The market in the Cotswolds is biding its time as buyers ‘circle like hawks’, waiting for others to set the pace by swooping in on some of the many fine properties currently for sale in the region. Until that happens, the majority are in no hurry to make up their minds. ‘Viewings have increased by a solid 20% since June, but with plenty of stock to choose from and prices still wobbling, people don’t feel under pressure to commit to a final decision, unless someone else looks like beating them to it,’ says Atty Beor-Roberts of Knight Frank in Cirencester.
At a guide price of £11 million through Knight Frank (01285 659771), the Grade II*-listed medieval masterpiece that is Manor Hall at Withington, 10 miles south-east of Cheltenham, is unlikely to start a stampede, but will certainly test the strength of the country-house market this autumn.
Originally part of the Withington Manor estate owned by the bishops of Worcester, the substantial remains of the late-15th-/early-16th-century house and much of the surrounding manor estate were sold by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to Reginald J. Gunther in 1926. Now on the open market for the first time in more than 50 years, it is one of many de Savary family homes scattered around the globe. Previously known as Withington Manor Farm, then Bennetts Farm, the house was renamed Halewell Close by Gunther, and finally Manor Hall (pictured) when the present owners bought it some 10 years ago.
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For all its classic medieval looks, the design and layout of Manor Hall is largely the result of its remodelling around the original 15th-century core by Gunther in 1926-28. The imposing, 12,800sq ft stone house comprises three main ranges set around an inner courtyard, with a medieval bell-tower.
The west range, comprising a great chamber above a lower hall, is the oldest part of the house and still its heart. Gunther used a frieze of painted boards with a Latin inscription, once part of a central partition, to make the front of a musician’s gallery at the south end of the chamber, and reinstated a stone staircase at the north-east corner of the wing. The lower room is fitted with linen-fold panelling brought by Gunther from a house in Cornwall.
The 17th-century south wing was also substantially altered with the addition of a south-west wing and a large L-plan service and bedroom wing which virtually doubled the size of the house. Gunther also built a detached studio block on the north side of the courtyard, and, beyond that, a stable block. A keen sportsman, he introduced fallow deer and organised deer-stalking on his estate in the 1960s. He also created a 3¼-acre trout lake between his house and the River Coln in the valley below.
The present owners have made other significant improvements, rebuilding the studio block to form an enclosed courtyard linked directly to the house, converting the stable block to staff accommodation, enlarging the entrance hall, re-roofing the entire building and upgrading the electrics, plumbing and heating instal-lations.
A rare mix of medieval magic and 21st-century comfort, Manor Hall has six splendid reception rooms including a spectacular great hall and first-floor solar, a kitchen/breakfast room, a conservatory, a minstrels gallery, a magnificent master suite with ‘his and her’ bathrooms and dressing rooms, and nine further bedrooms with bathrooms en suite. Other buildings include three cottages, a heated garage for 12 cars, a stable yard and a manège. The property is offered with 55 acres of glorious gardens and grounds, with a further 125 acres available for an additional £1m.
Buyers who prefer the simple grandeur of Georgian design to the often Machiavellian complexity of the medieval are already hovering over handsome, Grade II-listed Farmington Lodge at Northleach, Gloucestershire, which has been owned by the Wills family for more than 60 years. For sale with 30 acres of gardens, parkland, paddocks and woodland, through Knight Frank at a guide price of £9m, Farmington Lodge has been thoroughly renovated in recent years.
Originally built for Edmund Waller in the mid to late 18th century and enlarged in about 1854, the 15,738sq ft house has accommodation on three floors, including a reception hall, six reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, domestic offices and cellars, master and two guest suites, seven further bedrooms, four bathrooms and a first-floor flat.
But size isn’t everything, and some pretty, smaller Cotswold houses are also emerging from the shadows. Mr Beor-Roberts is handling the sale, at a guide price of £3.5m, of charming, Grade II- listed Trull House with 18 acres near Tetbury, Gloucestershire, which was last seen on the market six decades ago. Built in Strawberry Hill Gothic style in 1843 around the remains of an earlier house, Trull House has been owned by the same family for more than 60 years.
With a reception hall, three reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, a billiard room, seven bedrooms and four bathrooms, there is ample space for entertaining and comfortable family living, although a bit of updating wouldn’t go amiss. Outbuildings include a coach house and a range of Cotswold stone stables. The gardens, which are currently open to the public, were laid out in ‘rooms’ in the early 20th century and are quite enchanting.
Having sold 10 houses in Moreton-in-Marsh last month, and with more than that number under offer, Simon Merton of Strutt & Parker (01608 650502) is feeling pretty pleased with himself. ‘There are plenty of buyers out there, and with people scaling up and scaling down, we’ve been kept really busy,’ he reports.
Mr Merton quotes a guide price of £1.5m for the Old Parsonage, Moreton-in-Marsh, one of the town’s finest houses, listed Grade II, which has been completely remodelled in recent years. The best of the original 19th-century interior has been retained, but the kitchen and bathrooms have been completely upgraded, and the former coach house integrated into the main building to provide various reception rooms and guest bedrooms. Set in two-fifths of an acre of walled garden overlooking the church, the 4,228sq ft Old Parsonage has five reception rooms, a breakfast kitchen, six bedrooms, four bathrooms and a shower room.