Country houses for sale

A gorgeous medieval home in Dorset with Grade I-listed gardens are up for sale, including their own tea room and gallery

Penny Churchill takes a look at East Lambrook Manor, a wonderful late medieval house with truly outstanding (and Grade I-listed) gardens.

Few homes are as oretty or charming as the Grade II*-listed East Lambrook Manor in the pretty Somerset village of East Lambrook, a mile from South Petherton and five miles from Ilminster. The former Somerset hall house, built of brick and hamstone under a tiled roof, dates from the 15th century, with later alterations and additions in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Just as magnificent as the house — perhaps even more so —  are the gardens, which were the subject of a feature in Country Life in January 2016. East Lambrook Manor stands in 2¾ acres of famous cottage gardens created by gardening legend Margery Fish between 1938 and 1969, and listed Grade I by English Heritage in 1992. Ashley Rawlings of Savills in Wimborne is handling the sale, at a guide price of £2.25 million.

East Lambrook Manor offers 4,340sq ft of comfortable family accommodation on two main floors, including, on the ground floor, a Great Hall with a hamstone fireplace, a panelled drawing room, a sitting room, breakfast room and well-fitted kitchen, with an AGA and an old hamstone fireplace.

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The first-floor bedrooms include a delightful principal bedroom with a part-vaulted ceiling and stone fireplace, four further bedrooms, two bathrooms and a shower room.

According to its listing details, East Lambrook Manor was, until the early 20th century, a typical manor farm with a small garden laid mainly to lawn, a large farmyard or ‘barton’ to the north of the house and two orchards.

Margery had lived in London all her life, working as secretary to Lord Northcliffe from 1912 and then to successive editors of the Daily Mail, including Walter Fish, whom she married in 1933. Five years later, the couple bought East Lambrook Manor for £1,000. By then in her mid forties, with little or no interest in gardens, she was about to embark on her second career, which led to her becoming one of gardening’s most influential figures in the 20th century.

Initially, Walter and Margery Fish worked on the restoration of the house, at the same time paving the small front garden and laying out a lawn to the north. In late 1938, Margery had a series of terraces built on the slope to the west of the house, after which an area of orchard above the terraces was absorbed into the garden.

A further area of adjoining orchard was then acquired and a ditch that had previously marked the garden boundary was developed as a bog garden.

Walter died suddenly in 1949, but his widow, always the driving force behind the creation of the garden, continued its development up to her own death in 1969. During her widowhood, Margery developed contacts with leading British gardeners and plantsmen, including Lawrence Johnston of Hidcote Manor, Gloucestershire, Nancy Lindsay and her own neighbour, Violet Clive of Brympton d’Evercy, Somerset, from whom she obtained rare, old and neglected plants.

She also wrote articles in The Field and Amateur Gardening, as well as eight books that drew upon her gardening experience at East Lambrook Manor and popularised her ‘cottage-garden’ style.

Following Margery’s death in 1969, East Lambrook Manor passed to her nephew, Henry Boyd-Carpenter, who continued to maintain the garden until 1985, when the manor was sold to Mr and Mrs Andrew Norton. In 2008, it was purchased by Mike Werkmeister and his wife, Gail.

During their tenure, the manor’s precious gardens have been maintained with the help of volunteers and now await a new custodian following Mr Werkmeister’s reluctant decision to sell.

Included in the sale are a converted Malthouse with a tea room, gallery, studio and meeting room, a nursery area and extensive parking —  all of which are facilities connected to the year-round opening of the gardens to the public.

That said, this is very much a home: East Lambrook Manor is not being sold as a business.

East Lambrook Manor is for sale via Savills at £2.25m — see more details and pictures.

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