This autumn has seen the launch of some outstanding country houses to the market, from East Sussex to Dorset
In an increasingly random rural market, many fine country houses that were launched with great expectations in the spring find themselves lingering on into autumn as buyers dither and disappear into the mist. Yet there are serious buyers out there, buying agents insist—it’s just t‘hat, with so much uncertainty around, they can’t see the wood for the trees.
‘At the top end, the only sure bet in the current market is a house with land in a good position,’ says Jessica Simpson of Hampshire-based Private Property Search. Her proposition is supported by the recent sale of the 716-acre Bantham estate, with its 21 houses, boathouses, harbour and 18-hole golf course in a prime Devon coastal location, for which Michelmore Hughes and Strutt & Parker were seeking offers over £11.5 million. The successful buyer was Nicholas Johnston, already the proud owner of the Great Tew estate in Oxfordshire.
Another enterprising buyer with similar funds at his disposal could take advantage of a unique set of circumstances to re-create a thriving farming estate at Baxters Farm, Fyfield, between Eastleach Martin and Southrop in Gloucestershire, Mrs Simpson suggests. Selling agent Sam Trounson of Strutt & Parker in Cirencester (01285 653101) was enchanted by dreamy Baxters Farm (above), a beautifully renovated, five-bedroom Cotswold stone house with 12 acres of land on the banks of the River Leach, when he launched it on the market in June at a guide price of £3.5m, with another 30 acres of pasture available by separate negotiation.
The farmhouse was previously the main house on the adjoining arable and sporting estate—also called Baxters Farm—before being sold off some 20 years ago by its owner, who bought the entire estate in the 1950s or 1960s and has transformed the farm into a highly productive commercial unit. Now, following the launch onto the market of the 815-acre holding at a guide price of £9.5m through the Bedford office of land agents Robinson & Hall (01234 351000), a canny purchaser can reunite farm and farmhouse as a single, cost-effective entity in a famously picturesque part of the Cotswolds.
If Jonathan Bramwell of The Buying Solution won the lottery, he’d buy tranquil Yew Tree Farm (above) at Ascott, Warwickshire, a pretty rural hamlet well away from the Cotswold tourist trail, yet still a mere 15 minutes from Daylesford. Launched by Savills in the spring at a guide price of £4.5m, the delightful, 46-acre farm complex enters the autumn listings with a revised price guide of £3.95m, which definitely makes it worth a second look.
The seven-bedroom house needs some updating, Mr Bramwell says, but it comes with two cottages, stabling and lovely gardens and grounds. And, something that many London buyers haven’t yet taken on board, commuting to the capital is now much easier, thanks to the new 55-minute fast train service from Banbury, a 15-minute drive away.
Hampshire-based Robin Gould of Prime Purchase is ‘genuinely surprised’ that, a year after its launch onto the market through Savills (01722 426880) at a guide price of £2.5m, charming Grade II*-listed The Manor House at Poynington, near Sherborne, Dorset, has yet to find a buyer. As with so many of the best houses that have seen deals collapse in the final stages this year, a sale was agreed early at well over the guide price, but then failed to proceed. By then, however, other interested parties had moved on to pastures new.
The Manor House nestles within its 4.6 acres of lovely private grounds in one of those wonderfully peaceful Dorset downland villages that offer families the bonus of a popular nursery school. Pevsner describes the house, originally built in about 1480 and altered a number of times in the next 500 years, as ‘the most fully surviving late perpendicular courtyard house in the county’, which was owned from the 16th century by the Tilly, Parham and Malet families.
As a close friend of the Parhams, Sir Walter Raleigh is said to have spent his last night of freedom at Poyntington, before being taken to the Tower of London, where he languished for 13 years. The manor was later owned by the Willoughby de Broke family until 1907. The present owners have carried out extensive renovations to the house, although there is still work to be done. Planning consent exists to remodel the kitchen area and create more bathrooms upstairs.
As it stands, the manor offers five reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, traditional domestic offices, seven bedrooms, two dressing rooms, three bathrooms, a three-bedroom stone cottage, stabling, a swimming pool and a tennis court.
If Berkshire-based Rob Fanshawe of Property Vision won the lottery this week, he would head west to Ledbury and the sanctuary of the 206-acre Haffield estate (above) on the Herefordshire/Gloucestershire border, which, according to selling agent Jonathan Bengough of Knight Frank in Hereford (01432 273087), represents ‘seriously good value for money’ at a revised guide price of £2.9m for the main house with 147 acres of woodland and pasture and £4.95m for the whole.
The estate was created in 1813 by John Biddulph, who chose the well- wooded south-west facing slopes of Haffield Bank as the perfect site for the ‘unpretentious Greek Revival house’, created in 1817 for William Gordon by Sir Robert Smirk, the designer of the British Museum. Haffield House was largely built from the distinctive Haffield breccia stone, which was quarried on site. It has four main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, sundry family rooms, 10 bedrooms, eight bathrooms and a four- bedroom guest wing.
The many fine specimen trees in the park were planted in the gardenesque manner recommended by J. C. Loudon and, in 1868, the spectacular Wellingtonia avenue was planted along the south drive. Further extensive planting has been carried out in the past 15 years by the current owners, whose family has lived there for more than 50 years, and some 59 acres of mixed woodland now provide the backbone of an established family shoot.
Another substantial property that ‘suffers unfairly from the perception that it has been in and out of the market in recent years’ is historic Isfield Place (above) near Uckfield, East Sussex, which, for Jessica Simpson, represents the ultimate ‘idyllic Sussex retreat’. Bought by its current owners in 2003, it’s currently on the market through Strutt & Parker (020–7629 7282) at a guide price of £7.5m for the Grade II*-listed, eight-bedroom manor house with 195 acres of formal gardens, pasture, farmland and river frontage, or £8.375m with a further 114 acres.
* This article was first published in Country Life magazine on September 24 2014