Country houses for sale

An Elizabethan manor house where gnarled, ancient beams meet 21st century walls of glass

The work done on this home in Hertfordshire is striking yet sympathetic as it comes to the market for the first time in over three decades. Penny Churchill takes a closer look.

Mark Rimell of Strutt & Parker’s country department and Robert Couch of Bidwells are overseeing the sale, for the first time in 32 years, of Old Manor House at Shaftenhoe End, which lies within a conservation area of the north Hertfordshire village of Barley, five miles south-east of Royston, 14 miles south of Cambridge and 29 miles from Stansted airport.

The agents quote a guide price of £2.85 million for the Grade II-listed manor house, formerly known as The Big House or Freemans and, according to Historic England, said to have been ‘the manor house of the Burnels’ in the Elizabethan era.

Today, Old Manor House offers more than 4,600sq ft of accommodation on three floors with a cellar below, including two main reception rooms, a study, garden room, kitchen/breakfast room, six bedrooms and three bathrooms.

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The eastern wing comprises a splendid dining room, with its original recessed fireplace and log burner, which leads through to the kitchen/breakfast room. Divided into two parts, the kitchen area boasts a range of bespoke cabinets and top-of-the-range appliances with a tiled floor throughout and French doors leading to the rear terrace.

The dining area has a glass wall and fitted bookshelves. The western wing comprises a drawing room with a fireplace and a mullioned window discovered by the owners during the renovation.

Beyond are a contemporary oak-frame garden room with a vaulted ceiling and a study with views across the rear garden.

Full planning consent has been granted for a contemporary glass extension to infill the south courtyard and create a spectacular new entertaining space.

Altered in the 18th and 19th centuries, the building is timber frame under a tiled roof and dates from 1624, as confirmed by the following inscription carved on an ancient beam: ‘W. L. 1624. So God may still me blesse, I care the lesse, Let envy say her worst, and after burst.’

As did many a small manor, the house became a farmhouse over time and, according to Mr Rimell, was in ‘a shocking state’ when Angus and Libby Thirlwell moved there in 1992. They immediately embarked on a meticulous restoration of the house, annexe and outbuildings, laying out and landscaping the almost five acres of lovely gardens and grounds, where the eye is drawn to a substantial area of mature trees — all planted by the new owners — together with an impressive display of topiary and an ornate garden pond.

Architectural features of interest to the rear are the brick stack with tapered crow-steps and two trumpeting Satyr carved brackets at the top of the stair tower.

Old Manor House is for sale at a guide price of £2.85 million via Strutt & Parker and Bidwells.

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