Country houses for sale

The best house in the best village in Essex has come up for sale, and it’s a £7m Georgian marvel

Colne Priory in Earls Colne looks almost impossibly perfect.

Back in November 2015, the picturesque village of Earls Colne in the scenic Colne Valley, 3 1/2 miles from Halstead and 10 miles from Colchester, was adjudged the ‘Best in Essex’ in a Country Life survey of commuter hotspots within easy access of the City of London. The same survey saw Grade II-listed Colne Priory, set in 24 acres of immaculate gardens and grounds on the banks of the River Colne, judged Earls Colne’s best address.

Now for sale through Strutt & Parker and Knight Frank at a guide price of £7 million, the imposing, red-brick country house is still clearly the best house in the village thanks to an inspirational renovation.

Colne Priory offers more than 14,600sq ft of sumptuous accommodation on three levels, including entrance and reception halls and four main reception rooms.

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Elsewhere on the ground floor is a large kitchen/breakfast room, billiard room, cinema and gym.

There are six bedroom suites on the first floor, while on the lower ground floor you’ll find a staff flat and cellars.

Ancillary buildings include a cottage, stabling, car museum/party barn, greenhouse/conservatory, workshops and extensive storage. Amenities include a tennis court, swimming pool, large lake and beautifully maintained gardens and grounds with extended lawn areas where the last remnants of the medieval priory can still be seen.

The house as it is today was built in about 1825 in the Strawberry Hill Gothic style for Henry Holgate Carwardine. It was the last of a series of manor houses built on the site of a Benedictine priory founded by the de Vere family, Earls of Oxford, in the early 12th century, the remains of which lie buried under lawn in the grounds of Colne Priory and are designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Following the dissolution of the medieval Colne Priory in 1536, its land and buildings were granted to John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford, who demolished the priory church and built a manor house on the site. In 1583, the 17th Earl, Edward de Vere, a notorious spendthrift, sold the manor of Earls Colne to his steward, Roger Harlakenden, whose son, Richard, bought the adjoining manor of Colne Priory in 1592.

Colne Priory remained in the Harlakenden family until 1672, when it passed by marriage to the Androwes family and later, in the early 18th century, to one John Wale, who demolished what remained of the medieval buildings and remodelled the old de Vere house in about 1740, reputedly furnishing it with ‘chimney pieces made from the ruinated tombs of the Oxfords’.

That house survived for another 100 years before passing, by marriage and inheritance, to Henry Holgate Cawardine, who demolished the house built by Wale, incorporating parts of it within his new Colne Priory.

The house was extended in the late 19th century and again by the current owners, who bought Colne Priory as their family home in 2007 and are now looking to downsize.

Colne Priory is for sale through Strutt & Parker and Knight Frank at a guide price of £7 million — see more details and pictures.

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