Country houses for sale

‘One of England’s finest private houses’ is for sale at £18m in one of its ‘most beautiful and unspoilt corners’

Penny Churchill takes a look at Pythouse and its surrounding estate in south Wiltshire, for sale at £18 million.

A truly rare property is for sale near the village of Tisbury in south Wiltshire, within the rural parish of West Tisbury, some seven miles northeast of Shaftesbury and four miles east of East Knoyle. The Pythouse Estate, centred around the great country house at its heart, is one of England’s most beautiful and unspoilt corners, where rolling hills, woods, lakes and a rich variety of architecture diversify the landscape. It’s currently for sale at £18 million via Knight Frank.

The focal point of the estate is Grade II*-listed Pythouse itself, an imposing, early Georgian country house originally built in the 1720s. This splendid neo-Grecian mansion — described by the 0agents as ‘one of the finest privately-owned country houses in the South of England’ — boasts some 38,680sq ft of internal floor space on three floors.

There is an impressive range of state rooms, 16 principal bedroom suites, two staff apartments and extensive cellars — a huge amount of space, and indeed the present owners (who have used Pythouse mainly as a second home) are now looking to downsize.

Recommended videos for you

Pythouse was orginally built by Thomas Benett, who, according to John Martin Robinson (writing in Country Life on January 6, 2005) ‘came from a line of architecturally minded squires who had owned Pythouse since the 16th century’.

Over a three-year period from 1802–05, his grandson, John Benett, who succeeded in 1797 aged 24, rebuilt the house, still in the Anglo-Palladian style, but with neo-Classical detailing, including Greek Ionic for the portico and loggia columns, and tripartite Wyatt windows in the side elevations.

Much of the architectural impact of Pythouse derives from its magnificent setting on high ground and the carefully designed landscape of the hillside park. Benett’s father had made this possible by selling off land elsewhere to fund the expansion and consolidation of the Pythouse estate.

The house was little changed in the early 20th century, and when Evelyn Benett, the widow of Jack Benett, its last owner, died in 1957 with no surviving children, Pythouse was acquired by the Mutual Households Association, later the Country Houses Association (CHA), which repaired the house and converted it to apartments for retired gentlefolk.

Half a century later, the CHA was in financial trouble, and, in early 2004, Sir Henry Rumbold, the owner of the estate, exercised his option to acquire Pythouse so that house and park could be put together again and sold as a residential estate. That same year, Pythouse, set in some 93 acres of mature parkland and farmland, was acquired by the current owners, who have carried out a substantial programme of works throughout the house, which still has potential for further improvement.

Pythouse is for sale through Knight Frank’s country department at a guide price of £18m — see more details and pictures.

Best country houses for sale this week

From a truly magnificent Shropshire stately home to a string of delightful thatched cottages, enjoy our pick of the finest