Country houses for sale

A gorgeous Victorian farmhouse that comes with almost 900 acres of Exmoor all to yourself

Emmetts Grange is the highest farmhouse on Exmoor — and one of the most enticing. Penny Churchill takes a look.

On Exmoor, Alice Keith of Knight Frank is handling the sale of Emmetts Grange near Simonsbath, Somerset, a handsome, Grade II-listed Georgian farmhouse with outstanding equestrian facilities set in 894 acres of pasture, ancient moorland and woodland in the heart of the national park.

She quotes a guide price of £6.5m for the estate, which, she observes, ‘currently operates a successful holiday letting business, is free of commoners’ rights and represents a diverse natural capital asset of considerable ecological and environmental value’.

Recently renovated by the current owners, Emmetts Grange retains many fine period features, including large open fireplaces, ornate plasterwork and traditional sash windows.

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The accommodation, said to be ‘in good order’, includes a series of lovely, south-facing reception rooms, nine bedrooms, seven bathrooms and a ground-floor studio annexe.

It comes with four holiday cottages and state-of-the-art equestrian facilities: these include 18 stables, split between the traditional courtyard behind the house and a brand new livery unit with Monarch stabling within an American-style barn, plus a new 60m by 20m (about 195ft by 65ft) indoor school.

In August 1818, the agricultural pioneer John Knight bought the 10,262-acre former royal Forest of Exmoor and began what was to be the largest single land-reclamation ever undertaken in England. He already had family connections with the area through the Bampfields, who were lords of the manor of nearby North Molton and owned valuable ancient grazing rights over the forest.

Knight later increased his Exmoor holding by purchasing surrounding land. He then built a 29-mile-long, stock-proof, stone-faced wall around the entire estate and embarked on the enormous task of reclaiming the rough grazing of the high moors for arable production. He also built two farmsteads either side of his own house at Simonsbath, previously the only residence in the forest.

In 1836, Knight launched a lawsuit against various family members in a bid to recover the estates of his father’s first cousin, Richard Payne Knight of Downton Castle, Herefordshire, but lost the case. It is thought that his fury at losing such a large inheritance may have prompted him to retire to Italy, which he did in 1842, leaving his eldest son, Frederick, to complete his work on Exmoor.

A Conservative MP from 1841 to 1885 and a keen hunting man, Col Sir Frederick Winn Knight went on to build 15 more farmsteads where, instead of farming in-hand, he installed tenant farmers who paid him rent.

The grandest of these was Emmetts Grange, at 1,250ft the highest farmhouse on Exmoor. According to its Historic England listing, it was built in about 1850 and is the best surviving example of the houses built on Exmoor by the Knight family.

Emmetts Grange is for sale via Knight Frank — see more details and pictures.

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