Country houses for sale

An iconic American billionaire’s palatial bolthole for sale in the heart of Hardy’s Wessex

The Old Manor at Puddletown has a bit of everything: a charming name, a history that takes in the great and the good and a recent story of salvation thanks to a motor racing tycoon.

The name ‘Roger Penske’ will be instantly recognisable to motor racing fans of a certain age — and his story is a quite extraordinary tale of the sort of multi-talented man who we seem to see less of these days.

Penske was car-mad as a teenager growing up in post-war Ohio, earning money by buying old cars, fixing them up and selling them on. His passion also took him into motor racing, with huge success in the late 1950s and early 1960s — he was named US motor racing driver of the year by Sports Illustrated in 1961, and again (this time by the New York Times) in 1962. Yet as he started he wasn’t even a full-time professional: he embarked on his racing career while he was studying at university, and then subsequently he juggled driving with a job as a sales engineer.

He did turn professional once he became a regular winner, but retired just a few years later to concentrate on business, becoming a billionaire with his network of truck dealerships and simultaneously establishing Penske Racing, one of the most successful racing teams in American motorsport. It’s somewhat curious, then, to find that away from the noise and glamour of races like the Indy 500 he enjoyed a beautiful old house in Dorset.

The house in question is historic, Grade II*-listed The Old Manor at Puddletown in the heart of Hardy country, five miles from Dorchester and 13 miles from the coast at Weymouth. It’s for sale via Ashley Rawlings of Savills’ Wimborne office at a guide price of £3m.

The house was originally owned by the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon and, in 1724, by Robert Walpole, son of England’s first Prime Minister. Between 1780 and 1830, it was leased to Gen Thomas Garth, equerry to George III, who adopted the King’s illegitimate grandson and raised him at the manor. In 1861, the house was bought by John Brymer, who added the front porch and the billiard room (now the garden room).

In the 1990s, The Old Manor was acquired by Penske, who reputedly spent millions of pounds sensitively rebuilding, restoring and upgrading the property, thereby earning the project a Dorset Architectural Heritage Award.

The house stands on the edge of the village, surrounded by nine acres of beautifully kept gardens, grounds, paddock and woodland.

It offers 16,250sq ft of gracious living space, including entrance and reception halls, six reception rooms, a games room, a garden room, a kitchen/breakfast room, a grand principal bedroom suite and eight further bedrooms and bathrooms.

The Old Manor at Puddletown is for sale via Savills at £3m — see more details and pictures.