Elmstree House Estate is a sprawling rural paradise for those seeking a lot of space — especially if you're after outbuildings — and a rather enormous project.
The launch onto the market in today’s Country Life of the timeless Elmestree House estate at Doughton, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire, marks the end of an era for the Wilson family, who have owned and farmed it since 1949.
Matthew Sudlow, head of Estates and Farm Agency at Strutt & Parker, seeks ‘offers in excess of £7.5 million’ for the wonderfully unspoilt, Grade II-listed manor house and farmstead set in 117 acres of ancient parkland abutting Highgrove, HRH The Prince of Wales’s Cotswold home since 1980.
The Elmestree estate lies within the Cotswold AONB, two miles from the historic wool town of Tetbury, in an area of gently rolling hills and pasture ideally suited to the rearing of sheep and cattle.
The manor of Elmestree, or Elymundestre as it was then known, dates from the 12th century, when it was owned by the monks of the Benedictine Abbey of St Ebrulph, Normandy. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Crown granted the manor to Sir Ralph Sadler, later Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
The Cotswolds wool and cloth trade was still flourishing when, in 1685, Elmestree was acquired by Thomas Deacon, a London silk merchant. His son, also Thomas, was succeeded at the manor by his sister, Mary, who left it to her cousin, Robert Jenner, who was professor of Civil Law at Oxford.
By 1803, Elmestree was owned by Thomas Brookes of Redmarley d’Abitot in the Forest of Dean, who died unmarried in 1812, leaving the estate to his brother, William.
On William’s death in 1825, the estate passed to his son, also William, who built the present Elizabethan-style manor house in 1844, to the west of which was a 17th-century farmhouse, known as Farm End.
In about 1870, the estate was acquired by Francis Henry, later Lt-Col Henry, who, in 1884, built a connecting wing between the two buildings, incorporating the original carriage drive. He made further large additions to the north-west front in 1900.
From 1947, when the Wilson family acquired the estate, until his death, aged 87, in 2013, Elmestree was farmed by the late David Wilson, who became a local farming legend in his lifetime. In an interview with the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, his son, Tim, recalled a happy childhood growing up at Elmestree, where his parents lived and worked for more than 50 years:
‘All his life, Dad really enjoyed the farming and dealing side of the business. He never liked using sprays or chemicals. He wasn’t one for shiny new machinery; he really focussed on his livestock, his cattle and his sheep. As well as having a soft spot for working farm horses, he was known for breaking-in and bringing on youngsters as a sideline, and particularly loved the hustle-and-bustle of Gloucester livestock market, where he sold cattle from its beginning in 1958 until the last market there in 2001.’
Approached up a long private drive through pasture and parkland studded with magnificent trees, Elmestree House is a fine, Grade II-listed country house that offers some 7,500sq ft of accommodation on three floors, including six reception rooms, six bedrooms, five attic rooms, cellars and a three-bedroom annexe — all now in need of renovation.
The house itself is merely the start, however. The adjoining Farm End is a substantial family house in its own right, with four reception rooms, four bedrooms and two attic rooms, accessed by a separate entrance.
To the north of the house is a former walled garden, with lawns, a small lake and the remains of its 19th-century pleasure gardens to the south and east.
The house is supported by more than 19,000sq ft of outbuildings with enormous scope for development. They include the stable block built by Lt-Col Henry in 1870, a coach house, a cow shed with its original stone pillars, yards, livestock buildings, and a traditional Cotswold-stone barn.
And nestled in a small copse of woodland within the park is Pond Cottage, a derelict — very derelict — waterside idyll hidden among the trees that offers a further opportunity for some inspired ‘blue-sky’ thinking.
Tetbury: What you need to know
Location: In the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, approximately 12.5 miles from Cirencester, approximately 27 miles to Bristol and just over 6 miles to the Cotswold Airport.
Atmosphere: Tetbury is the second largest town in the Cotswolds known as the home of HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. Along the four main streets are an array of boutique and independent shops, art galleries, interior design shops and jewellers. The town is also home to a number of pubs, bars and restaurants, and has a weekly farmers market, a butchers and bakery.
Things to do: When you’re not exploring the wonderful town and all it has to offer, then head to the Royal Gardens at Highgrove or Chavenage House which offers guided tours. The Goods Shed Art Centre was converted from a Victorian railway building and is now used as a theatre, music venue and cinema.
Schools: St Mary’s Church of England VA Primary School and Sir William Romney’s School (secondary) both received ‘good’ ratings from Ofsted. Other schools in the surrounding area include Westonbrit School and Rendcomb College.
Catch up on the best country houses for sale this week that have come to the market via Country Life.