Country houses for sale

A spectacular mansion for sale in the heart of a World Heritage Site — and it’s something of a bargain

Studley Royal House is a breathtaking property whose scale and beauty is hard to comprehend. Penny Churchill takes a look.

The ups and downs of the property market in 2023 have led to all sorts of headlines — not least in our Property Talk articles, which last week spoke of how the conditions for buyers ‘are the best in years’, according to agents.

But amid the talk of percentage price drops, number of days on the market and so on, in some areas of the market asking prices have changed considerably since the peak of the boom. Recently we wrote about the £3.5m discount Great Tangley Manor in Surrey; today, we take a look at one of Yorkshire’s finest privately-owned homes: Studley Royal House.

It was back in the summer when the exquisite, Grade II*-listed Studley Royal House — near Ripon, North Yorkshire — came on the market. It was originally at a guide price of £8 million through Savills Country Department, but now is down to £6.25m, via the same agent.

Can a house with a mid-seven-figure price tag be called a bargain? Well, if ever that were the case then it probably is here. Studley Royal House offers a rare chance to enjoy the privacy and pleasure of a grand country estate with none of the bother, thanks to its location at the heart of the magnificent, 800-acre Studley Royal Deer Park, now owned by the National Trust.

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North Yorkshire’s only World Heritage Site, the park is not only home to a large herd of fallow, red and sika deer, it also boasts famous 18th-century water gardens fed by the River Skell, which meanders past the atmospheric ruins of Fountains Abbey — a setting described by Christopher Hussey in his English Gardens and Landscapes 1700-1750 (1967) as ‘one of the most spectacular scenic compositions in England’.

Fountains Abbey was founded in 1132 and, by the mid 13th century, was one of the richest religious houses in the kingdom. Following the Dissolution, the abbey was sacked, before the buildings and more than 500 acres of land were sold to Richard Gresham, an MP and former Lord Mayor of London. He later sold them to Stephen Proctor, who further despoiled the abbey, using the stone to build the Elizabethan Fountains Hall.

In 1699, John Aislabie, an ambitious politician who was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1718, but expelled from Parliament in 1720 following the South Sea Bubble debacle, inherited the Studley Royal estate, where, for the rest of his life, he indulged his passion for landscape gardening. It was a passion shared by his son, William, who inherited the estate in 1742 and began extending the pleasure grounds into the eastern part of the Skell valley.

In 1760, having acquired the neighbouring Fountains estate from the Messenger family, he incorporated the dramatic abbey ruins into an extension of his father’s gardens. On William’s death, the estate passed through the female line to the Vyner family, who sold it to West Riding County Council in 1966.

In 1983, North Yorkshire County Council sold it to the National Trust, after which the entire park was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.

The Aislabies’ house in the northern part of the park, which was home to Queen Ethelburga’s School during the Second World War, burned down in 1946 and was never rebuilt.

Instead, the splendid Georgian stable block, built for John Aislabie’s racehorses between 1728 and 1732, was converted into an elegant Palladian country house set in 2½ acres of private formal gardens on high ground overlooking the deer park towards Ripon Cathedral in the distance.

Built of stone under a slate roof with distinctive pavilion towers in each of the four corners, the pristine, 11,708sq ft house surrounds a central square courtyard overlooked by all the main rooms and dominated by the working clock tower.

For selling agent Crispin Holborow, ‘Studley Royal House combines the convenience of modern living with the ambience of a classic period house, and the added bonus of the right to use the Trust’s adjoining and neighbouring property’.

The house offers elegant accommodation on two floors, with six public rooms, including a magnificent drawing room, a ballroom, a study and library, a sumptuous master suite with two dressing rooms, a bathroom and a shower room, plus five further bedroom suites and a two-bedroom guest wing.

The private gardens to the west of the house are approached through a coach arch from the courtyard and are protected from deer by a gravelled walk that runs around the perimeter between hornbeam and yew hedges.

Stone steps lead down to a large Italian garden with meticulously maintained flowerbeds, privet hedges, clipped yew and extensive topiary.

Studley Royal House is for sale at a guide price of £6.25 million through Savills — see more details and pictures.