Merry Hall is a house that once fulfilled the bucolic fantasies of a much-loved British writer. Now, it's seeking a new owner.
A passion for restoration is a common thread in the story of three charming, but quite different family houses that have graced the property market in recent weeks. A perfect example is Merry Hall in Agates Lane, Ashtead, Surrey, the home, from 1946–56, of the writer and playwright Beverley Nichols and the subject of a popular trilogy of books — Merry Hall (1951), Laughter on the Stairs (1953) and Sunlight on the Lawn (1956) — in which he describes, with characteristic waspish humour, the acquisition, renovation and landscaping of the rundown Georgian country house in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Still wonderfully reminiscent of a bygone era, Merry Hall is now for sale, for the first time in 45 years, through Tom Shuttleworth of Strutt & Parker’s country department, who quotes a guide price of £3.25 million.
Nichols is best remembered for his books about his homes and gardens, the first of which was Down the Garden Path (1932), in which he describes the difficulties and delights of maintaining a Tudor thatched cottage in Glatton, Cambridgeshire.
By 1946, however, Nichols had fallen out of love with the beams and bumps of Tudor architecture and was looking for something different. He later wrote: ‘I wanted a house. And I wanted a Georgian house. And I wanted a garden of at least five acres: a garden which, for preference, should be wrecked and lost and despairing.’
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His search ended on an autumn day when he and a friend saw the house of his dreams through the branches of a copper-beech tree. In the course of the next 10 years, he renovated the elegant, Grade II-listed Georgian house and established the gardens.
The gardens are now less than an acre, but are still beautifully laid out as a series of outdoor ‘rooms’ bordered by stone balustrading, trellising and low walls topped with decorative railings.
Architectural shrubs and perennial plants fill borders and decorative beds, with mature trees creating dappled shade and terracing providing space for relaxed outdoor dining.
The house offers more than 6,000sq ft of accommodation on three floors, including entrance and inner halls, impressive drawing and dining rooms, a study, conservatory and kitchen/breakfast room, a large billiard room with double doors leading onto the terrace, 10 bedrooms and four bathrooms.
A driveway to the side of the house leads to a parking area and garage with potential for development, subject to the necessary consents.
Ashtead itself may not have quite the same bucolic charm as Merry Hall, but it’s a hugely popular place to live for very good reasons: there is a thriving high street, a small hospital, direct rail service to London, and the M25 is just a few minutes away. And there is a huge amount of green space on the doorstep: Ashtead Common and Epsom Common (which run into each other) are on the edge of town, while Epsom Racecourse is just a few minutes away. Few spots within the M25 can boast to be this green.
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