Country houses for sale

A ‘cottage orné’ for sale with a secret tunnel into the heart of the medieval market town of Saffron Walden

Gloriana is everything a cottage orné should be: quaint, picturesque, a little bit nonsensical — and completely irresistible. Especially if you like the idea of a secret tunnel into town...

‘I would not settle in London for the universe. A cottage in some retired village would be ecstasy.’

And whilst Saffron Walden is a far cry from a ‘retired village’, much of what Isabelle in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey declared will hit home for a lot of buyers.

Saffron Walden is the perfect Goldilocks town — not too big and not too small, and in it, you’ll find Gloriana — a whimsical five-bedroom property located in the centre of the medieval market town, which is currently on the market via Cheffins with a guide price of £1.4 million.

You can access London in under an hour by train from Audley End (I can sense commuters’ ears pricking up as I type this) and Stansted Airport is about 15 miles to the south. There are a number of excellent schools close by, too. Dame Bradbury’s and The County High are local; whilst The Leys, The Perse and Bishop Stortford College are a short distance away.

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The popular high street hosts a seriously impressive twice-weekly market on a Tuesday and Saturday (I challenge you to find more mouth-watering olives or pesto) and is home to wonderful independent shops like Mini Miss Bread (which often has queues that weave down the street) and a wonderful choice of pubs, including The Eight Bells.

The Refill Barn, located slightly further afield in Radwinter, is also definitely worth a visit as it encourages shoppers to source all their food and home goods plastic free, and serves up delicious coffee.

Gloriana itself is located on Audley Road in the centre of Saffron Walden — not far from the Common or Waitrose —  and looks as though it has emerged from the pages of a children’s book.

It is a unique ‘cottage orné’, or decorative cottage, as it translates, that dates back to the early 19th century. Built by local bank manager Jabez Gibson in 1820, there is said to be a tunnel running from the house to one of the banks in Saffron Walden. Shades of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox, perhaps? Presumably Mr Gibson had it installed as a short-cut to work in bad weather, but we should point out for the benefit of any would-be bank robbers that the tunnel has apparently long since been concreted over.

The cottage orné was particularly prevalent during the Romantic movement, which saw architecture take on a more playful, whimsical approach, where buildings were designed to look as picturesque and as quaint as possible.

Such characteristics are evident here, with its Jacobean porch, decorative barge-boards and pendant and deep thatched roof, from which emerge three Tudor-style chimney stacks.

Inside the five-bedroom property you’ll find carved stone fireplaces, and decorative stone mullion windows that set the tone and give a glimpse into Gloriana’s past life as a hunting lodge.

The ground floor is spacious with a number of versatile rooms. The interiors are slightly dated but offer plenty of potential with a large reception area, dining room, drawing room which opens out to the garden, a roomy kitchen, snug, reception room and office. A boot room and bathroom complete the accommodation on this floor, whilst a cellar provides further storage space.

An outbuilding is currently set up as a utility room, but with a wood burning stove and tiled floor, it would make an excellent home office or workshop/studio space.

The gardens amount to half an acre. In front of the property is a low brick wall with an ornate gate, and once you’re inside, a series of stone pathways lead around the grounds through lawns and well-stocked flower beds.

Gloriana is currently on the market via Cheffins with a guide price of £1.4 million — see more pictures or enquire with the agent for further details. 

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