Named 'the best preserved house in Bedfordshire,' buyers will be hard pressed to find a house as unique, or with as many fascinating historical connections than Harlington Manor.
Royal connections are woven into the fabric of Grade II*-listed, 8,343sq ft Harlington Manor, in Harlington, Bedfordshire, which is for sale through Savills at £2.25m.
‘The house is so laden with history as to be almost ridiculous,’ says owner and self-confessed ‘history nut’ David Blakeman. Home in the 16th century to the Burwells, some of whom became one of Virginia’s First Families, the Manor later passed to the Wingates and it’s through them that it has not one, but two royal links.
Mathematician Edmund Wingate was tutor to Henrietta Maria before she married Charles I, but this didn’t prevent him from taking Parliament’s side during the Civil War and he spent the Cromwell years at Harlington Manor, becoming member of Parliament for Bedford.
A different stance underpinned the success of his kinsman, Sir Francis Wingate, who helped clamp down on non-conformism during the Restoration. In 1660, John Bunyan was preaching in Lower Samsell when he was arrested and hauled to Harlington Manor, where Sir Francis sentenced him to jail until the next Quarter Sessions (the preacher would remain there 12 years).
Perhaps pleased with Sir Francis’s judgement, Charles II is thought to have visited Harlington Manor not long after Bunyan’s arrest. The King would still recognise parts of the house today.
Although it is ‘possessed of fairly modern conveniences’, it is extraordinarily unaltered. The conservation officer that called Harlington Manor ‘pretty much the best-preserved house in Bedfordshire’, according to Mr Blakeman, was especially excited about the 17th-century staircase that links the kitchen to the attic, but there are layers of history everywhere.
The 1596 dining room has a Tudor fireplace and beams. A bedroom upstairs (one of 11) was once the Tudor Great Chamber: although subdivided by the Georgians, it still has a 20ft ceiling and the corridor next to it retains the 16th-century panelling. Even the tiles in the kitchen bear traces of past steps: ‘There are little channels worn by generations of servants from the servants’ entrance on the street.’
The most ‘modern’ part of the house is an extension designed in 1937 by Royal Academy president Sir Albert Richardson for the owners of the time, Maj Sidney Tabor and his wife, Gertrude (one of only three women to be issued a driving licence in 1904, the year the register office opened in Bedfordshire).
Sir Albert was a great friend of the Tabors, with whom he shared a passion for collecting art and antiques. Perhaps inspired by this common interest or by the house’s own history, he created hewn beams in medieval style for the extension and even a door with little gargoyles.
It’s hard to part from all this and Mr Blakeman and his family are selling only because they are planning ‘a complete revamp’ of their lives, but they hope the house will go to someone with a similarly ‘antiquarian’ frame of mind.
‘Harlington Manor is an extraordinary animal for the right person—somebody who is enthusiastic about all things old.’
Harlington: What you need to know
Location: 16 miles south east of Milton Keynes, near the M1. Trains from Harlington link to London St Pancras in 44 minutes.
Atmosphere: The historic Bedfordshire village is located near an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has two local pubs, a primary and secondary school, doctor’s surgery, cafe and deli, post office and village store.
Things to do: Explore the Sundon Hills National Park and Sharpenhoe Clappers. The nearby historic towns of Ampthill, Flitwick and Woburn make for good day trips, and Milton Keynes offers plenty in terms of shopping, restaurants plus an indoor ski slope.
Schools: Harlington Lower School, Harlington Upper School are both good local options.
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