Country houses for sale

A house ‘practically in the gardens of Hampton Court’, up for sale for the first time in over half a century

Penny Churchill takes a look at classic Georgian built Ivy House and the 'Rolls-Royce lifestyle' that its past owners have enjoyed there.

In 1539, having acquired and extended the grand palace built on the banks of the River Thames by his disgraced former Chancellor Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII established the ‘Honour’ of Hampton Court by Act of Parliament, annexing manors and lands throughout Middlesex and Surrey. The statute provided for the creation of a new forest or ‘chase’ over the claimed Surrey lands, from the Thames on the south side of Hampton Court manor to Cobham and Weybridge.

The chase was deeply unpopular among the ‘men of Molsey and other towns in the chace’ who protested vigorously at the damage done by the deer and the loss of their commons and pastures. After Henry’s death in 1547, the deer were moved to Windsor Forest and the former tenants—and their much-needed rent-rolls—were reinstated.

Hampton Court’s Thames-side location and green open spaces were much appreciated by Henry’s successors. Charles I had grand plans for waterworks in the grounds, but abandoned the scheme at the outbreak of the Civil War, after which Oliver Cromwell moved to Hampton Court and made his own improvements.

The Restoration under Charles II saw further heavy expenditure on the palace and gardens, then William and Mary had the palace largely rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren from 1689 onwards.

For many years, Wren both worked and lived at Hampton Court, residing in one of many fine houses built by the Crown and leased to suitable tenants. One of these was Ivy House on Hampton Court Road, East Molesey, the freehold to which was granted in 1873.

The house is described in the Victoria County History (1911) as being ‘practically in the palace gardens, with a terrace overlooking the Broad Walk, a picturesque building the property of Col Walter Campbell, son of Mr James Campbell, who formerly owned Hampton Court House’.

After the First World War, Ivy House was owned by Major-General Sir Ralph Ainsworth, a distinguished military surgeon, who acquired it from John French, 2nd Earl of Ypres, in 1926.

The classic Georgian house built, according to English Heritage, in about 1778, is now being sold for the first time in more than half a century by the family of comedy scriptwriter the late Ray Galton, who bought the property from the estate of Sir Ralph’s widow, Lady Ainsworth, in 1965.

Tom Shuttleworth of Strutt & Parker’s country department quotes a guide price of ‘excess £5.995 million’ for the wonderfully authentic Georgian building with its timeless, Upstairs Downstairs interiors and views over Hampton Court’s historic gardens.

Galton and his co-writer, Alan Simpson, met as teenagers in the 1940s, when both were being treated for TB in a Surrey sanatorium. They went on to become household names as the scriptwriters for BBC Radio’s Hancock’s Half Hour and, later, the hit television series Steptoe and Son.

Ivy House provided the perfect backdrop to ‘a Rolls-Royce lifestyle’ enjoyed by the pair on the back of their new-found success. However, Galton’s obituary by Guardian journalist Dennis Barker, in October 2018, revealed that ‘neither took their new wealth entirely seriously.

In one room of Galton’s huge house in the grounds of Hampton Court was a grand piano with Liberace-style candelabra on it. When a journalist asked who played it, Galton replied: “The piano tuner”.’

Ivy House stands in just over half an acre of grounds and is listed Grade II, together with its boundary walls shared with the gardens of Hampton Court and twin carriage entrances flanked by stone piers.

It offers more than 9,000sq ft of living space on three main floors—each a mirror image of the floor above, with large bay windows overlooking Hampton Court to the side and rear and an array of domestic offices on the lower-ground floor.

The raised ground floor houses the drawing room, dining room, library and kitchen, with the master suite, six further bedrooms and two bathrooms on the floors above. Outside, a large double garage has space for a shiny new Rolls-Royce, with a studio room above.

Ivy House is currently on the market via Strutt & Parker for offers in excess of £5.995 million — see more pictures, or enquire with the agent for further details. 

East Molesey: What you need to know

Location: In the borough of Elmbridge, Surrey. Hampton Court, Hampton Wick and Thames Ditton are the closest stations.

Atmosphere: There are two areas to the town — East and West Molesey. The River Thames is situated to the north and there are many pubs and restaurants that run along the river path, including The Albany and Thyme by River. The area is also served by supermarkets and independent shops.

Things to do: There are a number of sport clubs in the town, including football, cricket and rugby. Nearby Kingston has further leisure and cultural facilities and links into central London mean all the best bits of the capital are easily attainable.

Schools: The Orchard Infant School is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and St Lawrence CofE Aided Junior School is rated ‘good’.

See more property for sale in the area.

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