Country houses for sale

A £13 million Wiltshire mansion where Nancy Mitford and Siegfried Sassoon once partied with ‘the brightest of the Bright Young Things’

After Wilford Manor's glory days in the 1920s it became a near-wreck with a tree was growing out of one of the bedrooms; today, it's as wonderful as it has ever been in its history, and is seeking a new owner.

The endlessly idyllic Woodford Valley has long been a favoured spot for those looking for a beautiful country home in Wiltshire. So it’s exciting for find a house that sits amid this rolling landscape, with the benefits of the lovely city of Salisbury close by. That house is Wilsford Manor, a fine, Grade II*-listed manor house set in some 54 acres.

On the market with James McKillop of Savills, Wilsford Manor has a guide price of £13m, which buys you the house and the wooded grounds overlooking a lake on the banks of the River Avon, six miles north of Salisbury.

Built between 1904 and 1906 on the site of an older house for Edward Tennant, 1st Lord Glenconner, and his wife, Pamela, the house was the work of the Arts-and-Crafts architect Detmar Blow, who impressed the couple with his reconstruction, following a fire, of another Glenconner manor, nearby Lake House, in 1899.

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The striking, 15,800sq ft manor house is built of stone and flint with distinctive chequerboard façades, stone-mullioned windows and a thatched wing. Supporting the main house is a complex of six secondary dwellings and various outbuildings including an enchanting children’s roundhouse, which form a private ‘village’ to the side of the manor and ensure total privacy.

Lord Glenconner died in 1920, and Wilsford Manor later passed to his fourth son, Stephen Tennant, who would become well-known for his flamboyant and decadent lifestyle. Lampooned in the tabloid press of the 1920s and 1930s as ‘the brightest’ of the Bright Young Things, Tennant was regularly visited at Wilsford by his many Society friends, among them Rex Whistler, Cecil Beaton, Edith Sitwell, Nancy Mitford and Siegfried Sassoon, with whom he conducted a long affair.

The gaiety ended with the outbreak of the Second World War, when Wilsford was taken over by the Red Cross and Tennant decamped to the thatched annexe next door.

After the war, Tennant returned to the main house, which, in the face of soaring costs, gradually fell into disrepair and was only saved from complete dereliction by the efforts of devoted house staff. Tennant spent the last years of his life there as a near recluse and died, aged 80, in 1987.

Wilsford Manor was in a parlous state when, in the early 1990s, it was acquired by the present vendor, who, according to Mr McKillop, ‘found a tree growing out of the main bedroom’ — one of many obstacles he encountered as he embarked on a massive renovation that eventually saw the entire estate restored to its Edwardian splendour.

Original features, such as ornate plasterwork ceilings, oak panelling, beams, staircases and fireplaces, were repaired and reinstated. Discreet modernisation took place with the installation of new security and audio systems. Plumbing, central heating and wiring were all completely renewed.

The house now offers stylish accommodation on three floors, including six principal reception rooms, seven bedrooms and six bathrooms, plus an extensive wine cellar and a leisure complex with an indoor pool, a Turkish hammam, gym and studio.

The best trout fishing on the Avon is to be found upstream of Salisbury, where Wilsford Manor boasts an extensive and exceptionally well-managed upper stretch, of which 908 yards are double bank and 270 yards are single bank.

Those who share the owner’s passion for fly-fishing are said to cherish the timeless beauty of the Wilsford fishery, which, compared with other major English rivers, is generally less manicured, with a wonderfully diverse population, from small, wild species to monsters in double figures.

Among its devotees, in fact, is Country Life’s Editor Mark Hedges: ‘The fishing at Wilsford is indeed very special,’ he says. ‘Among the best trout fishing I’ve ever enjoyed’.

Wilsford Manor is for sale at £13 million — see more details and images.

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