The last time Ebberly House at Roborough, near Winkleigh, Devon, hit the headlines was in 1997, when it was the first country house in the county to sell for more than £1 million. Next week sees the re-launch in Country Life of this gorgeous, Grade II*-listed, Regency manor house set in 250 acres of classic Devonshire parkland and pasture, at a guide price of ‘offers over £4m’-a target that selling agent Martin Lamb of Savills (01392 455755) is more than confident of achieving. It’s easy to see why.
Ebberly House was built in about 1816 on the site of an earlier house by local landowner Henry Hole, who inherited the estate bought by his grandfather from the Wollacombe family; its design is attributed to Thomas Lee of Barnstaple, a pupil of Sir John Soane. Lee had created the Wellington Monument in Somerset the previous year, and went on to build a number of important country houses in the area, including the neo-Classical Arlington Court, near Barnstaple, built for the Chichester family in 1820-23, and now owned by the National Trust. Pevsner describes Ebberly as an ‘unusual and attractive house’, whose distinctive rounded ends ‘hint at the variety of room shapes inside; a provisional echo of the interest of contemporary architects such as Nash and Soane’.
Soane’s influence in particular is evident in the shape of the elegant octagonal entrance hall; the top-lit oval stair hall with its fine cantilevered wooden staircase and curved doors; the pretty oval drawing room, divided into three parts by shallow arches; and the use, notably in the library and kitchen, of Soane’s signature device a window placed above an open fireplace. In fact, the quality
of the interior design, plasterwork, joinery and intricate architectural detail-all completely original and unaltered, as its English Heritage listing confirms-is of a standard usually only found in much
larger historic houses.
It is even more unusual to find a classic country house where the balance between the various living and outdoor areas works as well for a sporting 21st-century family as it did for a 19th-century squire. The fact that it does is largely due to the discreet but sustained efforts of its owners, Henry and Serena Whitbread, who have installed an efficient modern heating and electrical system, com-pletely rebuilt the roof, and generally overhauled the house, the original Victorian pleasure gardens, the lakes and the woodland-creating a heated swimming pool, a pavilion and a tennis court within the Grade II-listed old walled garden. Meanwhile, new owners will reap the immediate benefit of some inspirational planting around the main house.
Ebberly has 8,804sq ft of living space, including four wonderfully light-and-airy main reception rooms, a friendly kitchen/breakfast room, a luxurious master suite with two bedrooms, a dressing room and a bathroom, seven further bedrooms, three further bathrooms and a one-bedroom staff flat, plus a gun room, an office and extensive cellars. A traditional stable block provides garaging and stabling, with post-and-railed paddocks close by. Six cottages, plus the remaining farmland and farm buildings, currently produce an income of some £50,000 a year, and 20 acres of woodland and the lakes provide shooting and fishing.
The setting is quite magnificent, with views to the south across Dartmoor, 15 miles away, and with no other house or building to be seen, at night the darkness is total, with not a gleam of light from anywhere to dull the clear skies.
In contrast to the distinguished military background of its owner, Gen Sir Richard Hull Swinburne, hunting rather than shooting is the theme at Stone, Exford, Somerset, in the heart of Exmoor National Park. A striking Georgian manor house built as a hunting box in the mid to late 18th century, Stone, listed Grade II*, is the outstanding house in the village, famous for its longstanding association with stag-hunting and in Exmooor foxhound country.
It stands on the edge of the village, with direct access to the moor, sheltered by woodland and 586 acres of parkland, grazing and enclosed moorland. Although not much is known about its history, Stone was owned at one time by Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, the last warden of Exmoor Forest, whose Crown lease expired in 1814. Since then, it’s officially been a working farmhouse-of the very grand variety, it must be said.
Currently for sale through Knight Frank (01392 423111) and Savills (01392 455755) at a guide price of £3.5m, the estate comprises the main house, a range of period outbuildings. These include a two-bedroom coach house and stabling for five horses, a bungalow and a modern farmyard with versatile, well-laid-out buildings. Extensively modernised in 1996, the main house has four good reception rooms, an orangery, a country kitchen, six bedrooms and three bathrooms.
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