These two houses are both notable for their history and architecture; and both have musical former owners
Country houses for sale in Kent and Hampshire this week include a grand Georgian house and a Hampshire property with a ruined castle in the garden
A delightful house in Hampshire
International concert pianist Richard Burnett and his wife, Katrina, could hardly have chosen a more imposing setting for their fast-expanding collection of historic keyboard instruments when, in 1971, they bought one of Kent’s grandest Georgian Baroque houses, the Grade I-listed Finchcocks, which towers over the Wealden hill village of Goudhurst, some 10 miles east of the elegant spa town of Tunbridge Wells.
Following a painstaking restoration overseen by the architects Judith Bottomley and Laurence Peskett, the 16,800sq ft mansion opened to the public in 1976 as the Finchcocks Musical Museum. Here, admirers of the Burnetts’ unique collection of more than 100 rare keyboard instruments— fortepianos, chamber organs, clavichords and harpsichords from the 17th to the late 19th centuries— were able to test their playing skills and learn from the master through a regular series of concerts and demonstrations by Mr Burnett.
Forty-five years on, the Burnetts’ decision to cut back on their public commitments has seen their beloved museum finally close its doors and Finchcocks launched on the market through Savills in Cranbrook (01580 720161), at a guide price of ‘excess £3 million’.
However, this figure is likely to be dwarfed by the proceeds of a two-part auction sale to be held by Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions at Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire, on May 11, in which the bulk of Mr Burnett’s antique keyboard collection will be sold to raise funds for the Finchcocks Charity, which will continue ‘to promote and preserve the playing of original instruments for future generations’. The second auction will see the disposal of the house contents, including musical prints, paintings, furniture, books and music-related ephemera.
In one of three articles on the history and architecture of the house written by Christopher Hussey in Country Life (June 30, 1921 and April 12 and 19, 1946), the author paints a detailed picture of ‘the tall stylized brick house of Finchcocks [which] looks eastward up a wide valley at the red roofs of Goudhurst clustered round the church like some hill-top village in a Bellini background’.
The setting has survived almost unaltered from that day to this, but should any prospective purchaser find it hard to imagine a family living in a house currently peopled by pianos, he has only to browse Hussey’s pages to see how the interior was furnished by a well-heeled country gentleman and art collector of the mid 20th century.
The present manor was completed in 1725 by Edward Bathurst, a London barrister and Master of the Middle Temple, who succeeded an uncle at Finchcocks in 1718. He married a local heiress and reputedly spent £30,000 on building his new family home. Hussey attributes the ‘elaborately articulated’ design of the main east front to the gentleman architect Thomas Archer, an admirer of Sir John Vanbrugh, the father of English Baroque, but concludes, for a variety of technical reasons, that the overall plan of the house and its construction were probably the work of a local master-builder.
The house stands in some 13 acres of grounds, set well back from the road at the end of a long private lane flanked by rolling farmland, with views across the park towards Goudhurst to the east, and over lovely, Grade II-listed formal gardens to the south and west. The principal house has remained remarkably unchanged since it was built and boasts beautifully proportioned rooms, most of which have high ceilings, fine oak panelling, sash windows with working shutters and impressive fireplaces; nearly all have superb views over the gardens, park and neighbouring hop-gardens.
The magnificent central reception hall has wonderful oak doors and panelled wainscoting to either end, with a sweeping staircase leading to the first floor, where there are four bedrooms, a library and two cloakrooms. The second and third floors offer eight further bedrooms, two bathrooms, a sitting room, a kitchen and access to the roof.
‘Although Finchcocks looks enormous, it is, in fact, only one room deep and is surprisingly manageable, with a delightfully friendly atmosphere. It will undoubtedly take a lot of love and a fair amount of money to realize its full potential, but its magnificent setting and extraordinary views will undoubtedly justify whatever investment is required,’ says selling agent William Peppitt.
A Hampshire gem near Bedales
Music has been a way of life for New Zealand-born Meredith Braun, who began her career as a child actor in her native Auckland. In 1989, she was awarded a place at London’s prestigious Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts and, six months later, embarked on a successful West End stage career that included roles such as Eponine in Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Misérables, Betty Schaeffer in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard and Christine in his The Phantom of the Opera.
In the mid 1990s, Miss Braun took time out to bring up her family and, five years ago, she and her husband, a marine architect, bought the early- 18th-century Deerleap at Rowlands Castle, near Petersfield, Hampshire, for its proximity to Bedales School, which their children attended. However, the sound of music was never far away and, in 2012, she resumed her singing career with the release of her first solo album Someone Else’s Story, which was recorded in the music room at Deerleap. Music is also partly responsible for the couple’s decision to sell their Hampshire home and move back closer to London, where their younger son, a talented cellist and a member of the National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain, is studying at the Royal Academy of Music.
The sale is being handled by Strutt & Parker (020– 7629 7282), who quote a guide price of £4.5m for the beautifully renovated, brick-and-flint house, set in five acres of partly walled gardens and grounds, four miles from the Hampshire coast. This is also a house with a secret, for the gardens and grounds of Deerleap include the ruins of the original Rowlands Castle built in 1104— a scheduled ancient monument said to be the haunt of a mythical giant.
The legend of the giant remains, but all that’s left of the castle—a former motte and bailey—is a single mound surrounded by an earthen rampart, fenced off to prevent the unwary falling in, although few people in the village know it’s there. The present house dates from about 1738 and was extended in the 1740s and again at the turn of the 19th century.
Its 11,000sq ft of light and airy living space—part Georgian, part Victorian in style—includes reception and galleried halls, five reception rooms, a partially vaulted kitchen/breakfast room, eight bedrooms, six bathrooms and a two-bedroom staff flat, plus a mews cottage, an office suite, extensive garaging and outbuildings.
‘This is a house with a room for every season—winter rooms with enormous fireplaces and summery south-facing rooms that let the light flood in, perfect for entertaining. The house has been filled with music, books and parties over the past five years and I have no doubt the next owners will enjoy Deerleap as much as we have,’ the owner says—more than a little wistfully.