Country houses for sale

Autumn country house rally in the Cotswolds

Cotswold estate agents have been surprised and relieved at the recent surge of activity in the country house market, especially in the £1 million to £2 million price bracket. Despite a relative dearth of new buyers entering the fray above that price level, Edward Sugden of buying agents Property Vision (01635 813130) reports no fewer than 14 deals signed off this year at more than £2m.

And he attributes a sharp drop in the number of top houses sold in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire
in 2009-by his reckoning, six manor houses, two manor farmhouses and four old rectories, compared with 10 manor houses, 10 manor farmhouses and seven old rectories sold in 2008-more due to lack of supply than absence of buyers.

But a flurry of interesting new houses coming onto the market this autumn, allied to a more realistic approach to pricing, suggests that the present imbalance could be partly redressed by the end of the year.

One special house guaranteed to set the pulses racing among would-be members of the county set is the Manor House at Didmarton, near Badminton, Gloucestershire, the family home, since 1967, of Duke of Beaufort’s stalwart the late Maj John Gunn, who died earlier this year. For sale through Strutt & Parker (01285 653101) at a guide price of £2 million, the Manor House sits beside the medieval church of St Lawrence at the historic heart of this ancient Cotswold village. The present house is the remnant of a large manor built in about 1600 for the Codrington family, which was seriously damaged by fire in the early 17th century.

In 1725, the Manor House was bought by the Duke of Beaufort as part of his growing Badminton estate. The original E-shaped wings were demolished when the house became the village rectory; it was further altered and extended before passing back into private hands in the early 20th century. It is described in Adrian Tinniswood’s Country Houses From The Air (1994) as ‘very much a gentleman’s home rather than a nobleman’s palace-and none the worse for that’.

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Set well back from the busy A433 which runs through Didmarton, the Manor House, listed Grade II, stands in 11.3 acres of gardens, grounds and paddocks on the edge of the village, overlooking the 22,000-acre Badminton estate to the south. Built of Cotswold stone under a stone roof, the elegantly faded manor, which now needs ‘a comprehensive programme of renovation’, has four fine reception rooms, a study, a kitchen/breakfast room, seven bedrooms, two dressing rooms and four bathrooms, plus an adjoining three-bedroom cottage. Outbuildings include a classic 18th-century Cotswold stone barn, listed Grade II, stabling and a range of openfronted byres.

Positive as ever, Atty Beor-Roberts of Knight Frank in Cirencester (01285 659771) reports an 86% rise in viewings, and a 60% increase in sales in the Cotswolds between May and August-compared with the same period last year-as City buyers look to convert hoarded cash into ‘tangible assets’. But with new instructions down by more than 25%, ‘we could be looking at a shortage of stock if
the increased demand continues into the autumn,’ Mr Beor-Roberts says philosophically, as he prepares to launch his autumn collection.

First down the catwalk is Grade II*-listed Dunkirk Manor at Amberley on the Cotswold escarpment, eight miles from Tetbury and 10 miles from Kemble (London-Paddington: 75 minutes). Last seen in these pages some five years ago, when its guide price was £1.4m (Property Market, March 11, 2004), the classic Georgian manor house is being offered this time at a fairly conservative £2m. Originally built in about 1670, the house was bought in the early 1800s by John Cooper, owner of the Dunkirk woollen mills in the valley below; in 1810, he enlarged the building, adding the impressive Georgian façade. Impeccably renovated by its previous owner and furnished with exquisite flair by its present French chatelaine, the manor has four reception rooms, a breakfast room, a kitchen, a dining-courtyard, a games room, a luxurious master suite, six further bedrooms, six further bathrooms and a self-contained two-bedroom flat. Dunkirk Manor stands in only an acre of landscaped gardens and grounds-a small slice of land for a house of its stature-but could represent a painless first step on the Cotswolds property ladder for a canny City buyer.

If rolling acres are your thing, then Knight Frank can unveil Farmcote Wood Farm,rnear Winchcombe, eight miles from Cheltenham, a traditionalr266-acre North Cotswold farmrwith striking views over the Evesham Vale and south to the Marlborough Downs. The classic stone farmstead includes a pretty 19th-century, five-bedroom farmhouse, a two-bedroom staff cottage, modern and traditional farm buildings and state-of-the art equestrian facilities.

The agents quote a guide price of £5.5m to £6m for the freehold of this thriving mixed farm, which has an excellent mix of paddocks, grazing, arable land and mixed woodland,rwith potential to improve the existing family shoot.

Old rectories have been conspicuous by their absence in therCotswolds this year, so the sale
of the charming Old Vicarage at Old Minster Lovell, nearrWitney, Oxfordshire, at a guide price of £2m through Butler Sherborn (01993 822325) and Savills (01865 339700), is bound to cause some excitement. Set
in 3½ acres of lawned gardens and paddocks on the banks ofr the River Windrush at the edgerof this quintessential Cotswold village, the former vicarage wasrbought from the Church by its present owners in 1977. A datestone of 1612 confirms the original central core as early 17th century, with the two Victorian wings added in the early 19th century.

During their 32-year tenure, the owners have created a very pleasant family home with three reception rooms, a kitchen/dining  room, four bedrooms and two bathrooms on the first floor, and a fifth bedroom on the second floor. The former coach house was converted to a pretty one-bedroom cottage some 10 years ago. ‘For the more robust, its location 15.8 miles from central Oxford, also puts the Old Vicarage within reach of the Oxford schools,’ Giles Lawton of Savills suggests.

With manor farmhouses in the Cotswold heartlands of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire also in short supply, if a traditional farmhouse with land is what you’re after, then you need to cross the border into the somewhat less fashionable north Wiltshire Cotswolds. Here, £1.85m will buy pretty 63-acre Cromhall Farm at Easton Piercy, near Chippenham, through Savills (01225 474550) and Strutt & Parker (01285 653101). It has a 17th-century farmhouse (incorporating an 18th-century barn) with two main reception rooms, a large kitchen/breakfast room, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, cottages, outbuildings and excellent stabling and paddocks.

The enchanting small village of Hannington on the edge of the Cotswold conservation area near Highworth, 11 miles from Cirencester, is the nearest port of call for the beautifully maintained Nell House, which dates from the 1600s, and still has its original open fireplaces, exposed beams and corner staircase. Over the years, the farmhouse has been expertly restored and extended to provide two reception rooms, a conservatory, a kitchen/breakfast room, a master suite, four further bedrooms and two family bathrooms.

It stands in 7.7 acres of formal gardens and has superb equestrian facilities, including a
modern stable yard, a manège and four well-fenced paddocks. Jackson-Stops & Staff (01993 822661) quote a guide price of £1.55m.

* Country houses for sale