Country houses for sale

A derelict watermill transformed in a 12-year project to create a stunning home in the Surrey Hills

Penny Churchill takes a look at the spectacularly redesigned watermill near Guildford which showcases fantastic juxtaposition between historic industrial machinery and 21st century luxuries.

A  challenge awaited the owner of Grade II-listed Wonersh Mill, near Shamley Green, in the Surrey Hills AONB. The magical sound of running water and the appeal of a derelict water mill, unseen and untouched for years, were the triggers that led Neal Futcher to embark on an extraordinary engineering project that took 12 years to complete at a cost of several times its original budget.

The property is now on the market via Savills’ Country Department at a guide price of £8.5 million.

The property was a derelict green-oak structure built into a dam holding back a large mill pond adjoining the mill house next door, when, in 2005, Mr Futcher bought it and set out to convert it into his dream country home.

Having found a local surveyor who knew the previous owner, he was happy to hear that a budget of £900,000–£1.2 million would cover the cost of conversion. A local architect recommended an engineer who had worked on a number of marina developments on the south coast as someone capable of carrying out the work.

The first set of bad news came when the engineer proposed carrying out a geological survey on the site that would cost £300,000–£400,000 before any building work could begin. It was back to the drawing board and a search for a new architect, this time locally based Elspeth Beard, who had to redo all the drawings before submitting them to the planners.

They promptly rejected the plans because, in their view, you couldn’t put a basement underneath a house in green-belt territory. For Mr Futcher, a basement was essential to achieving the size and design of house he wished to build.

Finally, after four years of planning argument, Mr Futcher and his team went to appeal and won their case. Planning permission (since lapsed) was also secured to build a large barn to provide garaging or office space.

Seven years later, Wonersh Mill, now known simply as The Water Mill, represents a remarkable fusion of industrial history with 21st-century solutions. The 8,231sq ft house, which boasts five reception rooms, five bedrooms, six bathrooms and indoor and outdoor pools, stands in a little under eight acres of terraced gardens, with a mill race running along the edge of the grounds — the whole set against a sylvan backdrop of ancient trees.

The Water Mill is currently on the market via Savills at a guide price of £8.5 million — see more pictures, or enquire with the agent for further details.

Shamley Green: What you need to know

Location: Five miles south of Guildford in the Surrey Hills AONB. There is a train station in Guildford that runs services into London Waterloo.

Atmosphere: The ever-popular village (and the setting of Richard Branson’s former family home) is pretty community with a cricket green, village store, several shops, a cafe/deli and two pubs.

Things to do: The surrounding countryside provides plenty of walking, riding and cycling trails whilst the town of Guildford offers a wider selection of shops, restaurants and leisure facilities.

Schools: Shamley Green Montessori Pre-School, Wonersh and Shamley Green C of E Primary School and Longacre school are all excellent local pre and primary school options. For secondary there’s St Peter’s Catholic School (rated ‘outstanding’ in their Ofsted review), Guildford County School (also rated ‘outstanding’) and Guildford High School.

See more property for sale in the area.