Country houses for sale

The property market returns to form

With the country department at Savills announcing a ‘spike’ in viewings in July and August of houses priced at more than £2 million, what feels like the longest property recession in history may finally be coming to an end. Certainly, the launch in this week’s Country Life of the first of the new season’s collection of mouthwatering country houses suggests that many vendors who were hovering on the sidelines have finally decided to enter the fray.

The Manor House, £4.5m, Strutt & Parker

This being the season of mellow fruitfulness, where better to test the market than in the garden of England, where one of Kent’s prettiest small Georgian manors, Grade II -listed The Manor House at Farningham, near Eynsford, 18 miles from Canary Wharf, is for sale through Strutt & Parker (01732 459900) at a guide price of £4.5 million? Painstakingly renovated and extended by its present owners, whose cherished family home it has been for 16 years, the house stands in 13.7 acres of parklike gardens and grounds abutting the River Darent, which flows the length of picturesque Farningham village. In Roman times, wealthy Romans built their ‘luxurious riverside retreats’ here: the remains of one of them are located in the fields behind The Manor House.

The original L-shaped house was built by Benjamin Cracker (or Crayker) in the early 18th century. When he died childless, the manor was sold to Thomas Fuller and, for much of the 19th century, was let to a succession of tenants, among them Vice Admiral William Bligh of the Bounty, who, following his wife’s death in the early 1800s, moved to The Manor House with his four unmarried daughters. Here, ‘he settled down after a career of much agitation and excitement’ (Arthur Mee, The King’s England), dying there in 1817. In 1822, the Waring family inherited

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The Manor House, and kept it until 1920, when it was sold to Irving Albery MP. The building was badly damaged by a bomb on April 20, 1941, but was restored in 1948. It was rescued again by the present owners, who have completely renovated the main house, creating several extra rooms-including the orangery and the second-floor master bedroom suite-rebuilding the mansard roof, converting the coach house and refurbishing the property’s three cottages. The gardens and grounds-a ‘wilderness’ when the family first arrived -have also been beautifully restored and provide a wonderful setting for the six-bedroom main house, which has planning and listed-building consent to link the breakfast room and the study to create a more open-plan layout, should a new owner so wish.

As the long-awaited migration of London country-house seekers finally gets under way, Knight Frank aims to catch a few well-feathered birds with the launch of a trio of impressive country houses in prime Home Counties locations. The firm’s Guildford office (01483 565171) blasts off with the sale of the classically proportioned, Edwardian Overwey, near Tilford, Surrey, at a guide price of £5.75m.

Overwey, £5.75m, Knight Frank,

Originally built in 1908, the recently refurbished Lutyens-style house stands on high ground surrounded by 20 acres of immaculate formal gardens, paddocks and woodland, with spectacular southerly views over open countryside. The ideal base for a City commuter, Overwey stands on the edge of picturesque Tilford village, three miles from Farnham, and offers 6,500sq ft of accommodation, including three good reception rooms, a kitchen/ breakfast room, a snug, a study, a home office, five bedrooms, three bathrooms and a detached cottage with two one-bedroom flats. Amenities include stabling, a tennis court and an outdoor pool.

Far from the madness of HS2, although partly sharing its name, ia handsome, neo-Georgian High Trees at Chalfont St Peter, south Buckinghamshire, which stands in 20 acres of pristine landscaped gardens, paddocks and woodland against the backdrop of the famous beech woods of the Chilterns. For sale through Knight Frank’s Beaconsfield office (01494 675368) at a guide price of £4.85m, the imposing 12,440sq ft house, built in the early 1900s for the distinguished neurologist Sir David Ferrier, evokes shades of Lutyens and Jekyll.

High Trees, £4.85m, Knight Frank

High Trees boasts genuine A-list credentials with its grand reception rooms, large open-plan kitchen/breakfast room, orangery, cinema, palatial master suite, seven/eight further bedrooms, four bathrooms and one bedroom staff annexe. The magnificent gardens are a haunting mélange of Jekyllesque formality and romance, with broad vistas, sweeping lawns, parterre and rose gardens plus grass pathways leading to the arboretum- much of it planted by the present owners. It includes some splendid specimen trees, along with rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias, plus cherry, silver birch, acer and pine trees.

Back in the 17th century, it was said that ‘such who buy a house in Hertfordshire pay two years’ purchase for the air thereof’. The air of the Hertfordshire countryside is still sweet, but whoever buys Grade II listed Micklefield Green House on the edge of historic Sarratt village, on the Buckinghamshire/Hertfordshire border, can also benefit from exceptional ease of access to the City, the national motorway network and Heathrow and Luton airports.

Micklefield Green House, £2.45m, Knight Frank

For sale through the Berkhamsted office of Knight Frank (01442 861610) at a guide price of £2.45m, Micklefield Green House is all that remains of a much larger Georgian mansion dating from 1740. The present owners, who bought the house in 1986, have sympathetically restored it over the years, adding a classically inspired circular kitchen, with French doors leading to a large patio area overlooking the gardens. It has light and airy accommodation over three floors, including a reception hall, three main reception rooms, a master suite, three further bedrooms, four attic bedrooms and three bathrooms.

Good early-17th-century houses are unusual in the dreamy South Hams area of Devon, and its English Heritage listing, dated January 1967, cites Grade II*-listed Ranscombe Manor, near Kingsbridge, as ‘a particularly unspoilt example with some features still to be revealed’. Almost 50 years on, many of the house’s historic features have come to light following its rescue from dilapidation by its previous owner, Mrs Jackie Stephens, who, over a period of 20 years, also laid out the magnificent gardens.

Ranscombe Manor, £3m, Savills and Marchand Petit

For sale with 33 acres of orchards, woods and grassland through Marchand Petit (01548 857588) and Savills (01392 455755) at a guide price of £3m, Ranscombe Manor has two main reception rooms, four main bedrooms, two bathrooms and a guest cottage linked to the main house. A courtyard of period outbuildings has planning consent for conversion to four residential dwellings.

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