Country houses for sale

The best farms and estates sold in 2021, from £2 to £20 million

2021 was stellar for the farms and estates market, reports Penny Churchill, who highlights the most spectacular sales of the year.

Against all the odds, 2021 was a remarkably good year for sales of farms and estates, as well-funded buyers — farmers, entertainers, eco-warriors and families in search of a proper country lifestyle — sought to acquire one of the many fine landed properties that came to the market throughout the UK, at prices from £2 million to £20 million.

Five thousand years of history lie beneath the gently rolling landscape of the picturesque, 970-acre West Woodyates Manor estate, which sits in peaceful seclusion within the Cranborne Chase AONB, two miles from the east Dorset village of Sixpenny Handley and 11 miles south of Salisbury.

West Woodyates Manor, Dorset

Launched at a guide price of £18.5m in July 2020, the sale of the diverse residential, farming, sporting and conservation estate was ‘a rich and rare event’ in this timeless part of Dorset, says selling agent Clive Hopkins of Knight Frank.

At its heart stands Grade II*-listed West Woodyates Manor, which dates from the 17th century or earlier and was remodelled in the early 18th century by Thomas Pitt, 1st Lord Londonderry. With some 750 acres under cultivation and 37 acres of permanent pasture, farming is still the lifeblood of the estate, with sporting and wildlife conservation of special interest; some 50 species of birds and 30 species of butterflies, including the elusive purple emperor, inhabit its ancient woodland.

Commenting on the sale of West Woodyates, which is on the market for the first time since 1929, Mr Hopkins reveals: ‘As expected, we saw steady interest in the run-up to Christmas 2020, until, suddenly, an influx of resolute, UK-based buyers entered the fray in February 2021, which led to competitive bidding from four interested parties. A sale concluded in June 2021.’

A similar outcome was achieved in the case of the scenic 1,011-acre Roundtown farming estate, described by Mr Hopkins as ‘a truly spectacular block of rolling Hampshire countryside’, three miles from Upton Grey village and four miles from Basingstoke. Once part of the historic Hackwood Park estate, Roundtown was launched onto the market in March 2021 and was sold, following spirited bidding, in October.

The sale of a large country estate or farming enterprise can be a complex and time-consuming operation, often involving multiple owners, multiple properties, or even an entire village, says Matthew Sudlow, head of estates and farm agency at Strutt & Parker.

Fortunately, having been involved in an earlier sale of the 1,306-acre Beckerings Park farming estate in Bedfordshire, he knew his way around when it came back to the market at a guide price of £17m in June 2021. ‘The estate offered great scope for diversification and attracted interest from land-owning farmers and investors alike; it sold in November to a farming family who were looking to expand,’ he adds.

The Thoroughbred background of Knight Frank’s Rupert Sweeting translates well to the sale of equestrian estates. Having found a buyer for North Rye House in Heythrop country in April 2021 , he launched Lady Macdonald-Buchanan’s prestigious 340-acre Lavington Stud near Petworth, West Sussex, in the South Downs National Park, that same month with a guide price of £9.5m. A deal was done and dusted by May, the buyer a farmer from north Hampshire.

Crispin Holborow of Savills riposted with the sale of Blissamore Hall at Clanville, near Andover, north Hampshire, home to the Clanville Stud run there by Lady Bland, whose husband, the late Sir Christopher Bland, bought the estate in 1995. Launched in June 2020, also at a guide of £9.5m, the 150-acre estate, centred on the handsome early-Georgian Blissamore Hall, saw contracts exchanged in March last year, with completion in June.

One of the highlights of Mr Holborow’s year was the sale of the historic Trafalgar Park estate near Salisbury, Wiltshire, which was launched on the market in June 2021 with a guide of £11m, and had an offer accepted in August 2021. Previously known as Standlynch, the estate was bought by the Crown for the Nelson family in memory of the Admiral who was killed at Trafalgar in 1805.

It was rescued from dereliction in 1995 by Michael Wade, a passionate supporter of the Arts, who gradually restored the Grade I-listed Georgian house set in formal gardens and parkland on the edge of the New Forest National Park and Cranborne Chase.

Leighon estate, Manaton, Devon

Launched February 2021; sold July 2021; guide £4.5m; Knight Frank

The picturesque 727-acre Leighon estate at Manaton, five miles from Bovey Tracey, sits in a peaceful valley in the lee of Hound Tor, on the eastern edge of Dartmoor National Park. The original moorland farm was bought in the late 1800s by the Revd R. R. Wolfe, who built the present main house around an existing Devon longhouse; he sold the estate to the Singer family in 1902.

Mandinam estate, Llangadog, Carmarthenshire

Launched August 2020; sold April 2021; guide £2.75m; Knight Frank, Llewellyn and Tustins

The Mandinam estate near Llandovery was first mentioned in records in 1660. Owned by the Lloyds from 1710 until the 20th century and farmed by the vendors from 1977, the estate, the name of which means ‘place without blemish’, includes the Grade II-listed hall, in need of modernisation, a coach house and an untouched longhouse, listed Grade II*.

Twyssenden Manor estate, Goudhurst, Kent

Launched April 2021; sale agreed May 2021; guide £6.5m; Savills

twyssenden

Set at the heart of a magical, 252-acre estate within the High Weald AONB, Grade II*-listed Twyssenden Manor is a 15th-century hall house. It was altered and extended in the 16th and 17th centuries, then restored in about 1870 by local landowner Alexander Beresford Hope, president of RIBA and MP for Maidstone, with advice from architects William Butterfield and George Edmund Street.

North Rye House, near Donnington, Gloucestershire

Launched September 2020; sold April 2021; guide £6.5m; Knight Frank

For 30 golden years, from 1986 until his death in 2019, North Rye House was the much-cherished home of popular Heythrop joint-master Peter Stoddart and his wife, Joanna. The handsome Cotswold-stone house, built in 1960 in an idyllic corner of the Little Barrow estate, stands in 148 acres of gardens, pasture, parkland and woodland, 1½ miles from Stow-on-the-Wold.

Little Haugh Hall, Norton, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Launched September 2020; sold March 2021; guide £6.35m; Strutt & Parker

Built in the 1700s and remodelled in Georgian style, Grade II*-listed Little Haugh Hall stands in 60 acres of formal gardens, parkland and woodland within a 162-acre estate. It boasts splendid interiors, an airstrip and hangers, cottages, outbuildings, swimming pool and tennis court. The hall was sold to London buyers who plan to re-wild the estate.

Crosby Court, Northallerton, North Yorkshire

Launched May 2021; sold December 2021; guide £4.95m; Knight Frank

The late Charles Barker always dreamed of owning Grade II-listed Georgian Crosby Court, set in 117 acres of rolling grassland, three miles from Northallerton, at the northern end of the Vale of York. His dream came true in 1998, when he and his wife, Melanie, bought the by then run-down house, buildings and land and transformed them into the model farming estate the property is today.