Country houses for sale

A country house in Kent once battered by storms and neglected by rock-and-roll royalty, now restored and on the market

In one of the most charming corners of Kent lies Heronden Hall, a once-neglected house that has been brilliantly returned to life and now seeks new owners. Penny Churchill takes a closer look.

Once part of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports before the draining of the Romney Marshes led to the silting-up of its riverside port at nearby Smallhythe, the historic town of Tenterden, 10 miles from Ashford, Kent, stands on high ground on the edge of the High Weald AONB. Its picturesque high street is lined with Georgian and Victorian buildings that blend pleasingly with cottages of traditional Kent tile and weatherboarding.

For years, the eastern end of the elegant High Street was blighted by the semi-derelict gatehouse to Heronden Hall, a Grade II-listed building that was already in a poor state of repair when a tree fell on it during the epic storm of 1987.

Left unrepaired, the crumbling gatehouse was in an even sorrier state when the current owners bought the 45-acre Heronden Hall estate from rock-and-roll legend Kevin Godley in 2003. Today, Heronden Hall is for sale again, with a price of £5.5 million via Savills.

Imposing Heronden Hall itself escaped unscathed, although for years the owners were reputedly still clearing fallen trees and branches around the estate.

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The restoration and extension of the gatehouse as a separate dwelling, completed in 2010, was only one of several major projects undertaken during their 18-year tenure. These included the overall repair and renovation of the 10,224sq ft main house, also listed Grade II, and the creation of the Hall’s outstanding gardens.

Heronden Hall’s impressive gatehouse.

The original main house on the estate is believed to have been built in 1585 and was probably a timber-framed hall house, like many others in the weald of Kent.

This house was demolished by Jeremiah Curteis of Rye who bought the estate in 1782. It was replaced in about 1850 by the present Gothic-style mansion designed by the architect William Donthorn, a pupil of Sir Jeffry Wyattville, for William Curteis Whelan, who bought the estate in the early 1840s. He also designed the gatehouse which now provides a fitting entrance to the estate, and one no doubt appreciated by the townsfolk of Tenterden.

On passing through the gatehouse, a half-mile-long drive meanders through undulating parkland dotted with majestic oak, beech and chestnut trees, and swathes of ancient wood-land in the midst of which sits Heronden Hall.

The house offers impressive accommodation on five floors including, on the ground floor, a grand reception hall with a galleried landing and a decorative hammer-beam roof, five large reception rooms and a kitchen/breakfast room, with various domestic offices at lower-ground level.

The first and second floors house master and guest suites, six further bedrooms, two bathrooms and a playroom, while a stone spiral staircase leads to the Tower Room and the castellated roof terrace, both of which command magnificent views over the surrounding landscape.

To the east of the main house is a two-bedroom coach house accessed via a cobbled archway.

The gardens and parkland of Heronden Hall are notable features of the property, with formal and informal areas merging to provide privacy and seclusion.

To the south of the house, a wide York stone terrace has uninterrupted views over the parkland, while to the east, an avenue of pleached pear trees leads to the romantic Wisteria Walk Garden designed by Catherine Berkeley and built by Mark Wilmshurst. From here, pathways lead to the Well Garden and Yew Labyrinth, also designed by Miss Berkeley.

Heronden Hall is for sale via Savills at £5.5 million — see more pictures and details.

Tenterden: What you need to know

Location: In the heart of Kent, about 12 miles west of Ashford and the same again north of Rye, on the eastern edge of the High Weald AONB. This is proper countryside: there are no major road or rail routes without heading across to Ashford via country lanes — it’s the best part of a half-hour drive. A smaller station at Headcorn is a little closer.

Atmosphere: Idyllic. The town’s size (just under 8,000 people) and isolation have kept it pretty and unspoilt, with plenty of traditional Kentish architecture, independent shops along the broad high street, charming pubs and lots of green space.

Things to do: All the practicalities from GPs to supermarkets can be dealt with in the town itself, and there are beautiful houses and gardens to visit nearby, including Sissinghurst, and all the natural marvels of the High Weald AONB. There is also a brewery and several wineries are also in the area — much of the English wine industry is based in the surrounding countryside. And while commuter trains are all some way away, there is a heritage steam railway based in the town: the Kent & East Sussex Railway. The beach at Camber Sands is just over half an hour’s drive.

Schools: All the local primary schools, and the sole secondary — Homewood School — are all rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.


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