Clapton Revel was built at the heart of a mini-estate. Saved from dereliction in the 1980s, the home is now on the market once more, and a very happy home it will be.
The River Wye in Buckinghamshire is a chalk stream that flows south-eastwards for 10 miles from its source in the Chilterns, through West Wycombe, High Wycombe, Loudwater and Wooburn Green, to its confluence with the Thames at Bourne End.
For centuries, the river powered corn and fulling mills until, in the late 1600s, the arrival of Dutch experts in paper-making and water-management led to the creation of dozens of paper mills along a complex system of watercourses between the hamlet of Loudwater and the village of Wooburn.
One of the largest was Clapton Mill, whose Dutch owner, Groner Steyn, erected an imposing family home on high ground that overlooked the mill pond and the river below. The house is currently on the market through the Beaconsfield office of Savills at a guide price of £1.95 million.
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Built in the classic Queen Anne style between 1700 and 1710, with later 18th-century alterations, Steyn christened it Clapton Revel, a name derived from the Dutch for ‘mansion house’, as befitted a house of status at the heart of a 25-acre mini-estate.
An article in Country Life (March 6, 1937) highlights the beauty of the setting: ‘Water in the garden is always delightful, and here especially so, since besides the main stretch – a backwater of the River Wye – there are several other diversions of the river, beside which one goes by winding paths and across little bridges, finding here a secluded water garden, there a swimming pool, plantations, waterfalls, and the mill stream itself which was no doubt the original purpose of such diversion.’
Having diversified into tent-making and the manufacture of canvas for biplanes during the First World War, Clapton Mill finally closed its doors in 1922, by which time the Clapton Revel estate was being sold off piecemeal, mainly for housing, due to the expansion of nearby Beaconsfield. Clapton Revel’s Victorian water-gardens were sold with the former mill building, and the main house next door, with its mill pond and gardens running down to the river – 1½ acres in all – gradually slid into slow, but inexorable decline.
‘The house was semi-derelict when, in the mid 1980s, my late wife and I came to view it and immediately fell in love with it,’ says owner Anthony McGarel-Groves. ‘The first thing I did was re-roof the entire building. The garden was completely overgrown and when we cleared away the lovely old brick wall that encloses the house to one side, we found a row of espaliered fruit trees that must have been there forever. It was one of many discoveries we made during 35 years in what has always been a warm and friendly house.’
Clapton Revel, listed Grade II*, is a marvellously unspoilt, early-18th-century house of immense character. It offers more than 4,100sq ft of accommodation on four floors, including a panelled reception hall with flagstone flooring, an elegant, light-filled drawing room with French doors, which lead to a balustraded balcony with views over the gardens and mill pond, and a dual-aspect sitting room/study that in turn overlooks the swimming pool.
Stairs lead down to the lower ground floor and the well-organised, open-plan kitchen/breakfast/dining room, a pleasant family living space, again with lovely garden views. The first floor houses three main bedrooms, two with en-suite bath/shower rooms, with a further three bedrooms and two bath/shower rooms on the second floor.
The gardens are a delight. To the front of the house is a pretty lawned area with a swimming pool and herbaceous borders, beyond which is a wisteria-clad pergola and terrace area. Steps lead down to the lower garden, which has sweeping areas of lawn and raised flowerbeds: an enchanting feature is the tree-lined path between the mill pond and the river.