Unbridled opulence is the order of the day at these new country houses in Surrey, but who can afford them?
It’s been a tough year for UK property developers whose mission in life is to satisfy the housing needs of the world’s megarich. Even in the gilded north Surrey enclave of St George’s Hill, Weybridge, ‘the first half of the year was completely wiped out by the panic surrounding the General Election, fears about Labour and the SNP, the non-domicile grey cloud and the added ingredient of Stamp Duty,’ reveals Tim Garbett of Knight Frank in Esher, who has reigned supreme on the hill for much of his 40-year career.
Fortunately, the return of a Conservative government appears to have steadied the ship and normal service resumed this month with the launch onto the market, through Knight Frank (01372 464496), of the Royalton Group’s spectacular, 21,500sq ft Woodlawn in East Road, St George’s Hill, at a guide price of ‘excess £25 million’.
Claimed to be ‘the biggest and most exceptional house in St George’s Hill, and arguably the most desirable property available in the UK’, Woodlawn stands on the footprint of an original W. G. Tarrant manor house, built in 1913 and extended in 1924.
Designed by the architect Julian Bicknell with ‘opulence, relaxation and privacy in mind’, the classically proportioned stucco house stands in 3.7 acres of secluded grounds on one of the largest sites in the 900-acre St George’s Hill estate, part of which is designated Green Belt, on which no formal building is allowed. The main, three-storey, formal block of the house stretches the full width of the site with, to one side, a service court with five garages and two staff flats, linked to a pool and leisure suite that extends down the garden. Unusually nowadays for a house designed with the international market in mind, the entire built area is located above ground, with no underground construction whatsoever.
Unbridled opulence is the order of the day, with symmetry a recurring theme throughout, from the Art Deco inspired, double entrance staircase, to the domed entrance hall. Other highlights include the linked drawing and dining rooms, the study/ library and the open-plan kitchen, breakfast and family room, leading to the sun room, with its magnificent views across the manicured grounds.
That, in turn, leads to a sumptuous day room overlooking the swimming pool and spa, where, at the touch of a button, a drop-down screen converts the room into a luxurious cinema, with upholstered walls to soundproof the area ‘for optimum viewing pleasure’.
Unlike many of the new mansions built in the north Surrey arena in recent years, the approach to the house is genuinely impressive, with double entrance gates opening onto a central driveway, framed by an avenue of hornbeams and bisected by a long axial fountain pool. Security, always a major concern, is provided by sophisticated CCTV and video systems, backed up by a steel palisade and 7ft-high fencing on the northeastern and eastern boundaries.
Who can afford such splendour in this day and age? At the moment, probably not an Englishman, agrees Mr Garnett, who has been fielding enquiries from Chinese, Middle East and Indian buyers, as well as the occasional Russian. However, proof positive that some life is returning to the market is the fact that he has already received two bids on the house.
And, given that the next sale down the line in St George’s Hill this year was a brand-new mansion set in one-and-a-half acres, also built by Royalton but sold privately with no prices released, Woodlawn may well turn out to be the catalyst that kickstarts the top level revival in this exclusive neck of the woods.
Certainly Paul Finnegan of Savills (020–7016 3780), which have joined Knight Frank (020–7629 8171) as joint selling agents for local developer Hencan Southern’s prestigious new mansion, the 22,000sq ft Woodrow at Windlesham, Surrey, will be hoping for just such an outcome.
Currently on offer at a guide price of £19.75m, secluded Woodrow stands in an idyllic, four-acre parkland and woodland setting, off one of Windlesham village’s premier roads and close to the historic towns of Ascot and Windsor—as well as the golf courses of Sunningdale and Wentworth.
Built on four floors, with the high ceilings and the expansive rooms demanded by today’s international buyer, Woodrow makes the most of its generous living space, with five grand reception rooms, eight bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a 9,800sq ft underground leisure and swimming pool facility, two staff apartments and garaging for six cars. East Molesey-based Octagon is another Surrey developer with an excellent track record for building one-off, top-of-the-range houses for the international jet-set, notably in the north Surrey golden triangle around Wentworth.
Increasingly, however, the company has been successful in developing a niche market catering for wealthy young British families moving out of London to be close to schools such as Eton and Wellington, reports David Smith of Octagon’s sales team (020–8481 7500).
The firm’s latest venture is the construction of the imposing Burford Place at Picketts Hill, between Farnham and Haslemere, which has been built in the footprint of a former manor house, with five reception rooms, seven bedrooms and six bathrooms, set in 5-and-a-half acres of grounds with outbuildings that could easily be adapted for stabling. The house sits in a lovely rural setting within easy reach of good schools at Hindhead, Haslemere, Liphook and Petersfield and is for sale through Strutt & Parker in Farnham (01252 821102) at a guide price of £4.75m.
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