Country houses for sale

A challenging restoration project near Northampton

Launching on the market today is the rambling, Grade II-listed Overstone House, on the outskirts of Northampton. The house has stood as a part ruin after it was largely gutted by a fire, which broke out on April 16, 2001.

The original building, known as Overstone Hall, was replaced in 1862 for a grander seat at the behest of the wife of Samuel Jones Loyd, who had recently been ennobled for services to banking. Lord Overstone appointed William Milford Teulon to design a house with a mixture of ‘Elizabethan and Renaissance features’, but it failed to impress Pevsner, who described it as ‘drearily asymmetrical’. 


Overstone House



The house passed through various owners until the mansion, with 70 acres, was sold in 1929 for conversion into a girls’ boarding school. Sadly, the fortunes of Overstone continued to spiral downwards, as the upkeep became too much for the school, which closed in 1979. A year later, it was bought by current vendors the New Testament Church of God.

‘Its future is now pretty much in the hands of Fate,’ explains Robert Godfrey of sales agents Bidwells (01604 605050), who are asking in the region of £1.5 million. ‘It will depend on what the local planning department agrees.’

Conceding that they have had some ‘expressions of informal interest’ already, Mr Godfrey believes Overstone will most probably be snapped up by developers for conversion into a hotel, care home or mixed residential scheme. Whoever does take on the challenge will have to have a strong heart and deep pockets: the likely restoration costs are estimated to be close to £10 million.

On the ground in East Anglia

William Duckworth-Chad, Savills

‘In recent years, the East has seen very little activity in terms of top-end sales, and buyers have been starved of good-quality stock. Now, the stock is more evident and we’re seeing those buyers come out of the woodwork. Worlingham Hall on the Norfolk/Suffolk border officially launched last week; its appearance in Country Life last month (Property Market, March 24, 2010) generated nine viewings and many phonecalls. Areas in Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex up the M11 corridor where business has been slow have, this spring, seen a real turn for the better. Perhaps some of those buyers from the more traditionally fashionable areas in the South are realising what better value the East represents. After all, a similar-looking house to Worlingham in prime Gloucestershire could fetch up to 40% more, purely because of the cachet the address carries.’

Tim Hayward, Jackson-Stops & Staff

‘What a difference a year makes. Back in March 2009, little did we anticipate the gradual improvement in the market that then proceeded to take place throughout the rest of the year. Now, there’s increased activity, although we have an impending election, which is bound to slow the market up while it takes place. We have one scenario where the prospective buyers are renting the property, which underlines the fact that, generally, buyers know that they’re under no pressure, as prices are unlikely to rise this year. Although we’re expecting to see activity levels similar to the second half of last year for the rest of 2010, realism is the key word, and any overpriced or badly presented properties will struggle.’

Andrew Wagstaff, Bedfords

‘I hear from other agents that it’s becoming more difficult with the General Election approaching, but we’re generally not finding that. Since the weather’s improved, activity levels have increased, and the only thing that’s holding the market back is a lack of good-quality houses. We do have a substantial number of buyers ready to purchase, and that includes both families who are relocating to north Norfolk as well as, surprisingly, second-home buyers. One factor of concern to all is location: only the best will do, and here, that means being within 10 miles of the coast.’

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