Country houses for sale

Buying property in Canterbury

Canterbury is buzzing. Buyers from across the country are snapping up properties in the cathedral city in large numbers. ‘Interest in Canterbury is rising almost as quickly as the High Speed One trains travel,’ says Ed Church of Strutt & Parker.

The fast rail link, which reaches London in less than an hour, has played a major role in drawing commuters away from London. Martin Jordan of Chesterton Humberts thinks easier access has turned Canterbury into the ideal location because it builds on the attractive package of historic city, idyllic countryside, quiet pace of life and nearby scenic coastline.

However, there is more to Canterbury’s renaissance than great transport. Good local schools also help, according to Mr Church, who says the city offers a large choice in both the private and grammar sectors. The Simon Langton Grammar Schools, one for girls and the other for boys, The King’s School, St Edmunds and Kent College are a magnet for families at a time when admission to London schools has become fiercely competitive. Three universities also ensure a lively student community-and a good lettings market.

The city itself has become more welcoming in recent years, thanks to an extensive revitalisation programme. ‘Many of the basic 1950s and 1960s developments have been replaced,’ says David Kincaid of Jackson-Stops & Staff, who mentions the regeneration of the Canterbury West station area, the Tannery site and the Whitefriars shopping centre, as well as the renewal of the Marlowe Theatre and the restoration of the Beaney Museum and Library, as some of the most significant improvements.

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Residents can count on a good choice of restaurants-with Deeson’s (at 25-27, Sun Street), Michael Caines at the ABode hotel (on the High Street), Cafe des Amis and Cafe Mauresque, among others-and stimulating cultural events, from the world-class acts at the Canterbury Festival (October 19 to November 2) to the top productions at the Marlowe Theatre.

Local shops are excellent-Mr Church tips The Elves and the Shoe-maker at 10C, Burgate for children’s shoes, Hadfields, at 67, Castle Street, for jewellery and the Goods Shed Farmers’ Market on Station Road for food. Sports are catered for at the St Lawrence County Cricket Ground, the Polo Farm Sports Club and the delightful Scotland Hills Golf Club.

Favourite residential areas include Ethelbert Road, Cromwell Road, South Canterbury Road and St Augustine’s Road, as well as St Dunstan’s. However, notes Mr Church, Canterbury’s one drawback is a relative shortage of larger houses. Most of the country-house-style properties are in the surrounding countryside, where Mr Kincaid and Mr Jordan recommend Littlebourne, Ickham and Wickham-breaux, and Chartham, the Elham Valley and Wye respectively.

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In the country

Parts of the Kent countryside are also seeing good sales. James Grillo of Chesterton Humberts notes ‘the number of applicants is rising dramatically because of the easy commute from the north-west of the county and the great schools around Tonbridge and Sevenoaks’. Ed Church of Strutt & Parker reports that interest is especially high on the North Downs, near Chilham and the Stour Valley, and close to Ashford (‘although not in Ashford’).

How it was

On January 15, 1976, this ‘exceptionally attractive period country house’ with five bedrooms, five reception rooms, a guest suite and a staff flat, set in ‘a delightful, quiet rural position’ six miles from Staplehurst station (with its 60-70-minute link to Charing Cross) was advertised in Country Life with an asking price of £67,000 through Strutt & Parker. It came with a double garage, outbuildings, tennis court, two acres of ‘easily maintained’ grounds and oil central heating.