Rutland, England’s smallest county, is possibly the only place in the UK where a two-hour drive will take you almost anywhere you would ever wish to go: north to the moors of Yorkshire, south to London, east to the north Norfolk coast and west to Cheltenham. However, Rutlanders themselves tend not to move much, says Jonathan O’Shea of Savills, who reckons that the best country houses in the county come onto the market only once every 20 to 25 years. Good schools and communications are the main reasons why many families are keen to put down roots in Rutland, but prospective purchasers who come looking for an old rectory or manor house usually have to settle for something less, Mr O’Shea warns.
But not in the case of Lychgate Manor at Glaston, three miles from Uppingham, which was the rectory to Glaston’s medieval St Andrew’s church until five years ago, when the Church Commissioners sold half of the building to the current owners; under the usual church restrictions, they were obliged to change its name. They have since bought the other half and put the brick-built former rectory back together as one house, skilfully modernising and refurbishing it in the process. With four reception rooms, a master suite, seven further bedrooms, two bathrooms, and 1.2 acres of walled garden, Lychgate Manor is now too big for its owners’ needs, and is on the market through Savills (01780 750200) at a guide price of £1.1 million.
The villages round Rutland Water, Europe’s largest man-made lake, always command a premium. One of the prettiest is Hambleton, with its attractive 18th- and 19th-century stone houses and cottages, which stands on the brow of a hill overlooking the Water. It offers an excellent pub, a historic church and the celebrated Hambleton Hall hotel and restaurant.
Ever since Kit Martin pioneered the country-house conversion boom with his inspirational redevelopment of Burley-on-the-Hill, estate owners throughout Rutland have been transforming their redundant stone buildings into desirable country homes.
Rutland continues to buck the generally slower market trend in the east Midlands, say local agents King West. However, with fewer buyers moving up from the South, most sales are to local buyers whose businesses are still doing well, notes founding partner Stephen King. He estimates the average price of a three-bedroom cottage in the county at £400?420,000, that of a five-bedroom family house at £700,000, with that elusive manor house or old rectory usually costing upwards of £1m.
The market town of Uppingham, with its famous public school, is one of many jewels in Rutland’s crown. Townhouses in Uppingham have a definite cachet, made all the stronger by the fact that Uppingham School is said to offer a number of free places each year to local townsfolk.