Country houses for sale

Historic country houses for sale in Wiltshire and Somerset

Not with a bang but a whisper, the idyllic Conock Manor estate near Devizes, in Wiltshire’s scenic Pewsey Vale, has slipped quietly onto the market for the first time in 65 years, and only the second time in its 1,000-year history. Owned by the Sykes family since 1945, the wonderfully unspoilt, 472-acre residential and farming estate is for sale through Savills (01722 426881) at a guide price of £7.325 million for the whole-or in seven lots, with the Grade II*-listed manor house, its iconic stable block, two cottages, outbuildings and 89.4 acres of parkland and paddocks on offer at £4m.

At the time of Domesday, Conock Manor was held by the French abbey of Grestain, before being seized in 1324 by Edward II, along with the lands of other alien priories in England. In 1430, it passed to William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, and in 1442, he and his wife endowed their newly founded almshouse at Ewelme, Oxfordshire, with the manor, which remained in the charity’s hands until 1945, when Maj Gen Sir Frederick Sykes bought the freehold of the house, and, three years later, that of Manor Farm.
From the late 17th century to the mid 19th century, Conock Manor was leased by the Ernle family and their descendants, the Warriners; 20th-century tenants included Maj Gen Christopher Sullivan Fagan and, from 1925 to 1941, Col Robert and Mrs Smith Barry.

Known in Victorian times as Conock House, Conock Manor is an imposing rectangular building of stone ashlar, surrounded by well-wooded parkland. The present house, which comprises a two-storey central block with elegant one-storey wings to north and south, probably dates from the early 18th century, with later alterations and additions.

Many of these were carried out by Gifford Warriner, lessee from 1789 to 1820, whose arms appear above the main staircase. He had the exterior faced in ashlar, added new windows and the semi-circular porch to the entrance front, and had the two side wings built in about 1817 by Nottinghamshire architect Richard Ingleman. Col Smith Barry later removed the side walls of the entrance passage to form a long hall extending across all five bays of the west front. He also joined two rooms in the north wing to create a large dining room with a new bow window, and converted the library and conservatory in the south wing into a double drawing room. Today, it’s a simple, flowing layout, based on the full-length reception hall, large dining room, delightful music room with its shallow vaulted ceiling, dual-aspect study (the former library) and good-sized 20th-century kitchen. The manor has nine bedrooms and three bathrooms on two floors and a self-contained service flat.

Across the garden to the east is a large red-brick stable block, listed Grade II, probably built or extended by Gifford Warriner in about 1789, although the bell in the central cupola is dated 1765. The clock tower above has a circular Doric colonnade, a domed copper roof and a wrought-iron weather-cock, all renewed in 1965 as exact copies of the originals.

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 Conock Manor, Wiltshire, £7.325m Savills 01722 426 881

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Simplicity is also the theme of the gardens and grounds, which include a swimming pool, a tennis court and kitchen garden, with a touch of Victorian romanticism provided by the 19th-century summer house and various picturesque listed cottages, which are offered as separate lots-as is the 379-acre Manor Farm with its Grade II-listed farmhouse.

The last time Grade II*-listed Maperton House at Maperton,near Wincanton, Somerset, was offered for sale in Country Life was on June 16, 2005, when it was described as ‘a hidden gem’ by selling agents Savills(020-7499 8644), who found a buyer within two weeks, at a guide price of £3.5m. The same agents are hoping that history will repeat itself when the delightful Regency house, which figured in Marcus Binney’s list of ‘top ten most perfect houses of all periods in Britain’ (The Times, September 7, 2007), reappears in next week’s magazine at a guide price of £5.75m.

Like many good houses on the Somerset/Dorset border, Maperton started life as a hunting box in the Blackmore Vale country. Prior to that, the manor was listed in Domesday and, in 1600, was held by Francis Hastings of North Cadbury. The present Maperton House was built in the 19th century, but incorporates some 18th-century fragments from a previous manor house that stood on the same site. Built of the golden local Ham stone, the house is mainly Georgian in style with an impressive Victorian conservatory attached to the garden front.

But 20th-century occupiers have also left their mark. In the early 1900s, the Ridley family added the front porch and the angled bay window on the west front. In the 1970s, Maperton was owned by musician Georgie Fame, who demolished a Victorian extension. From the early 1980s, the house was owned by society high-flyers Prince and Princess von Preussen, before their divorce led to its sale in 2005. The present owners, who have carried out some important structural repairs, are now moving to another area.

The 15,377sq ft house has accommodation on three floors, centred on a fine reception hall and staircase, with a pretty library, a large south-west-facing drawing room and a dining room to the right and a morning room to the left. The two upstairs floors house an impressive master suite, nine further bedrooms and six further bathrooms.

There is a staff flat in the 1876 Victorian coach house, which also contains a billiard room and garaging. The gardens and grounds, 7.83 acres in all, include wide sweeping lawns, a sunken garden, grand herbaceous borders, tree-lined avenues and some magnificent specimen trees.

Another West Country masterpiece making an early return to the market is 19th-century Bittescombe Manor at Upton, Somerset, which was last sold in summer 2007, and will reappear next week at a guide price of £3.85m through Knight Frank (01392 423111).

The current owners, who have decided to head back east, have transformed the rambling, 1,1391sq ft house inside and out, using natural materials such as wood, stone and marble to create an elegant feeling of light and space. Bittescombe Manor was first recorded on the John Speed Map of Somerset in 1610; the present house was probably built on the site of a former manor in about 1830, yet to date remains unlisted. It has a splendid reception and staircase hall, three main reception rooms, a large kitchen/breakfast room, a billiard room, a gun room and a study, plus three bedroom suites, six further bedrooms, two further bathrooms and a two-bedroom staff flat.

The two-bedroom lodge, listed Grade II, has also been beautifully renovated. Bittescombe stands in the centre of its 63 acres of pristine landscaped gardens and parkland in the glorious Brendon Hills, about a mile from the edge of Exmoor National Park.

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