The timeless setting of Combe Florey House, near Taunton, remains as it was in the Waugh family’s day, but the interiors have been much improved.
Buyers looking for a property with literary connections should head to Combe Florey, near Taunton, in Somerset, where Combe Florey House, Evelyn Waugh’s former home, has come to the market through the Exeter office of Strutt & Parker at a guide price of £5.5 million.
Set in 35 acres of parkland overlooking the Quantock Hills, the striking red sandstone Georgian house, offers 16,232sq ft of light and airy living space, with further accommodation in the three-bedroom Keepers Cottage that forms part of a newly built courtyard of traditional outbuildings to the north of the house.
Combe Florey’s 10 bedrooms are laid out over the first and second floors, with the master suite, two guest bedrooms and three further bedrooms on the first floor and five further bedrooms on the second.
But while the building looks much the same as it did when it last appeared in the pages of Country Life in 2008, the interior is a very different story.
At the time, Combe Florey was being sold on behalf of the Waugh family, whose forebear, the notoriously difficult writer Evelyn — described in his Encyclopedia Britannica entry as ‘regarded by many as the most brilliant satirical novelist of his day’ — bought the house in 1956 and died there, suddenly, 10 years later.
He was succeeded by his journalist son, Auberon, who bought the house from his mother and moved there with his family in 1971.
There, he and his wife, Lady Teresa, entertained the great and the good of their day until his own early death, 30 years later, at the age of 62.
Writing in the Daily Mail shortly before he died, Waugh described the family home as ‘a handsome 18th-century building of impressively large size… Approached through a 16th-century gatehouse, its grandeur belied the straitened circumstances in which the family had been placed by my father’s extravagant expenditure over the years’.
Waugh’s widow, Laura, apparently shared her husband’s lack of interest in household management and, according to her son, allowed herself to be convinced that she was too poor to keep up a huge house and its acres of parkland.
‘It was an over-cautious lawyer who had persuaded her of her penury, ladling out small amounts of money when she asked for them while he spent several years examining the unfamiliar ramifications of a literary estate. In fact, she was very rich, but she took joyfully to all the disciplines of poverty, selling much of the furniture (and all of my father’s books) for a song to Texas University.’
The comparative austerity of the Waugh era ended in 2008 with the acquisition of Combe Florey House by the current owners, who have transformed the 18th-century manor house, remodelled by William Fraunceis in 1730 and listed Grade II, always respecting its essential Georgian character.
A flight of steps with balustrades leads up to the front door and the elegant reception hall with its 18th-century newel staircase, flanked by the drawing-room and library that, together with the dining room, form a trio of impressive formal reception rooms.
Less formal are the sitting room, family room, study and kitchen/breakfast room—the latter unashamedly 21st-century in style.
The addition of a large orangery creates a central hub linking the formal and informal rooms.
A party barn and pool were added at the same time, orientated towards the swimming pool and tennis garden. An unusual arrangement of three interconnecting walled gardens provides enormous potential for further improvement.
Combe Florey: What you need to know
- Location: The village is situated 6 miles northwest of Taunton, close to the Quantock Hills
Atmosphere:Combe Florey has a pub,
the Farmers Arms, a village hall and the Grade I listed church of St Peter and St Paul
- Things to do: Walking, riding, shooting and fishing are all available on Exmoor National Park, plus there’s plenty of golf courses in the area and, for train fans, the West Somerset Steam Railway
Schools: Well-regarded schools in the area include King’s Hall School, King’s College Taunton, Taunton School, Queen’s College
Taunton and Wellington School. Also within reach are Blundell’s in Tiverton, Sherborne School and Millfield