Country houses for sale

A very fine country house in Essex

Today sees the launch onto the market of one of the most remarkable houses to be found anywhere in Essex-if only you knew where to look. For sale through Jackson-Stops & Staff (01245 467468) and Savills (020-7409 8877) at a guide price of £9.5 million, imposing Ripley Grange stands on high ground on the southern edge of the forest village of Theydon Bois, overlooking miles of undulating open countryside to the south-east and protected to the north by Gaunt’s Wood deer sanctuary and to the west by Epping Forest’s 6,000 acres of ancient woodland.

The site was chosen with care in the 1920s by millionaire industrialist Charles Frederick Clark, whose fortune derived from the manufacture of carbon paper and typewriter ribbons at his Caribonum factory in nearby Leyton. The factory, which opened in 1918, was one of many iconic industrial buildings designed in the 1920s and 1930s by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, and Clark chose the same architects to produce the plans for his dream country house. It was to be a perfect reproduction of a grand Tudor mansion, inspired by Clark’s meticulous study of great English houses such as Hampton Court, and even the most expert of architectural historians would find it hard to spot the difference between the craftsmanship that shines through every inch of Ripley Grange and that of the historic mansions that inspired it.

 Ripley Grange, £9.5m, Jackson-Stops & Staff and Savills

Building began in 1928 and took 15 months to complete, although Clark continued to alter, improve and perfect the property until 1940; its 17.8 acres of spectacular gardens and grounds were laid out over the same period. Yet Ripley Grange is no mere Tudor pastiche, but a building of remarkable harmony that reflects its creator’s eclectic range of passions and interests.

The library is a replica of Cardinal Wolsey’s study in Hampton Court Palace; the grand proportions of the Great Hall and the main reception hall further express Clark’s admiration for the exuberance of Tudor architecture; and the chapel and its organ-which Clark loved to play -reflect his association with the nonconformist Plymouth Brethren, who enjoyed considerable support among the intellectual hierarchy of his day.

The entrance hall

There is something about Ripley Grange that evidently appeals to high achievers and, in 1954, the house was sold for the first time, to a Greek shipping magnate. Its present owner, Mark Anderson, the founder and chairman of Chelmsford-based builder and developer the Anderson Group, vividly remembers the day he first saw the house. ‘I was born locally, but never knew it existed until one day, when I was about 18, a friend asked me to go and see a Ford Capri that he was thinking of buying. It was being sold by someone living in the cottage at Ripley Grange and I remember coming up the drive and seeing the house in the background. Little did I know that it would be my family home one day.’

It took some time before Mr Anderson could think about buying a serious country house in his native Essex, but, eventually, in 2000, he contacted several leading agents to see what was on offer. At the time, the Grange had been on the market for a while, but Mr Anderson had no hesitation in bidding for it there and then and the deal was completed within a matter of weeks. With considerable sensitivity, he has since brought Ripley Grange into the 21st century at the same time as respecting the integrity of the original building.

In the time of both previous owners, Ripley Grange was very much an ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ house run by a retinue of servants, whose domain was the old-fashioned kitchen area and the usual cramped servants’ quarters on the second floor. The Andersons have transformed the various kitchen rooms into one bright, family-friendly area, opened up the second floor by adding a new staircase and additional bathrooms and built on a state-of-the art indoor swimming pool and leisure complex that has provided endless hours of fun for adults and children alike.

Today, a revitalised Ripley Grange offers more than 15,000sq ft of magnificent but manageable living space, including the grand reception hall, four fine reception rooms, a library, a kitchen/breakfast room, nine bedrooms and five bathrooms.

Having seen the first of ‘the London young’ venturing out into Essex after a prolonged absence, joint selling agent Jeremy Smallman of Jackson-Stops is hopeful that one of the new generation of City high-flyers will take over the reins at Ripley Grange.

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