Spring has hit the rural property market earlier than usual this year, as vendors of classic country houses who hesitated to make the leap in 2009 finally decided to do so. ‘The start of 2010 has been a blast from the past,’ says a jubilant Tommy de Mallet Morgan of Savills in Guildford, who is currently negotiating offers on six properties priced between £2 million and £3 million a situation not seen in January for several years. ‘Also, at long last, we all have something positive to talk about, as we are visiting lots of lovely big houses that will be coming up for sale in the next few months,’ he adds.
Symptomatic of the new-found confidence in the marketplace is the re-launch of Elizabethan Rake Manor at Milford, Surrey, which failed to sell through another agent at a guide price of £3m in 2008, and is now being offered by Savills (01483 796820) and local agents Coverwood (01483 651010) at a guide of £2.85m.
Rake Manor (pictured), listed Grade II, was built in 1602 by Henry Bell, who later became ‘clarke controller’ to James I. One of the finest examples of a half-timbered manor house remaining in Surrey, the classic, early 17th-century ‘smaller gentleman’s house’ was extended a number of times over the centuries. In 1879, the manor was sold to the trustees of the nearby Busbridge estate.
At the turn of the 20th century, it was owned by Mr de Mallet Morgan’s illustrious forebear, Viscountess Galway, who commissioned the Arts-and-Crafts architect M. H. Baillie Scott to extend the drawing room. The present house, described by the selling agent as ‘a miniature Hampton Court’, represents the oldest and principal part of the original Rake Manor, which was split into two in 1978.
Once part of a 16th-century mill complex, the manor sits in 12½ acres of splendid gardens, grounds and woodland, overlooking a two-acre lake on the southern edge of Milford village, two miles from Godalming and seven miles from Guildford. Its present owners, who moved there in 1991 and are now downsizing, have completely renovated the exquisite Tudor interior, which includes four fine reception rooms, six bedrooms and four bath/shower rooms.
The grounds, laid out in a series of walled gardens and courtyards surrounding the house on three sides, have been planted in glorious Technicolor in recent years, based on a planting scheme devised in about 1895, possibly with input from Gertrude Jekyll, who lived at nearby Munstead Wood. To the south, pristine lawns lead to an ancient stone studio cottage, converted from a perfect 17th-century dovecote, which overlooks a heated swimming pool enclosed and sheltered by traditional yew hedges.
The snow-covered outline of elegant, 18th-century Apsley House near Andover, Hampshire, suggests that the decision to sell the substantial, 9,562sq ft manor house at the heart of the 1,200-acre Apsley estate has been a recent and, no doubt, reluctant one. Owned by the same family since 1936, Apsley House, listed Grade II, is built of mellow brick with accommodation on three floors, including three very fine reception rooms, a large kitchen with extensive domestic offices, eight bedrooms, five bathrooms and a self-contained, two-bedroom flat.
The manor, which has wonderful views over the surrounding estate, is being offered with 7.6 acres of beautiful gardens and grounds and some serious outbuildings, including a 3,250sq ft oak-framed barn, a 3,283sq ft garage and loft.
The grounds include a large kitchen garden, a heated swimming pool and a four-acre field on the other side of the lane. It is rare indeed for the main house to a major estate to be sold on its own these days, and selling agents Knight Frank (01962 850333) and Braden (01256 896444), who quote a guide price of £3.25m, are confident of a successful early outcome to the launch.
Strutt & Parker in Lewes (01273 475411) is handling the sale, at £1.5m, of a East Sussex gem, the delightful Georgian Mulberry House at Rushlake Green, whose owners, Ronnie and Micky Waight, have ‘virtually rebuilt’ the classic village house, which they bought in 2004. Built in the early 19th century with later additions, Mulberry House, listed Grade II, stands at the northern end of the picturesque village green in one of the county’s most sought-after villages, renowned for its Horse & Groom pub and Stone House country-house hotel.
The restoration project was ‘a steep learning curve’ for the Waights, who were ill-prepared for the bureaucracy involved in upgrading a dilapidated listed house, previously owned by an elderly lady who had lived there for 40 years or more. They had hardly touched a brick or removed a rotting timber before they were descended upon by an army of planners and conservation experts, who insisted on vetting their every move, sending budgets soaring at every turn. But they soldiered manfully on, and were rewarded in the end by ‘the perfect village house’ with ‘absolutely nothing further to be done’. Their endeavours were also recognised by an award from the Sussex Heritage Trust in 2007.
Mulberry House has four reception rooms, a kitchen, a break-fast room, master and guest suites, two further bedrooms and a further bathroom. Grounds of half an acre include a coach house with outline planning consent for conversion to a two-bedroom dwelling, an open barn, a walledcourtyard, a kitchen garden, an orchard and a beautifully landscaped garden.
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