West Hanney House sits elegantly in the middle of its walled three-acre garden.
‘Of remarkable distinction’ is the description in Murray’s Berkshire Architectural Guide 1949 (edited by John Betjeman and John Piper) of the classic, early-Georgian West Hanney House in the quaint Oxfordshire village of West Hanney, five miles north of Wantage, 13 miles from Oxford and 70 miles from central London.
For sale through Savills at a guide price of £4.5 million, the exquisitely symmetrical former rectory, listed Grade II*, sits elegantly in the middle of its walled three-acre garden, its flamboyant skyline, high gates and wall dominating the green and village cross in the heart of the settlement ‘whose beauty lies in the balanced variety of its buildings’, according to an article in Country Life in 1943.
According to local records, West Hanney House was so dilapidated at the death in 1718 of its long-term tenant, Elizabeth Bowles, who, according to a tablet in the local church, died aged 124, that the Church Commissioners had the house rebuilt in 1722.
It is one of a select group of Baroque country houses, including Kingston Bagpuize House, near Abingdon, and Ardington House, near Wantage, that were built by a local school of skilled masons influenced by the Baroque designs of Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor at nearby Blenheim Palace.
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Launched on the market earlier this month, the path to the door of West Hanney House is already ‘well trodden’ by prospective purchasers, says selling agent Ed Sugden, who reports a ‘phenomenal amount of interest in this wonderfully unspoilt house, which combines the benefits of a grand country house with the flexibility and manageability of a smaller property’.
Owned by the same family since 1976, the house has been lovingly maintained, but little altered, apart from the kitchen, which has been extended and upgraded during their tenure.
A grand first impression is immediately created on entering the light-filled reception hall, flanked as it is by the main entertaining rooms—drawing room, panelled sitting room and dining room—all arranged in perfect symmetry.
A fine central staircase, three turned and carved balusters to each step, leads to the first-floor landing, the gracious master suite and two large bedrooms with associated bathrooms. Panelled double doors lead off the landing to four further bedrooms and a bathroom.
To the north of the main house, an impressive courtyard of traditional stone buildings, currently arranged as stables, stores and garages, could easily be adapted to a wide range of uses. Opposite the main house in the centre of the courtyard is The Pigeon House, a three-bedroom cottage that could make excellent staff or guest accommodation, and the east garden wall creates a delightful sun-trap for the swimming pool and a formal garden ‘room’.
To the south, lawns and gravel pathways lead through large white gates onto a row of pleached limes, with a further gate and the church beyond. To the west, a glade comes alive with snowdrops in spring, before the next ‘room’ reveals the tennis court, paddock and adjoining woodland.
West Hanney, Oxfordshire: What you need to know
- Location: West Hanney House is situated off the main Oxford to Wantage road in the Vale of the White Horse. Didcot Parkway provides an hourly service to London Paddington and the M4, M40 and A34 are within easy reach. Oxford is a 20-minute car journey to the north.
- Atmosphere: West Hanney has a ‘vibrant community spirit’, according to Savills, as well as a church, community-owned pub and numerous local sports clubs. Lambourn and its National Hunt racing is a short drive away. The local hunt is the Old Berks and surrounding estates offer shooting on a commercial let-day basis.
Schools: The area is renowned for its choice of schools including Eton, Radley, Marlborough, St Edward’s, The Dragon, Summerfield’s, St Hugh’s and Cothill.
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