Known as 'one of the most perfect quadrangular houses in the country,' Morwell Barton is an imposing Grade I listed house with 10,000sq ft of renovated accommodation on offer. Penny Churchill takes a look.
According to a report in the Financial Times, people are returning to UK offices in their greatest numbers since the start of the pandemic, with average occupancy of workspaces between February 7 and 11 reaching 23.3%—levels last seen in November 2021, before the outbreak of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
With normal occupancy estimated at 60% for most companies and demand for offices currently 7–14% lower compared with pre-pandemic years, Mat Oakley, head of European commercial property research at Savills, thinks ‘occupancy numbers will come up as the weather improves, and with a bit of peer pressure. But will it ever go back to levels we’ve seen before? I don’t think it will’.
Although it’s still too early to assess the full impact of hybrid working on the market for country property, down in the West Country, Ed Clarkson of buying agents Property Vision has already seen a quantum shift in the attitude of owners and buyers in recent months:
‘It’s no coincidence that the latest figures from Nationwide put Taunton top of the list for house-price rises nationally last year,’ he says. ‘Many country-house owners whose families are based down here probably commuted to London four or five days a week in the past; they now find that they only need to be there for half that time, and can work from home in comfort for the rest of the week.’
With increasingly sought-after coastal houses throughout the West Country in desperately short supply, Richard Addington of Jackson-Stops in Exeter has seen a surge in the number of buyers seeking peace and seclusion inland, notably in and around the Dartmoor National Park.
He quotes a guide price of £4.5 million for historic, Grade I-listed Morwell Barton, near Tavistock, Devon, a restored medieval stone manor house with an adjoining courtyard and outbuildings set in 243 acres of rich farmland, woodland and pasture, with far-reaching views towards the Tamar estuary to the south, and Dartmoor to the east.
According to its Historic England listing, Morwell Barton—variously known as Morwell Priory, Morewell Farmhouse and Morwell House—was built in the late 15th century as a country retreat for the Abbot of Tavistock, with wings added in the 16th century to create a courtyard.
The open hall was floored and chimneys added in the early 17th century. An attached late-18th-century barn was rebuilt in the 19th century, when the interior of the house was also greatly altered. Structurally, the building, with its imposing gatehouse, has been described as ‘one of the most perfect quadrangular houses of the period in the county’.
The Tavistock Abbey estate was among the richest in Devon when, in March 1539, it was surrendered to the Crown by Abbot John Peryn. In 1540, Henry VIII granted the Abbey and its lands to John Russell, 1st Baron Russell, created Earl of Bedford in 1550. He chose to live at nearby Crowndale and the Morwell Barton estate was let for several centuries.
In the mid 1800s, the Russell family, by then Dukes of Bedford, built a series of model farmyards on their estates and the traditional farm buildings at Morwen Barton probably date from that time. In the mid 20th century, the somewhat neglected main house was sold away from the estate, changing hands for only the second time in 800 years.
Since then, the manor has been renovated throughout and substantially altered internally to provide 10,000sq ft of accommodation, including three reception rooms, five bedrooms and an attached three-bedroom annexe, with part of the gatehouse converted to a wine cellar, and a long barn running along the east side of courtyard serving as a splendid party venue.
Tavistock: What you need to know
Location: West Devon, near the Dartmoor National Park and just above the Tamar Valley AONB. Plymouth is just under 15 miles to the south and Exeter — plus its international airport — is approximately 40 miles to the north east. Train services to Cornwall, London and the north run from Gunnislake, Calstock, Bere Alson and Plymouth.
Atmosphere: The Dartmoor market town boasts a thriving community and is the only town in Devon to hold world heritage status. There are a number of excellent restaurants, cafes, pubs, shops and places to visit — especially its famed Pannier Market.
Things to do: Tavistock Golf Club is nearby but the real charm with this property is its proximity to fantastic walking, cycling and bridle tracks along the Dartmoor National Park. A day trip to the coast is also very do-able, with a number of beaches dotted around the south-west coast, plus excellent sailing and water sport opportunities from Plymouth Sound.
Schools: Mount Kelly Prep and Mount Kelly College are well regarded independent schools, known especially for their swimming. Plymouth College, Devonport High School for Boys, Plymouth High School for Girls and Ivybridge Community College are also all good options within the surrounding area.
Catch up on the best country houses for sale this week that have come to the market via Country Life.