Country houses for sale

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The last time the Faircrouch estate at Wadhurst, East Sussex, was advertised for sale was in the early 1980s, when the estate agent described it, somewhat lyrically, as being ‘in the Eridge hunt country, 400 feet above sea-level, keeping free from fog and enjoying the high sunshine statistics associated with Tunbridge Wells, England’s sunniest inland resort’. At the time, the rambling 12,820sq ft mainly Georgian house, listed Grade II, had been used as a weekend retreat and was in a state of considerable disrepair, but with space for three energetic small boys, it was exactly what the Corfe family needed.

Now, having lost her husband, and with the boys mainly working overseas, Rosaleen Corfe looks back on 26 happy years at what has been ‘a fantastic family home’: Faircrouch is on the market with Strutt & Parker (020–7629 7282) at a guide price of £4.3 million for the main house and grounds, and £700,000 for the listed, four-bedroom converted barn. Faircrouch is a very old name in the Wadhurst area, and was originally a medieval nunnery that was suppressed during the Dissolution. It was later owned by a succession of wealthy Sussex ironmasters, starting with John Barham, who bought the property in 1560. At some point, the remains of the nunnery buildings, including those of some monastic cells, were incorporated into the main house, which was extended at various times over the years.

In the 1850s, the railway arrived, linking Wadhurst to the City of London, and the then owners of Fair-crouch House were granted a permanent set of steps linking the house, via a woodland path, to Wadhurst station ‘in perpetuity’, in exchange for the sale of the cutting where the railway now runs. Mrs Corfe recalls her husband, ‘who was always late’, rushing to catch his train to Cannon Street, and coming home at 5.50pm to find her waiting at the door with a gin and tonic. Having a background in interior design, Mrs Corfe took on the role of builder and decorator, which included the complete rebuilding of the listed barn that had been flattened by an oak tree in the great storm of October 1987. For the boys, Faircrouch, with its eight acres of gardens and 14 acres of woodland, meant ‘freedom with a capital F’.

Unusually for this area, Fair-crouch House was built with local stone quarried nearby, and it’s thought that stone from an earlier medieval building was taken from the property to help in the building of Wad-hurst Castle. The main house is light and airy, with tall sash windows and elegant period fittings; in the 1930s, Geoffrey Grindling added an intriguing Art Deco music room, which still has its original gramophone settings. The house has five reception rooms, a breakfast room, kitchen and staff quarters, a master suite, seven further bedrooms and four further bathrooms. But, thanks to the income currently derived from the letting of the lodge, cottage and coach house, the cost of running a house of this size has been greatly alleviated.

Thanks to Tunbridge Wells’ famous sunshine quota, life at Faircrouch has always been about the outdoors, and the lawns surrounding the main house have been the scene of many marvellous parties and weddings. In addition to the south-facing loggia, Faircrouch has a conservatory and a greenhouse with an indoor swimming pool (in addition to a former outdoor pool) plus a tennis court, and a walled kitchen garden with a summer house for quieter moments. The gardens, with their spectacular banks of rhododendrons and azaleas, are a real joy. Sadly, the sale of a much-loved family house after many years is not always a time of joy.

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With its six acres of water surrounded by wooded Surrey countryside, it’s hard to imagine a country-house setting more idyllic than that of Cutt Mill House, near Puttenham’s famous lakes, six miles from Guildford. But, in many ways, the beauty of the setting makes it all the harder for its owner, Angela Skinner, to come to terms not just with the sudden loss of her husband Richard last year, but now with all the hassle involved with selling the house they bought together 33 years ago. ‘I’d never opened a brown envelope before my husband died, but now I just have to get on with it. We both agreed that whoever was left would have to sell the house, which is much too big for one person, but I never dreamed it would happen so soon.’ And given that the Skinners bought Cutt Mill House from an old school friend of Richard’s, who had been there for 20 years or more, this is the first time that this very private house has been seen on the open market for more than 50 years.

Savills (01483 796820) and Hamptons (01483 572864) quote a guide price of £4.5m for the six-bedroom house with its three-bedroom garden cottage, boat house, stabling and workshops, set in 15 acres of wooded grounds. The original Cutt Mill House dates from the 1400s, and is known to have been lived in by a miller called Roger de Cutt. Over the years, the house has been extended a number of times, and has many distinctive features, including the bay window in the master bedroom which overlooks the lakes, the splendid drawing room and reception room with its large inglenook fireplaces, and the dramatic mill race with its 12ft waterfall and arches designed by Oliver Hill under the direction of Sir Edwin Lutyens. But above all, Cutt Mill House is a sanctuary for wildlife of all kinds, presided over by its resident pair of swans, Rosie and Arthur, who disappear for two months each year only to return exhausted from where no one knows. ‘This is such a happy house that I hope someone nice buys it,’ Mrs Skinner says, adding mischievously, ‘but at least it’s not grand enough for a Russian or a pop star.’