Country houses for sale

Rectories for sale in Cornwall and Berkshire

The credit crunch had little effect on the recent sale, by Cornish agents Lillicrap Chilcott (01872 273473), of the Victorian-Gothic Old Rectory at Ruan Lanihorne in south Cornwall’s scenic Roseland Peninsula, which saw contracts exchanged within 11 days of its launch in Country Life (May 28). The same agents expect a similar response to their launch in this week’s issue of the enchanting Trist House at Veryan, one of Rose-land’s prettiest villages, at a guide price of £2.25 million.

The rambling stone Grade II-listed former rectory stands in 4.5 acres of glorious gardens and woodland, and has four main reception rooms, a conservatory, front and back kitchens, five bedrooms, three bathrooms, an observatory, and a separate cottage wing. Trist House was built in the early 1830s by the Rev Samuel Trist, whose father and grandfather were also vicars of Veryan. The oldest structure in the gardens (now the Folly) is thought to have been built as a grotto by Samuel’s grandfather, Jonathan, using stone from an earlier vicarage destroyed by fire in 1683.

The Trist family fortunes improved substantially when Samuel’s father Jeremiah married a Cornish heiress, thereby becoming the local ‘squarson’, a dual role that he thoroughly enjoyed. In about 1815, Jere-miah built himself a grand new house, Parc Behan, on the other side of the valley, and later, for his workers, Veryan’s five intriguing cob ‘round houses’. Over time, Trist House fell into disrepair, and, in 1829, when Samuel took over as vicar, he spent £3,000 to completely rebuild it, and a further £1,000 to create magnificent gardens, complete with lake and 12 rockeries, using stone quarried on nearby Nare Head.

Little was left of Trist’s grand Victorian landscape when, in 1994, astronomer Graham Salmon and his wife, Brenda, moved there from Sussex, leaving behind another former rectory, where Mrs Salmon, inspired by her friend Margery Fish, had spent 30 years developing a notable garden.

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The acres of grassland and overgrown woodland surrounding Trist House formed an irresistible ‘blank canvas’ for Mrs Salmon, who spent the next three years directing diggers and JCBs to lay the multi-level foundations of her ideal vicarage garden, now a year-round riot of colour sloping down to the lake and out into a less formal area of classic Cornish woodland. Over the years, the original rockeries were uncovered and the Italian terraces planted, à la Vita Sackville-West, one as a white garden, the other in pinks and blues. With no formal hedges to block the view, the various levels and intimate romantic corners flow seamlessly from one to another, defined only by changes of colour, planting and the seasons.

Mrs Salmon is distraught at the thought of leaving all this when they move to Dorset, but, even there, the talk is likely to turn to gardening, given that their son-in-law is none other than Chelsea gold medallist Nick Williams-Ellis. All-year-round colour is also the key to the spectacular garden created by the late Mr and Mrs Ralph Merton at The Old Rectory, Burghfield, Berkshire, which was the subject of an article by Anthony Huxley in Country Life (March 16, 1978).

The house itself a Grade II*-listed Georgian former rectory built around the bones of an early-17th-century manor house is old, but the gardens, with their formal layout of lawns, yew hedges and wonderful herbaceous borders, were all planted by the Mertons, who bought The Old Rectory in 1950. Following Mr Merton’s death a few weeks ago, this exquisite house, set in its 16-acre oasis on the edge of Burghfield village, is for sale through Savills (01635 277700) at a guide price of £4.5m for the main house, gardens and grounds, and a further £750,000 for two three-bedroom semi-detached cottages.

The interior of the former rectory is gracefully old-fashioned, featuring a splendid reception hall, a drawing room and dining room (both have original Adam fireplaces), a library, a kitchen/breakfast room, a butler’s pantry and staff room, a master suite, three more bedrooms and bathrooms, a separate flat and a four-bedroom children’s wing on the second floor. It all needs modernisation and substantial updating’, according to the agents, but, whoever buys this gorgeous place, please don’t overdo it.