Country houses for sale

Buying manor houses in the Cotswolds

Edward Sugden of buying agents Property Vision (01488 669903) has been scouring the lime stone hills of Gloucestershire, north Wiltshire, south Warwickshire and Oxfordshire in search of every rich buyer’s dream the perfect Cotswold manor house. Alas, not only are perfect Cotswold manors exceptionally thin on the ground this year, but the house has to be in the ‘right’ part of the Cotswolds, which apparently means different things to different buyers.

Mr Sugden comments: ‘Generally speaking, for the London buyer, the Cotswolds means somewhere within one and a half hour’s drive of London, which brings into play areas west of Oxford such as Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-in-Marsh, Bourton-on-the-Water and Burford, or areas around Cirencester such as Badminton, Bibury and Lechlade. Birmingham buyers will happily travel down the M5 to Evesham and Broadway as far as Cheltenham, and east along the M40 to the stone villages of South Warwickshire. On the other hand, local buyers are a force to be reckoned with anywhere in the Cotswolds, although they will not pay over the odds for a house which is over-priced’.

This helps to explain why, despite the much-lamented overall lack of supply, some fine Cotswold houses take longer to sell than others. The Hambro family’s historic Dixton Manor Estate near Prestbury, Gloucestershire, was offered as a whole in the summer at a guide price of about £8 million. Now, having disposed of the bulk of the land, Dixton Manor itself is being offered with 95 acres of land at £5.5m, by Knight Frank (01285 659771) and Fisher German (01905 888326).

The area around Stroud is often thought to be a step too far for London based buyers, although the sale of Nether Lypiatt Manor earlier in the year suggests that this isn’t necessarily so. In the case of nearby Steepways at Nether Lypiatt a secluded, 17th-century house with four reception rooms, seven bedrooms, an indoor pool, tennis court and 40 acres of land, now for sale through Butler Sherborn (01285 883740) and Savills (01285 627550) at a reduced guide price of £1.95m it will be a surprise to all concerned if a buyer is not found soon.

Jasper Feilding of Strutt & Parker in Moreton-in-Marsh (01608 650502) knows all about the vagaries of the Cotswold property market. On the one hand, the charming Grade II*-listed Cromwell House at Naunton, in the Windrush valley near Stow on the Wold, went under offer at £1.6m within a forthnight of its launch in Country Life earlier this month. Conversely, the lovely medieval Tysoe Manor with 13 acres of glorious grounds at Upper Tysoe on the Warwickshire/Oxfordshire borders, has yet to find a buyer at £3.25m. This area of south Warwickshire is ‘much underrated’, and it is only a matter of time before the right person comes along, Mr Feilding says.

Most people would love to own an old rectory in the Cotswolds and, at a guide price of £1.85m through Lane Fox (01285 653101), the 18th-century Old Rectory at Brinkworth, near Chippenham, Wiltshire, looks sensibly priced. The rambling six bedroom house, once home to the bishop of Malmesbury, stands in 6.6 acres of gardens and paddocks, over-looking the rolling north Wiltshire countryside although it’s perhaps not every Londoner’s idea of where the Cotswolds should be.

In the old days, you had to live in Gloucestershire for a generation before you were accepted by the county set. Now families living in rented accommodation for a year or more consider themselves ‘locals’, especially when it comes to competing for the county’s best houses. Buyers from both camps are preparing to do battle over the delightful Georgian Ewen Manor, near Cirencester, currently for sale through Lane Fox (01285 653101) and Moore Allen & Innocent (01285 648115). They are asking £3.5m for the Grade II-listed, eight-bedroom manor house with 15.5 acres of famous gardens and grounds, and a further £495,000 for its magnificent period stone barn with an additional 28 acres of land.

Ewen Manor and its surrounding estate was bought in 1947 by the late Col Sir Martin Gibbs, who was a formidable force in the area for many years, becoming Lord Lieutenant of the county, and chairman of the VWH Cricklade hunt. His widow, Lady Gibbs, who died recently, carried on where he left off, creating wonderful gardens that she opened to the public for charity under the National Gardens Scheme, and remaining closely involved in all aspects of life in Ewen village. ‘The family are hoping that whoever buys the house will become equally involved in the community,’ says Mark Hill of Moore Allen & Innocent, whose firm has managed the estate for more than 30 years.

For a house of such prominence in the area, Ewen Manor is probably little known to many outside it, for, as Mr Hill points out, ‘the only way to spot it from the road is from the back of a horse’. Built in the 18th century, with 19th-century wings, this is a perfect family house, which needs some gentle updating, but little more. It has a traditional stable yard and a range of outbuildings, plus a 215-year-old cedar of Lebanon, said to be one of the tallest in the country. The rest of the estate will come to the market next year.

Having virtually sold out of Cotswold manor houses, Atty Beor-Roberts of Knight Frank in Cirencester is offering two enchanting farmhouses in the heart of the Cotswolds, near Stow-on-the-Wold. Barton Farm at Guiting Power, is a 16th/17th-century house with three reception rooms, five bedrooms, three bathrooms, stabling, outbuildings, views of the Windrush Valley, and a guide price of £2.75m. Oddington Hill Farm, half a mile from Stow, is a classic 18th-century, four-bedroom house with 42 acres of gardens, pasture, woodland and orchards; Knight Frank (01285 659771) and Butler Sherborn (01451 830731) quote a guide price of £1.95m.

If you want to make your mark in Gloucestershire, what better address to do it from than Old Manor Farmhouse, at Didmarton, near Badminton, for sale through Savills (01285 627550) at a guide price of £1.875m? The 18th-century, six-bedroom house stands in 1.3 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds adjoining the Duke of Beaufort’s Badminton estate.

However prospective buyers define the area, the Cotswolds remains synonymous with the local honey coloured limestone used for everything from the stone floors in the houses to the tiles on the roof which has ensured a magical uniformity of architecture throughout the region. Many buyers are drawn to the north Cotswold area of Chipping Campden and Broadway for the sheer beauty of its architecture, as were the German vendors of Miles House at Chipping Campden an exquisite 17th-century village house first restored in 1927 by the eminent illustrator F. L. Griggs, an ardent conservationist and founder of the Chipping Campden Trust. Jackson-Stops & Staff (01386 840224) quote a guide price of £950,000.

Meanwhile the Cirencester office of Jackson-Stops (01285 653334) quotes a guide price of £1.3m for another historic Cotswold village house, the Grade II-listed, 16th-century Roberts House at Siddington, two miles from Cirencester and three miles from Kemble station. The house, which has three reception rooms, six bedrooms, three bathrooms and a staff cottage enclosed by a walled garden, is named after John Roberts, one of the founders of Quakerism.

This article first appeared in Country Life magazine on September 28, 2006