Country houses for sale

14,000sq ft of space and 100,000 snowdrops — the manor house where bigger really is better

From the former Premier of Queensland to the chairman of British Land, Caldrees Manor has some history in its halls.

Standing in some 20-odd acres of famous gardens on the Essex-Cambridgeshire border, Grade II-listed Caldrees Manor, takes its name from the Cistercian Calder Abbey that stood on the site in medieval times. For sale with Lucy Banks of Savills at a guide price of £5 million, the historic manor house hides behind a boundary wall in the heart of Ickleton village, 10 miles south of Cambridge.

The exceptional ‘pleasure gardens’ extend to 21 acres and include an arboretum and a large duck pond.

Previously listed as Caldress Manor, the present house was largely rebuilt in about 1800 around the core of a 16th- or 17th-century farmhouse. Later 19th-century additions and alterations were carried out by Sir Robert Herbert (1831–1905), who, in the course of a stellar diplomatic career, was Queensland’s first and youngest Premier. At that time, the original floor levels and some of the reception rooms were altered and the chimneypiece in the grand, double-height reception hall was rebuilt with 17th-century pilasters from The Grange at Ickleton. The grounds were extended by exchanging land with Clare Hall in 1870 and 1884, at which time a stream was diverted to create ornamental ponds.

The property has been sensitively restored and upgraded by its current owners.

For the past 30-odd years, Caldrees Manor has been the much-loved family home of notable businessman John Gildersleeve who, after 20 years at the helm of Tesco, went on to hold a succession of chairmanships of major British companies, among them EMI Group, Gallaher Group, Carphone Warehouse and British Land.

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At the same time as juggling a career in the City, Mr Gildersleeve worked with his wife on reconfiguring and upgrading the manor house, which now offers some 14,000sq ft of grand, yet versatile accommodation on three floors, including a magnificent billiard room (the former ballroom), a formal dining hall, conservatory, elegant drawing and dining rooms, a kitchen and breakfast room, with an Aga, and nine bedrooms, including six en suites. Staff accommodation is provided in a self-contained, two-bedroom apartment or a two-bedroom cottage.

The owner’s famed attention to detail manifests itself in the property’s interiors.

Using his well-honed organisational skills to spectacular effect and with no gardening experience whatsoever, Mr Gildersleeve has masterminded the creation of ‘a phenomenal pleasure garden’ within Caldrees Manor’s ring-fenced grounds. Here, 100,000 snowdrops will shortly be in bloom, followed by the blossom on 28 varieties of apple trees in the old orchard. The gardens are laid out as a series of ‘garden rooms’ and include a Japanese Garden, Dry Garden, Fernery, Stumpery, Wild Garden, Hydrangea Walk, New Wood and two acer glades.

Caldrees Manor is for sale with Savills for £5 million. For more information and pictures, click here.


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