Country houses for sale

A gorgeous Berkshire house/castle-hybrid that inspired Thomas Hardy to write ‘Jude The Obscure’

Penny Churchill takes a look at Fawley Manor, a glorious 17th century house that's come up for sale.

Occasionally at Country Life we come across a house where the lines are blurred between house, castle, stately home and museum; those places where cosy touches meet grand architecture, and where superb original features somehow co-exist happily with a place that’s clearly been beautifully kept.

And that’s very much the case in west Berkshire, where Alex Barton of Strutt & Parker quotes a guide price of £4.75m for Grade II*-listed Fawley Manor at South Fawley, five miles from Wantage. It’s a splendid Jacobean manor house set in nine acres of gardens and grounds overlooking the timeless beauty of the North Wessex Downs AONB.

The Old Hall at Fawley Manor.

The present house was built in 1614 on the site of an earlier manor by Francis Moore, a successful barrister who was knighted in 1616, having served as MP for Reading for many years; he died at Fawley Manor in 1621. In the 19th century, Thomas Hardy is said to have visited the manor house, which provided the inspiration for his novel Jude the Obscure, in which Jude’s surname is Fawley.

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Lovingly restored by its current owners who have lived there for 40 years, the manor is arranged over four floors around a lovely original staircase.

Of particular note is the Old Hall on the ground floor — a wonderful period piece with an impressive 17th-century fireplace, original screens passage, oak panelling and large stone mullioned windows overlooking the formal gardens.

On the first floor, the Oak Room is another fine reception room, 30ft in length with an open fireplace and high-level views over the Downs.

The Oak Room.

The core of the house is essentially Jacobean, offering some 6,000sq ft of accommodation including six reception rooms, 10 bedrooms and seven bathrooms. A substantial 19th-century wing provides a further 4,000sq ft of living space, which could be incorporated into the main house, if required. Outside, the gardens and grounds at Fawley Manor have been designed with the history of the house in mind.

The focus is on strong geometrical topiary and avenues of evergreen trees, with more formal box parterres close to the house. There’s also an old tennis court, pond, orchard and cutting garden.

A run of stables complements the pony paddocks next to the formal gardens, and a row of brick-and-flint outbuildings could be converted to a cottage, subject to planning consent.

Fawley Manor is for sale at £4.7m via Strutt & Parker — see more details.

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