Country houses for sale

Property: Isle of Wight

Sam Biles of Creasey Biles and King (01983 282222), attributes the relative stability of the Isle of Wight’s elite property market to the narrow strip of water that separates the island from the rest of Hampshire.

‘Traditionally, the Solent has proved a natural barrier to the ups and downs of the property market in the rest of south-east England, and although the credit crunch has dramatically affected the lower end here as elsewhere, prime waterfront properties, which are often bought with capital rather than mortgages, are still selling in the DFL (‘Down From London’) hotspots of Cowes, Seaview and Bembridge,’ says Mr Biles, who recently sold the Georgian Claremont House in Cowes for around its £2 million guide price. His firm quotes a guide price of £2.1m for the elegant Regency Oakhill, in Baring Road, Cowes, 300 yards from the Royal Yacht Squadron.

Built in the early 1800s in the style of John Nash, striking blue-painted Oakhill looks out across the Solent towards Calshott and the New Forest, and has three main reception rooms, eight bedrooms, six bath/shower rooms, a separate artist’s studio and delightful terraced gardens. Savills (02380 713990) are offering Seahaven at Port La Salle, a mile east of Yarmouth on the island’s north-west coast, at a guide price of £1.25m.

The six-bedroom house is the eastern wing of an Edwardian mansion, which was originally built for the Duchess of Carnarvon, and was later divided into five separate houses, of which Seahaven is the largest and the only one to have a 25ft jetty, as well as 40ft of water frontage and an offshore mooring leased from the Crown Estate. Still on the waterfront, Knight Frank (020–7629 8171) and Christopher Scott (01983 242121) are offering the pristine, New England-style, Fishbourne House at Fishbourne, which has ‘outstanding’ sea and parkland views, 138ft of water frontage and a tidal mooring, at a guide price of £1.45m reduced from £1.6m, due to the owners’ imminent departure for Maine, USA.

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The 4575sq ft, late-Georgian house, set in terraced and landscaped wooded grounds with a pool and boathouse, has been imaginatively renovated in breezy Long Island fashion, to provide luxury accommodation on three floors, including four reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast bar, four/five bedrooms and three bathrooms. Although the eyes of the sailing world remain fixed on the Solent this week, amateur naval historian Dr John Roberts, owner of Grade II-listed Haylands Manor on the outskirts of Ryde, reminds me that ‘historically, only fishing folk and the peasantry lived by the sea, whereas people of substance built their manors inland’. As a result, the Isle of Wight probably has more small manors to the square mile than any other area of England. Originally an Elizabethan farm- house, built of island stone with brick quoins, Haylands more than trebled in size in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when it was owned by three generations of the Lock family.

The first of these was Vice-Admiral Walter Lock, a contemporary of Lord Nelson’s, who served with distinction in the navy from 1768, when he joined at the age of 12, until his death in 1835. The highlight of his career was probably the battle against the French of the ‘Glorious First of June’ 1794, which brought him promotion to commander, and then captain.

In 1787, both Lock and Nelson married, and the former bought the house, which remained in his family for more than 70 years. Warring ex-spouses had left Haylands Manor in a state of serious neglect when Dr Roberts and his wife, Mo, moved there 24 years ago, and set about restoring its five main reception rooms, nine bedrooms, four bathrooms and numerous ancillary rooms, and excavating the original gardens.

The hurricane of 1987 did them a major favour when it tore a hole in its vast roof, which was then completely repaired throughout its length. Much-loved Haylands Manor stands on high ground, surrounded by 1.75 acres of enchanting landscaped gardens and a further four acres of grassland and woods. It is on the market at £1m through Savills (02380