After a prolonged period of quiet, a range of very good country houses are finally coming to the market in Hampshire
For buyers looking to settle in Hampshire, the county breaks down into four distinct areas. The north is high-speed commuter-land, with fast connections to London, via Basingstoke or Andover, a high priority.
The south has the busy coastal sprawl of Southampton, Fareham and Portsmouth- a haven for academics and medical men. ‘Smart Hampshire’ is the central area running east and west of the captivating cathedral city of Winchester, which boasts good access to London, the county’s prettiest villages and some of the best schools in England.
Then, there’s the New Forest, a 220- square mile stretch of ancient pasture, heathland and forest in the southwest of the county and a national park since 2005. The area is quite different in character from the rest of Hampshire, and buyers at the top end of the Hampshire country-house market are unequivocal: they either want to be in the New Forest, or anywhere but, says buying agent Property Vision.
After six years of minimal supply, country-house agents are wary of proclaiming false dawns, but with prime Hampshire property prices allegedly back to their peak and the threat of a ‘mansion tax’ looming next year, more vendors of houses worth £3 million-plus see 2014 as a window of opportunity, leading agents maintain.
Encouragingly, the same reasoning seems to resonate with a growing number of London homeowners, who now appear ready to sell up or trade down in the capital and move to the country, before rising prices there start to cancel out six years of phenomenal price growth in the metropolis. Hotshot commuters and lifestyle buyers alike will be electrified by the launch onto the market of historic Dummer House at Dummer, six miles south-west of Basingstoke and 14 miles north of Winchester, at a guide price of £5 million through the Basingstoke office of Knight Frank (01256 350600).
The ancient seat of the Dummer family, who were lords of the manor from the early 12th century, Dummer House was bought from Lord Castlemaine in the mid 1700s by Thomas Terry, whose son, Stephen, became known as ‘one of the keenest and best huntsmen in Hampshire’. The sporting Prince Regent, whose enthusiastic pursuit both of the stag and Mrs Fitzherbert of nearby Kempshott Park made him a frequent visitor to these parts, was also friendly with the Terrys and kennelled his staghounds at Dummer House.
The present house, listed Grade II, dates mainly from the Terry era and is a fine example of Georgian architecture, with earlier structures and 19th-century additions. Some fine historic detail includes the Jacobean panelling on the first floor, the flagstone flooring in the entrance hall-which is thought to have come from the crypt of Winchester Cathedral- and the original 18th-century fireplace in the drawing room.
All have been carefully preserved by the present owners, American banker Jarold (Jan) Bowlus and his wife, Alison, who bought Dummer House in February 2000, in what the then selling agent described as ‘a dilapidated state’. In fact, Mrs Bowlus reveals, Dummer House had hardly been touched since the previous owners bought it in the mid 1950s, and the painstaking renovation and modernisation of the entire house, its numerous outbuildings and 30 acres of extensive gardens and grounds meant that it was a full year before she and her husband finally moved in.
The house, ringed to the north, east and west by fine, broadleaved woodland with far-reaching views to the south over rolling, unspoilt countryside, stands next to the ancient parish church of All Saints in the heart of the village. Its 9,500sq ft of well-planned living space includes five elegant reception rooms, a charming kitchen/ breakfast room, six first-floor bedrooms with four bathrooms and a self-contained, three-bedroom flat on the second floor.
Commuters will be impressed by the easy access to London of pristine, Grade II-listed Belswood House at Hartley Wintney, 11 miles northeast of Basingstoke. For sale through the Odiham office of Strutt & Parker (01256 702892) at a guide price of £2.75m, the classic, Georgian family house, the north end of which incorporates part of an earlier, much smaller one, stands in 5.8 acres of gardens and paddocks on the edge of this sought-after village. Accommodation includes five reception rooms, a kitchen/ breakfast room, six bedrooms and three bathrooms. Amenities include a swimming pool, stabling, garages and outbuildings.
Over on the Surrey/Hampshire border, the opening of the Hindhead Tunnel has seriously improved road access between the east Hampshire villages and Guildford mainline station, with its unbeatable City connections. Hamptons (01483 572864) and Savills (01483 796820) are joint agents in the sale, at a guide price of £4.25m, of The Glebe House at Bramshott, near Haslemere, a pleasantly rambling, 8000sq ft country house with more than 25 acres of secluded gardens and grounds on the edge of the South Downs National Park.
