Country houses for sale

Wedding presents and village barns

Wedding present

Dear Mrs Danvers, A niece of mine will be getting married in the autumn. She is a girl who has everything as many girls do these days, having been

living with her boyfriend for four years. I don’t think pots and pans will be welcome, and I find buying presents from wedding lists extremely boring. What

do you suggest?

One of the most favourite wedding presents ever that the family got here was from a great uncle. He said every home should have a ‘little bit of Ming’ and, true enough, produced a charming blue-and-white rough porcelain tea bowl. It dates from about 1600, and it has been given pride of place ever since. You may think a piece of Ming porcelain is beyond your touch, but don’t believe it.

A straightforward bit of Ming, such as a saucer, can still be found up and down the country, both in specialist ceramic or Chinese dealers’ shops, and even in general antique shops for about £60 and rarely more than £120. On another subject, we once found a small Tang earthenware statue of a court lady in a shop, which specialized in moth eaten rugs and old bits of motorcycles. We thought we’d spotted a bargain, but, when we asked its price, the unshaven and very grubby dealer said ‘Oh, the Tang figure’ and named the usual price about £55 as I remember.

Furniture cream

Dear Mrs Danvers, For years, Stephenson’s Olde English Furniture Cream has been used in our home, but I can no longer find it on sale. I have written to Carr, Day & Martin in Wilmslow, but my letter was returned by the GPO marked ‘Gone Away’. Have Carr, Day & Martin gone out of business, or have they simply moved? If you can trace the product for me I shall be delighted, as it is a superb cream made from genuine turpentine and beeswax.

First, to put you out of your misery, I have tracked down a shop which will mail order Stephenson’s Cream to you. It is called John & Stuart Graham, and it is based in Longtown, Cumbria (01228 791592). They will send you three jars for £17.95 including p&p. To answer your other question, Carr, Day & Martin sold the cream to The Darcy Group, based in Warrington (01925 415201), and they should be able to give you stockists for this. I agree, by the way, that Stephenson’s cream is excellent, and we use it here.

Alarm clock for the deaf

Dear Mrs Danvers, Following your reply to a reader who wanted a machine for CDs, which could be worked by an old lady with poor eyesight (May 3), I’d like to recommend an alarm clock which is ideal for the deaf. I use a wonderful clock called ‘Shake-A-Wake’, avail-able from the Royal National Institute for the Deaf ( It costs about £17, and works by vibrating inside your pillow. It is also perfect for those who have to get up earlier than their partner (the Today team spring to mind) and don’t want to disturb them. I spent years battling with awkward flashing-light alarms, which, of course, caused disturbance for everyone.

Village barns

Dear Mrs Danvers, I have bought a farm on the outskirts of a large village, which has several large barns and outbuildings. I have no use for these, but don’t want to demolish them as they are good-looking and shield the house. Any suggestions?

If you are part of a large village, there will almost certainly be people nearby who are looking for exactly this kind of space. It may be a local farmer who wants to store his farm machinery, it may be a hobbyist who buys old cars or motorbikes and needs somewhere to store them, or you might find a man (unlikely to be a woman) who enjoys messing about in barns, doing odd jobs and repairing things. Any of these might want to use your barns. You can either charge for them by the year or arrange a deal whereby the tenant does some work for you around the place, such as cutting hedges or grass. Just make sure that your proposed tenant will not make too much noise and is trustworthy. We find that the more people who are about a farm, day and night, the safer the situation. It would be a good idea to consult a lawyer, because there are various pitfalls.