Country houses for sale

What happened next to the 33-room ducal mansion being auctioned off for £200,000

This grand country house just outside Monmouth has an incredible history, unbeatable grandeur and a mind-boggling amount of work to be done — but it still sold for almost seven times its auction estimate.

A few weeks ago we reported on a quite astonishing opportunity: Troy House, a sprawling mansion built by one of Britain’s greatest dukes, was going under the hammer on May 28th through auctioneers Allsop.

As you might imagine, the story generated a huge amount of interest. This was a home which had a bit of everything: history, grandeur, beauty, size, potential and price — the auctioneers put an estimate of £200,000-£250,000 on it.

There was a catch. Of course there was — there’s always a catch. Troy House is an almost total wreck.

Though most of the house dates to the 1680s, some of the original plaster ceilings are even earlier.

The pictures on this page tell the tale. The amount of work needed at this Grade II*-listed 17th century mansion is vast, and given its listing status the work will need to be carried out by specialists, using appropriate materials and with the approval of conservation bodies. It’s certainly a question of millions rather than hundreds of thousands.

Yet despite those caveats, the potential rewards are enormous; after all, how many people get to say that they live in a house with its own entry at Wikipedia?

Richard Adamson of Allsop said before the auction that ‘we anticipate some competitive bidding on auction day’ — and so it proved: Troy House was sold for over £1,300,000.

Troy House in Wales received an exceptional amount of interest in the lead up to the auction, which converted to fierce competition on the day,’ Richard told Country Life.

‘We saw competitive activity right up until the final minute from 23 different bidders, with the property achieving a sale price of £1.356m – over six times the original guide price.

‘This property demonstrates the continued demand for well-priced assets in a challenging market landscape.’

The grand central staircase is mentioned in Pevsner, and could be a wonderful feature of the refurbished building.

The house is set in six beautiful acres just outside one of the most charming towns in Wales — Monmouth — with a staggering 29 bedrooms.

There is a great hall, state dining room and a suite of withdrawing rooms, while access to the upper floors is via what is described by Pevsner as ‘a magnificently spacious open-well staircase’ which rises through the house.

The cloisters have seen better days…

A chapel on the site has stained glass windows, while there are outbuildings, garaging, cloisters, a theatre and two tennis courts.

The pictures here tell their own tale: windows are smashed, flooring ripped up, ceilings collapsed.

There is rubble everywhere, endless grime and dirt, and at one room seems to have been set up as an indoor scooter track.

Buy a dilapidated country house, get a free scooter track.

All of this is a sad state of affairs for a house built on the site of a medieval manor by Henry Somerset, 1st Duke of Beaufort, as a marital home for his son, Charles, the marquis of Worcester.

Charles died before his father, but the house remained in the family until the Spring of 1901, when the estate was auctioned off along with many other possessions of the Duke of Beaufort. An advert in Country Life from the time gives a few fascinating details.

Troy House advert in Country Life from 8 December 1900, ahead of the auction planned for Spring 1901. The picturesque ivy covering is long gone.

Troy House wasn’t actually sold, however, but instead was handed over to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd for use as a convent school; there is still plenty of evidence of its days an educational establishment.

Some of the classrooms look as if they might only have been vacated a few weeks ago.

It’s been deserted since 1991, and in some areas Nature is trying to take over: there are creepers growing in the chapel, giving it the look of a lost city discovered in some Central American jungle.

That said, there are some habitable rooms: there is a caretaker’s flat, a two-bedroom apartment which appears to be in a perfectly solid state; one of the rooms boasts a four-poster bed, a touch which harks back to the building’s illustrious history.

The four-poster bed in the caretaker’s flat.

And yet that’s a rare bright spot in a building which needs gutting from top to bottom. In short, the buyer might not pay a lot for this site — and Allsop confirm that the seller is ‘happy for the house to be sold at true value’ — but they’ll have to pay far, far more to get the place back into shape.

The new owners are yet to confirm publicly what their plans are, but before the auction Richard Adamson suggested that it was ripe for ‘a private home, converting into a boutique hotel and spa or refurbished into luxury apartments, subject to planning.’

There are all manner of options for where the building goes from here, for in the past there have been a number of efforts to re-do the place. An on-again-off-again scheme to turn Troy House into luxury flats has failed to come to fruition, with concerns about the site’s potential propensity to flooding, and worries over accessing the building via tracks which service the surrounding dairy farm.

The house comes with six acres of gardens, which include a ruin and a former orchard.

Yet it’s clear that both Cadw and the local council are desperate to work with new owners to rescue a building which has been — and could again be — quite astonishing.

Troy House went up for auction via Allsops on 28 May — see more pictures and details, and you can read its Cadw listing here.