The substantial main house has five reception rooms, a family room, a kitchen/ breakfast room, master and guest suites, six further bedrooms, two bathrooms and a first-floor study. Extensive equestrian facilities, set in six acres well away from the house- comprising a large open barn, a tack room and 17 loose boxes, with planning consent to convert some of the outbuildings to residential use-are available by separate negotiation.
The going rate for a top country house in Hampshire this spring seems to be £5m and is the price quoted by Savills (020-7016 3780) and Knight Frank (020-7629 8171) for charming Manor Farm in the pretty village of Brown Candover, 5.6 miles north of Alresford. ‘Unusually for a house that has been in the hands of the same owners for the past 30-40 years, Manor Farm doesn’t need a major makeover, its owners having carried out a wide-ranging refurbishment of the entire property in recent years,’ Ed Sugden of Savills points out.
Manor Farm, listed Grade II, dates from the 17th century, with 18th- and 20th-century additions. The pretty brick-and-flint house stands in more than 30 acres of gardens and grounds overlooking the rolling acres of the picturesque Candover Valley. The main house has accommodation on three floors, including four reception rooms, a playroom, a kitchen/breakfast room, master and guest suites, three further en-suite bedrooms and a nanny flat on the second floor. Two cottages provide further flexible living space and the most fitness-conscious will be tested to their limits by the sporting facilities, which include a state-of-the-art swimming-pool complex, a squash court, a floodlit hard tennis court, a croquet lawn and extensive equestrian facilities.
Of all the houses he has handled in his 40 years as an estate agent, enchanting, Grade II-listed Church Farm House on the banks of the Itchen at Twyford, 3-and-a-half miles from Winchester, is one that Simon North of Strutt & Parker (01962 869999) would most dearly love to own. He quotes a guide price of £3.5m for the handsome, timber-framed brick farmhouse with its 16th-century core, re-fronted in about 1700, altered in Georgian times and restored after a serious fire in 1971.
Surrounded by some 10-and-a-half acres of well-stocked gardens and grounds, paddocks and water meadows, Church Farm House has four reception rooms, a library, a splendid conservatory, four first-floor bedrooms and bathrooms, two second-floor bedrooms and an attic. It comes with a fine 18thcentury barn, a hard tennis court, a heated swimming pool, stables, a fishing hut and 140 yards of double bank fishing on the Itchen.
‘The London buyers are definitely back,’ says a jubilant Andrew Rome of Knight Frank in Winchester (01962 850333), who last month celebrated the sale of two of Hampshire’s most spectacular waterside houses. They were the inspirational Clobb Copse at Bucklers Hard, launched last year (jointly with Lymington-based Paul Jackson), at a guide price of £15.25m, and the futuristic, James Bond-style Tukal on the upper Beaulieu River, launched the previous year at a guide price of £12m.
Mr Rome quotes a guide price of £1.5m for Eyeworth Lodge at Fritham, near Bramshaw, a restored 17th-century former royal hunting lodge dating from Domesday, which became a forest-keeper’s house in the mid 19th century, and then part of the Schultze Gunpowder Factory until its closure in the 1920s. Lovingly decorated and maintained by its present owners during their 15-year tenure, Eyeworth Lodge, set in 8-and-a-half acres of gardens designed by Chelsea Gold Medal winner Sarah Berle, has direct access to the New Forest National Park.
The main house has three reception rooms, a conservatory, two studies, an open-plan family room and dining area, a vast master suite, six further bedrooms, two bathrooms, a shower room and a gym. It comes with two cottages, a stable block, paddocks, a swimming pool and an AstroTurf tennis court.
Sedge End, £4.75m, Knight Frank
Mr Rome is also offering, at a guide of £4.75m, a coastal gem-Sedge End at Keyhaven, a mile from Milford on Sea, and five miles from Lymington. Built in 1910 for the vicar of Yarmouth, who used his steamboat to go back and forth to church, Sedge End sits in three acres of landscaped gardens and meadows, with direct access to the water and views of the Keyhaven River, the Solent, Hurst Castle and the Needles. The house, which has had only two owners since it was built, has four annexe above the garage as well as outbuildings converted to garaging, a gym, a games room and a sauna.
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