Country houses for sale

An incredibly elegant William and Mary home set in exquisite formal gardens on the fringes of an idyllic West Country village

Plymtree Manor offers the sort of space that city dwellers have been desperate to find in the past year or so. Penny Churchill takes a closer look.

It’s been a very good year for sales of country houses and estates in the West Country and, according to Oliver Custance Baker of Strutt & Parker in Exeter, it’s not finished yet — as evidenced by this newly-launched property.

For sale at a guide price of £3 million, Plymtree Manor is an elegant, Grade II*-listed, William and Mary house set in just over 8½ acres of formal and informal gardens, orchard and paddocks on the edge of the rural village of Plymtree, 3½ miles south of Cullompton and 12 miles north-east of Exeter.

According to its listing, the house, then known as Hayne House, was built in the early 18th century for the Harward family, partly rebuilt and enlarged ‘in the same style’ in the late 19th century by its then owner, Mr Leon, and renovated in 1987 by its current owners, who bought it in 1985. Its early-18th-century frontage is deemed ‘very impressive and most unusual for Devon’.

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For more than 300 years, Hayne House was the family seat of the Harwards, the best-known member of which was the Revd Charles Harward, an Anglican priest who was born there in August 1723 and died there, aged 78, in July 1802.

Harward was a sporting parson and a keen farmer, although much of his time was spent at the Court of George III, where he acted as chaplain to the Princess of Wales and tutor to the children of many important courtiers.

From 1770 to 1790, he was Dean of Chichester, during which time his contemporary, the diarist John Marsh, suggested that ‘Dean Harward was as little of a gentleman as he was a divine… a man much fitter to be at the head of a regiment than of a Chapter’.

He was also a very litigious man and apparently much given to swearing, one who exercised discipline in the cathedral with a beady eye ‘and by judicious spitting at any choirboy who fell asleep during his services’. His sons having predeceased him, Harward left his property to his daughter Elizabeth’s son, the Revd Charles Blake, who, in 1816, changed his surname to Harward in order to inherit.

Approached through its original wrought-iron entrance gates and via a long carriage drive that passes through copse land before revealing the first view of the house, Plymtree Manor stands on the edge of the village, surrounded by the recently restored formal gardens, wildflower gardens and clipped hedges, edged by a variety of fine trees with open farmland beyond.

The imposing former manor house offers more than 10,500sq ft of accommodation on three floors, including interconnecting drawing, dining and morning rooms on the east side, with an informal, west-facing kitchen/breakfast room overlooking the rear garden. The first floor provides four bedrooms, a dressing room and three bathrooms, with a further two bedrooms and a central playroom on the second floor.

The garden floor houses various domestic offices and, at lower ground level, three large vaulted wine cellars. At the southern end of the house, a two-storey wing is currently arranged as offices and a one-bedroom staff flat. A range of historic outbuildings includes a coach house and stables, both listed Grade II, the latter comprising three loose boxes with their original wooden partitions.

Plymtree Manor is for sale at a guide price of £3 million — see more details and pictures.

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