Country houses for sale

The country home of Percy Bysshe Shelley and his family comes up for sale, along with 111 rolling acres of Sussex

The magnificent Grade II-listed Champions Farm combines beautiful views with a rich history.

Some homes pull off the trick of offering the best of both worlds.

Take as an example Champions Farm, an ancient home that’s been carefully brought up to modern spec while retaining its charm. Then there’s the location: it sits in splendid isolation in the middle of its 111 acres of rolling fields, with magnificent views across the South Downs and no visible neighbours. Yet is only 4.6 miles from Pulborough station and 28 miles from Gatwick airport.

The Sussex country house, which is for sale though Knight Frank and Savills at a guide price of £3.695 million, was extensively refurbished between 2015 and 2019, when the roof was completely restored, a new conservatory and new kitchen installed and 43 period windows replaced.

Interiors at Champions Farm

The main house offers 4,446sq ft of accommodation, including an entrance hall, four reception rooms, a large kitchen/family room, a conservatory, seven bedrooms and three bath/shower rooms.

Additional living space is available in the two-bedroom Stable Cottage and the one-bedroom annexe. Champions Farm also has garaging for 20 cars in a 4,042sq ft barn that, subject to planning, could be converted to stabling, an indoor riding school or even further accommodation.

The property’s rich history is as appealing as its buildings. It was first mentioned in the Subsidy Rolls of Sussex in 1296, when it was held by a Richard Champneys and, later, by a Gilbert Champion or Campion, who was probably a kinsman.

The estate, known as Champneys, was a freehold of the manor of Thakeham, when it was bought by John Shelley, reputedly between 1662 and 1668.

The kitchen at Champions Farm

According to the Victoria County History, either Shelley or his son, Timothy, built the main estate house that was then much larger, having two storeys, attics and some 13 rooms.

In about 1820, by which time the estate was known as Champions, a fire destroyed a large part of the house, including the hall and main staircase. Champions remained in the Shelley family until 1850, when it was bought by the King family, who put it back on the market in 1921.

In 1924, Country Life reported the ‘former home of Sir Timothy Shelley, the poet’s father, Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet, and Sir Percy Florence Shelley, the poet’s son’ as being for sale, ‘at a merely nominal price (believed to be less than £3,000) for a genuine Tudor house and 14 acres, embodying the results of a large outlay in modernisation’.

Champions Farm from above

In the 1930s, the house and farm were bought by London stockbroker Fred Francis, who employed local builder, Frank Duke of Steyning, to restore the remaining part of the house, the ceilings of which are higher than is usual in old Sussex houses. He, in turn, re-sold Champions Farm in 1955 to Sir Archibald and Lady James, the grandparents of the present owners, who ran the dairy farm until recently.

Wing-Cdr James was a Conservative MP and RAF pioneer who, as an observer with the RFC during the First World War, reported the first sighting of the chlorine gas cloud released by the Germans over British lines at Ypres on April 22, 1915.

Champions Farm is for sale through Knight Frank and Savills at a guide price of £3.695 million  — see more details and pictures.