Communications are the key to property values in Kent and Sussex, and always will be, says buying agent Colin Mackenzie (01435 866988). He finds that the City bonus earners who drive the country market in these counties tend to fall into two distinct groups: daily commuters who need to be at their desks in Canary Wharf by 7am, and those who keep a pied-à-terre in town for overnight stays during the week. The first group will buy in Kent, but rarely south of Tunbridge Wells; the second group will tend to head for Sussex, where some of the most appealing properties to be found anywhere in the South East are currently on offer.
Undisputed ‘top of the pops’ is the exquisite Chailey Moat, set in 45½ acres of gardens, grounds and pasture at Chailey Green, six miles from Lewes, for which Humberts (01273 478828) quote a guide price of £3.5 million. The former rectory, listed Grade II, dates from the 16th century or earlier, although much of the original timber-framed medieval building is hidden by later alterations, notably the delightful 18th-century main façade, with its 17th- and 18th-century wings and chimneys. Tradition has it that the moat was dug by the Rev Richard Porter, rector from 1713?53, but it prob-ably dates from much earlier.
The present owners, who bought the house in 1997, have made huge improvements to the property, sympathetically refurbishing the main house which has five reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, six bedrooms, three bathrooms and a self-contained flat. They have also converted the 17th-century tithe barn to a four-bedroom cottage, re-landscaped the gardens and planted new woodland.
The classic Georgian Old Rectory at Beckley, East Sussex, close to the Kentish border, has easy access via the A268 to Tunbridge Wells, the national motorway network, and first-class schools including Vinehall, Marlborough House, St Ronans, Dulwich Prep School and Benenden. For sale through Knight Frank (01892 515035) and Batcheller Thacker (01424 775577) at a guide price of £2.75m, the 5,321sq ft Old Rectory, listed Grade II, stands in 25 secluded acres on the edge of the village, and has five reception rooms, master and guest suites, three further bed-rooms, two further bathrooms, a coach house and a stable block.
Knight Frank and Millest & Partners (01732 741212) quote a similar guide price for pristine Hilders at Edenbridge on the Kent-Surrey border. The beautifully renovated, 4,915sq ft main house dates from the 15th century, but is fully equipped for 21st-century living with accommodation on three floors including six reception rooms, three bedroom suites, three further bedrooms and two further bathrooms. The 2.85 acres of formal gardens and grounds enclose a cottage, outbuildings, and a detached barn with planning consent for conversion to a separate five-bedroom house.
Meanwhile, over in West Sussex, the script for 92-acre Sparr Farm at Wisborough Green could have been written by any big City bonus-earner. For sale through Savills (01483 796820) with a guide price of £3.6m, the property comprises a delightful, timber-framed, brick-and-stone 17th-century farmhouse, listed Grade II, with four reception rooms, six bedrooms, five bathrooms, and an annexe added in 1928. It is surrounded by gardens on all sides, and has a swimming pool and tennis court, plus outbuildings including a ‘party barn’, stabling, fodder stores and workshops. To complete the perfect picture, the house stands at the end of a long meandering drive, which leads through fenced paddocks past a duck pond shaded by a weeping willow.
Another long tree-lined drive leads to historic Broyle Place, listed Grade II, near Ringmer, East Sussex a splendid 9,035sq ft former royal hunting lodge, owned in the 12th century by Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury. The house was substantially rebuilt in the late 16th or early 17th centuries, and the present structure is a small remnant of ‘the great rambling building’ described by Sussex historian T. W. Horsfield in 1827. The house was painstakingly restored by the Dawson family in the 1950s, since when it has been constantly maintained and upgraded. Broyle Place has four reception rooms, three bedroom suites, a staff flat, a converted barn, and 15.6 acres of gardens, ponds and paddocks. Knight Frank (01892 515035) quote a guide price of £1.75m.
The members of the Shelley family were prolific property owners throughout Sussex, and idyllic Kings at Cowfold, West Sussex, was owned by them in the 18th and 19th centuries, although the original hall house was built many centuries before. Lane Fox in East Grinstead (01342 326326) quote a guide price of £1.95m for the enchanting timber-framed house, listed Grade II, which has three main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, six bedrooms, four bathrooms, a swimming pool, a tennis court and outbuildings, the whole set in 10.25 acres of terraced gardens and paddocks.
Cluttons (01622 756000) quote a similar guide price for pretty Pollyfield Manor at Detling, near Maidstone, a traditional country house set in just under 12 acres of gardens and grounds, with a reception hall, three reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, six bedrooms and seven bath/shower rooms. Substantial outbuildings include a garage with a staff flat above, a 6,300sq ft barn housing offices and an annexe, with further outbuildings providing storage, workshops and stabling.
Most buyers moving out of London to Kent or Sussex intend to buy a rural property with an acre or two where they can keep a family pony or even a few chickens, but the Anderson family have ‘never regretted a moment’ of their move to Lewes, East Sussex, where, 10 years ago, they bought historic Antioch House in the town’s picturesque High Street. They consider themselves ‘incredibly lucky’ to have found the elegant town house with its five reception rooms, six bedrooms and ‘massive’ garden with views of the Downs. Now, having raised their five children, they are moving on, and Antioch House is for sale through Humberts (01273 478828) with a guide price of £2m.
The projected opening of the express commuter service from Ashford to St Pancras in 2009 has already exerted a powerful upward pressure on house prices in East Kent, says Simon Backhouse of Strutt & Parker in Canterbury (01227 451123). Yet in the current climate, the guide price of £1.2m quoted by Strutts for Regency Church Hill House with an acre of garden on Church Hill, Harbledown 1½ miles from Canterbury city centre does not seem unreasonable. The house, listed Grade II, is fresh on the market and has three reception rooms, five bedrooms and three bathrooms.
According to Mr Backhouse, the resurgent seaside town of Deal is currently one of the ‘hottest’ property spots in Kent, where house values in the protected conservation area are reaching levels that would have been ‘unheard of’ as little as two years ago. He quotes a guide price of £925,000 for Bruce House, listed Grade II, on Deal’s historic seafront, comprising two adjoining 18th-century houses and a large walled garden, with a total of four reception rooms, a conservatory, a garden room, four bedrooms, four bath/shower rooms.