of magical rock gardens and grounds created by Thomas Mawson in 1910, and lovingly excavated and restored over the years by the present owner and her late husband, who bought Wood Hall in the 1960s.
The pretty village of Middleton Tyas, near Richmond, North Yorkshire, has a thriving primary school, a popular village shop, good local restaurants, including the celebrated Black Bull at nearby Moulton, and easy access to the A1 and the business centres of Tynesside, Teesside and Leeds. It also has some fine family houses, of which Grade II-listed West Hall, in the heart of the village, is a prime example.
Having sold the hall to the current owners for £830,000 in August 2004, Andrew Turner of Smiths Gore in York (01904 756303) maintains that the now lavishly renovated house—which has four reception rooms, a cinema room, a kitchen/breakfast room, eight bedrooms, four bathrooms, extensive outbuildings and an acre of splendid walled gardens—is ‘priced to sell’ at a guide price of £1.35m.