You never know what you might find when you open the front door of a historic country house these days.
When property-fund manager Alistair Calvert and his wife, Amelia, an equine physiotherapist, bought idyllic, Grade II-listed The Mill House at Gibbons Mill, near Rudgwick, West Sussex, in February 2011, it was to be their ‘forever house’, where they expected to see out their days in gentle rural seclusion.
Six years on, however, now that they have completed a total renovation and refurbishment of the part-timber-framed former mill, built in 1766, Mr Calvert’s business has expanded to the point where a family move to Jersey is imminent. As a consequence, their delightful home, which combines the charm of the old with the latest and best of the new, is on the market through Savills (020–7016 3822) at a guide price of £3.75m.
Set in some 12 acres of landscaped gardens, pasture and light woodland, The Mill House is approached from a shared farm road via a sweeping gravel drive, with a separate spur leading to the guest cottage, farm buildings and stables. Despite its local significance, the house is unlisted, which made it easier to open up and rearrange the ‘very dated’ interior that greeted
the Calverts on their arrival.
Much has changed, and key elements of the mill’s 5,800sq ft of accommodation, which includes five reception rooms, six bedrooms and five bath/ shower rooms, are the cosy, oak-panelled snug, the orangery, with its glass- covered well and French doors leading to the terrace, and the spacious, beautifully fitted family kitchen— clearly the heart of the house.
Although daunted at the prospect of leaving her ‘forever house’, Mrs Calvert has come to terms with reality by compiling a detailed history of The Mill House, an impressive document she plans to leave for the new owners so they can add their own chapter. It chronicles the ownership of the house from 1766, when it was built by landowner Richard West, to, among others, the Churchman family, owners from 1808 to 1907, after which it was bought by wealthy Scottish ship-owner Robert Henderson and Paul Adorian, chairman of Rediffusion, who owned it from 1957. In the 1970s, when home to Bonnie Tyler’s manager, the house was known to the pop fraternity as ‘The Club’, a reference to the wild, debauched parties that took place. Things are much quieter there now.
Old and new sit cheek-by-jowl at Grade II-listed Wormley Hill House near Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, where, behind its inscrutable Edwardian façade, the current owners have completely remodelled the interior, which now has a distinctly Scottish flavour. Hardly surprising, perhaps, given that the owner hails from Scotland and now plans to buy a house in Edinburgh—hence the sale of Wormley Hill House through Strutt & Parker (020–7318 5025) at a guide price of £3.5m.
Originally built as a private house, later in the 20th century, it was used as a children’s home and, by the early 1990s, was in a state of disrepair, reverting to private use in 1995, at which point an extensive conversion programme was carried out. The present vendors took over in 2003/4, when the whole house was renovated, including re-wiring and re-plumbing throughout. More recently, the kitchen/ sitting room/breakfast room was redesigned, creating a magnificent family space, with bi-folding doors opening onto the heated paved terrace —perfect for summer entertaining. Of particular note is the sumptuous drawing room, with its open fireplace.
Wormley Hill House stands in 3.2 acres of mature gardens and grounds and has 8,150sq ft of accommodation, including four main reception rooms, eight bedrooms, six bathrooms and a one-bedroom cottage.