Within 20 minutes of the county’s excellent schools, these properties could make you top of the class.
Ed Sugden of the country department at Savills has been scanning the horizon for signs of affluent City bankers returning to their traditional habitat among the woodlands, water meadows and chalk downs of Hampshire’s Candover Valley—so far, to little avail.
However, unlike other counties of the South-East, where the slowdown in London is hampering the recovery at the upper end of the country-house market, Hampshire is fortunate in that it can rely on the perennial demand for good family houses within easy reach of the county’s outstanding schools and with good commuter links to London, where proud parents must beaver away to earn the fees.
Savills (01962 834010) quote a guide price of £3.95 million for tranquil, 18th-century northington Down (Fig 1), set in nine acres of formal gardens, grounds and paddocks on the western edge of the Candover Valley, five miles from the Georgian town of Alresford, eight miles from the cathedral city of Winchester and 13 miles from the high-speed railway hub of Basingstoke.
Crucially, the house is perfectly located for some of England’s finest schools, among them the high-achieving Winchester College (founded in 1382, and the oldest continuously operating school in the country), Twyford, Pilgrims’ and, for girls, St Swithun’s.
Once a farmstead on the Baring banking family’s northington Grange estate, northington Down has been substantially remodelled and refurbished by the current owners and comes with two tied cottages, a separate studio/office, and 7,000sq ft of magnificent period barns and former farm buildings with scope for redevelopment. The main house, surrounded by 21⁄2 acres of formal gardens, has 6,275sq ft of accommodation on three floors, including three main reception rooms, a kitchen/-breakfast room, a large master suite, five/six further bedrooms, two bathrooms and attics.
The independently minded Bedales School was founded by J. H. Badley, in 1893, ‘as a humane alternative to the authoritarian regimes typical of the late-Victorian public schools’ and moved to a picturesque, 120-acre estate at Steep, near Petersfield, in 1900; its popular prep school, Dunhurst, was established five years later, in 1905.
As Ed Cunningham of Knight Frank points out: ‘Historically, parents tend to put a child’s name down for a particular school and then carry out a search for a family house within a 20-minute school run. However, there is often a housing shortage around schools in genuinely rural areas and good properties close to the most popular prep and senior schools are likely to command a substantial premium.’
All of which probably makes the case for the £4.5m guide price quoted by the Winchester offices of Knight Frank (01962 850333) and Jackson-Stops & Staff (01962 844299) for idyllic Garden Hill (Fig 2) in the ancient east Hampshire village of Steep, which comes with some 52 acres of spectacular gardens, paddocks and woodland within the South Downs National Park, a mere half- mile from the school gates of Bedales.
Built in about 1910 in the style of a Sussex farmhouse, Garden Hill stands on a ridge of high ground, facing south-east towards the South Downs and north-west to the wooded Hangers, celebrated by the poet Edward Thomas, who lived in the area.
The immaculate main house, flanked by glorious gardens originally designed by the Edwardian architect and landscape designer Henry Inigo Triggs, has a manageable 4,485sq ft of accommodation, including three main reception rooms, garden and media rooms, a charming kitchen/breakfast room, six bedrooms and four bath/ shower rooms.
Almost all the rooms take full advantage of the fabulous views, not only over the beautiful gardens and grounds, but to the distant horizon. State-of-the-art equestrian facilities with separate access include American barn stabling, a full-size manège, a cross-country course and 27.8 acres of pasture and paddocks.
‘Few country houses in Hampshire have been as exquisitely modernised and extended over the years as Forelands Farm (Fig 3) at Stratfield Saye, which stands, literally, on the Hampshire/Berkshire border, 10 miles from Reading station and within easy reach of first-class prep schools such as Cheam, Horris Hill, Ludgrove, Cothill and Elstree,’ says Michael Gatehouse of Savills in New- bury (01635 277700), who quotes a guide price of £2.25m.
Previously a pair of 17th-century farm cottages on the Duke of Wellington’s Stratfield Saye estate (Country Life, April 18 and 15, 2015) until the current owners bought the property in the early 1970s, Forelands Farm has been transformed into a delightful, five-bedroom family home, with an annexe, a studio, a three-bedroom cottage, a converted open-plan barn and traditional out- buildings, set in 2.6 acres of impeccable gardens, grounds and paddock.
Even more accessible for prospective parents of pupils at fashionable Farleigh prep school is the guide price of £1.45m quoted by Fin Hughes of Savills-Smiths Gore in Andover (01264 774900) for the impressively converted Briar Barn (Fig 4) in the rural hamlet of Tangley, five miles north of Andover, and nine miles from Farleigh.
Mr Hughes expects the well- planned five-bedroom house, which ‘effortlessly’ combines modern interior design with the beauty of a tradi- tional 17th-century brick-and-flint building, to appeal to ‘the 70% of Savills buyers at more than £1 million who want to be within a 15-minute drive of both Farleigh and a commutable station such as Andover, as well as to the large group of downsizers who want to live close enough to Farleigh to watch their grandchildren playing sport on a Wednesday or a Saturday afternoon’.
Such is the level of competition among prospective Farleigh parents for sensibly priced family houses within the required 15-minute journey time from school and station, that some are tempted to stray across the north-west Hampshire border into Wiltshire, where they can expect to get more for their money, says Rob Wightman of Knight Frank in Hungerford, who is himself a Farleigh parent.
Knight Frank (01488 682726) quote a guide price of £2.45m for pretty, Grade II-listed Lowerhouse Farm at Lower Chute (Fig 5), which sits in 111⁄2 acres of pretty cottage garden and paddocks, just across the county border, yet still within six miles of Andover station. The house, which probably dates from Tudor times, was extended in 1983 and now has some 3,635sq ft of accommodation, including three south-facing reception rooms, six bedrooms and three bathrooms.
Extensive equestrian facilities include a courtyard with stabling, stores and barns—one of which has planning consent to be converted to a two-bedroom cottage—plus three paddocks to the rear of the property, with three more paddocks and an outdoor manège to the south of the house.
Overton, Winchester and Kingsclere offer a commutable country lifestyle.
Lovely villages, historic properties and excellent schools: the right combination.