There is lots on sale in Surrey to tempt London buyers in search of a new family home
Spring as sprung big time in Surrey, where, despite the uncertainty caused by the forthcoming EU referendum, the owners of some of the county’s most impressive homes and gardens have decided to take their chances and come to the market anyway, in the hope of snaring one of those elusive early birds as the wing their way south out of London.
One of the most spectacular of the houses currently jostling for buyers’ attention is the distinctive, Arts-and- Crafts-style Saracens, (above) which sits in a secluded, private setting on the south-facing escarpment of the prestigious Hook Heath estate, three miles from Woking and five miles from the county town of Guildford. Knight Frank (01483 565171) quote a guide price of £4.75 million for the dramatic, 9,698sq ft main house with 2.5 acres of exquisitely landscaped gardens; the four-bedroom Hedge Cottage is available by separate negotiation as are a further 5.4 acres of orchard and woodland.
Originally known as The Saracens’ Lair, the house was built in 1901 for wealthy London solicitor William Harrison by the architect William Frederick Unsworth, who also designed the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1879. The much-travelled Unsworth was also a talented artist who exhibited at the Royal Academy and a fine sketch by him of Saracens Lair featured in the RA’s Architectural Exhibition in 1902. Harrison died in 1913 and the house was sold the following year.
At some point, additional land, amounting to some 28 acres, was acquired, but later sold off piecemeal, when, in 1951, the new owners downsized to Hedge Cottage, the former gardener’s house; at about the same time, the main house was split into two. The parts of Saracens were reunited by former owner South African-born entrepreneur Roun Barry, who bought the front of the house in 1995 and the remainder in 2001, then set about transforming the property’s unremarkable gardens into the present, theatrically lit, woodland extravaganza, with its elegant outbuildings, sunken garden, herbaceous borders, outdoor-dining loggia, heated swimming pool and signature, 272ft-long rill that cascades down a slope from the back of the garden.
The present owners, who bought Saracens from Mr Barry some four years ago, have carried on the good work: the result is a distinguished house that combines Edwardian elegance with modern comfort and technology. In addition to a large panelled reception hall and main staircase, four reception rooms, a sumptuous kitchen/breakfast room, seven bedrooms and five bathrooms, quirky features include a gymnasium in the tower and a state-of-the-art cinema in the basement. Due in no small measure to Godalming’s high-profile association with the formidable partnership of Lutyens and Jekyll, country houses in the villages around the historic market town are among the most sought-after in Surrey.
The Guildford office of Knight Frank (01483 565171) is testing the country market’s deeper waters with the launch, at £6.95m, of tranquil Winkworth Hanger, which stands in almost 7.5 acres of immaculate gardens and grounds overlooking the picturesque Thorncombe valley, 2.8 miles from Godalming. Originally built in the Arts-and-Crafts style in 1903, the house, which is unlisted, has been transformed by its present owners, who bought it in 2006, from a traditional 6,000sq ft family house to an elegant country home with almost 10,000sq ft of living space. The accommodation includes four reception rooms, a kitchen/ breakfast room, three bedroom suites, three further bedrooms, two bathrooms and a gym in the main house plus a newly built, one-bedroom annexe with a splendid kitchen/breakfast room overlooking the beautifully manicured gardens.
Savills (01483 796820) quote a guide price of £3.45m for St Mary’s at Shackleford, a substantial Victorian house set in some five acres of enchanting gardens and parkland on the southern fringe of this much-prized village in the heart of the Surrey Hills AONB, 2.8 miles from Godalming and five miles from Guildford. The house was built in 1878 by the Rev Archdall Buttermer, rector of St Mary the Virgin from 1866 to 1890, who also built the church and the school.
A study of the parish registers reveals that the Rev Buttermer officiated at few baptisms, weddings or funerals during his 24 years in office, with 95% of the work being done by his curate. However, three successful marriages of his own brought the rector considerable wealth, which his son, Robert William, who inherited St Mary’s on his father’s death, made the most of, enjoying the life of a dilettante inventor with a passion for fast cars, among them a Benz he owned in 1894, which was said to be the first motorcar to be seen in Godalming
St Mary’s remained in Buttermer family ownership until the 1980s. The house has been enlarged over the years and substantially upgraded and redecorated by its present owner, an interior designer, who has worked wonders on the property, both inside and out. The house has some 5,760sq ft of light and airy living space, including four main reception rooms, a kitchen/ breakfast room, six bedrooms and five bathrooms. Secondary buildings include two garages, a three-box stable yard and a summerhouse.
Savills quote a guide price of £2.595m for another classic Surrey house, Brook Grange at Brook, 3.5 miles from Haslemere and five miles from Godalming. The present owners, who have lived there happily for a decade, would have had no intention of selling, had their ultimate (rather bigger) dream house not suddenly come onto the market, reveals selling agent Martyn Rohrs.
Meanwhile, Brook Grange, set in three acres of gardens and grounds in the centre of the village, is ‘good to go’, with 6,122sq ft of well-organised living space, including five reception rooms, seven bedrooms and four bathrooms. Amenities include a games room, a swimming pool and a paddock.
Few houses can genuinely be called ‘unique’, but the term almost certainly applies in the case of historic South Hall on Castle Hill, Guildford which has been launched on the market by Knight Frank (01483 565171) at a guide price of £4.5m. The hall was built in the early 1820s for the governor of Guildford’s Third House of Correction, which was intended to relieve the overcrowding at the town’s other two sites—all of which were closed and sold off when Wandsworth prison was built in the late 1840s.
The Castle Hill site was bought by a London developer, who demolished all the prison buildings, bar the Governor’s house, to create a residential estate of five villas, of which South Hall was the most important. Set in more than half an acre of gardens with imperious views over the town, castle and park, South Hall—‘a perfect blend of town and country’—offers some 5,850sq ft of expansive living space, including five reception rooms, a splendid kitchen/ breakfast room, six bedrooms and three bathrooms. It comes with a swimming pool and ample parking.