‘So you made the 2012 Sunday Times Rich List…’ – a selection of country houses for sale

Spring is upon us: the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, the drizzle is almost incessant – *sigh*. One bright spot is each week’s increasingly heavy Country Life magazine; the extra weight from the greater number of property adverts which signal the launch of the late spring/early summer (hah!) country house sales push. Below is a round-up of some of the most interesting and beautiful properties currently for sale, all entirely and subjectively chosen by me.

Bletchingdon Park, Oxfordshire (Image: Knight Frank)

Bletchingdon Park, Oxfordshire (Image: Knight Frank)

The most impressive house to be offered for sale this year so far has to be the beautiful Bletchingdon Park, Oxfordshire [Knight Frank]. One of the relatively few Palladian villas in the county, it can easily hold its own with the others such as Kirtlington Park (completed in 1746) and Nuneham Courtenay (built 1756).  Bletchingdon Park was slightly late to the Palladian party, being built in 1782 for Arthur Annesley, Viscount Valentia, to the designs of James Lewis (b. c1751 – d.1820).  Lewis was mostly employed as surveyor of various charitable hospitals in London and near counties but he also completed a clutch of excellent country houses including Eydon Hall, Hackthorn Hall, and Lavington Park (now Seaford College). Owned since 1993 by Dr Michael Peagram, a philanthropist and chemicals industrialist, the grade-II* house has been obviously well cared for and offers the highly desirable combination of an imposing facade, superb views, 127-acres and elegant interiors which includes a wonderful sweeping, top-lit staircase – if you have £20m.

Cockfield Hall, Suffolk (Image: Savills)

Cockfield Hall, Suffolk (Image: Savills)

For those who prefer an alternative to the architectural austerity of Palladianism, then Suffolk offers a wealth of brick houses; statements just as bold, but in a different language. Cockfield Hall, Suffolk [£5m, 74-acres, Savills] has a grand façade, galleried great hall, a wealth of rich plasterwork ceilings, and a range of estate buildings in the same style.  Although mainly built in 1613, the windows were sashed c1770 and the overall look is largely due to later Victorian enhancements, including the upper storey, gables, the great hall and various Tudor motifs.  That said, it is undeniably attractive as the changes work well together.

Highfields Park, East Sussex (Image: Knight Frank)

Highfields Park, East Sussex (Image: Knight Frank)

There is often something just so elegant about Regency houses, particularly the smaller country villas which echoed the style and features of much larger and grander houses. Highfields Park, East Sussex,  [£5.75m, Knight Frank] is set in 191-acres, and overlooks its own lake and out to the countryside.  The house has grown as the ambitions and wealth of the owners allowed; a ballroom being added to the east and a swimming pool beyond that. Awkwardly, access to latter is through the former so just be careful not to schedule a pool party at the same time as your formal dances; though, on the upside, it will be easy to tell which guest is supposed to be at which party.

Ayton Castle, Scotland (Image: Knight Frank)

Ayton Castle, Scotland (Image: Knight Frank)

Previously offered for sale in May 2011 for £3m and now re-listed, Ayton Castle, Scotland [offers over £2.2m / Knight Frank] is a sprawling confection of Scots Baronial motifs; the design the work of two of the best architects working in Scotland at the time, now set in 159-acres.  The house was originally built in 1851 for William Mitchell-Innes who commissioned the talented James Gillespie Graham. Graham was known for his work in the Scots Baronial style which became so popular in the Victorian era, notably on the praise of Sir Walter Scott and the Queen’s remodelling of Balmoral.  Yet, Graham was a rare architect comfortable working in various styles; neo-classical at Blythswood House or semi-ecclesiastical Gothic at Cumbusnethan Priory (now tragically a ruined shell).  Ayton was later extended in 1860, with the addition of a billiard room and an enlarged drawing room by David Bryce.  Bryce, perhaps, more than any other architect, can be argued to be responsible for the legacy of Scots Baronial, if only through his prolific output of more than 230 buildings including many country houses such as Craigends (dem. 1971), Panmure House (dem. 1955), Torosay Castle and Dalmore House (burnt out 1969). Considering the tragic swathe cut through his work, it’s a shame that legacy wasn’t appreciated.

Honourable Mentions

There are, of course, many other good houses featured in Country Life but some would not be regarded as the seat of an estate – but they are still wonderful country houses; albeit ones with very large gardens and worth a mention.  A couple here are proper country seats but just haven’t made it to the list above:

Bradwell Lodge, Essex (Image: Matthew Beckett) - for sale: £2.25m through Jackson-Stops & Staff

Bradwell Lodge, Essex (Image: Matthew Beckett) – for sale: £2.25m through Jackson-Stops & Staff

Bradwell Lodge, Essex – a house of contrasts and a mixture of architecture; a Tudor core, latter additions by Robert Adam, Robert Smirke the elder, and Quinlan Terry, with decoration by Angelica Kauffman. The library/small dining room in the projecting bay on the ground floor is particularly elegant with twisted-wire screens to the bookcases. Grade-II*, 26-acres, £2.25m [Jackson-Stops & Staff]

Broadwell Manor, Gloucestershire – grade-II*, 35-acres, excess £8m [Knight Frank]

Burnham Westgate Hall, Norfolk – a fascinating early house by Sir John Soane which has previously featured on this blog (‘For sale: a Soanian springboard‘). Grade-II*, 38-acres, £6.5m (down from £7m) [Knight Frank]

Glansevern Hall, Powys – an apparently unique property in that it is the only complete house designed and build by the architect Joseph Bromfield and which also features some impressive gardens. Grade-II*, 80-acres, £4.5m [Balfours]

Rainthorpe Hall, Norfolk – grade-I, 18.7-acres, excess £2.95m [Strutt & Parker]

Roundhill Manor, Somerset – grade-II, 280-acres, £6m [Savills]

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For other updates on country houses for sale do sign up for the excellent British and Irish Stately Homes blog, which is written by Andrew Triggs who frequently contributes comments on this blog.

About Matthew Beckett - The Country Seat

An amateur architectural historian with a particular love of UK country houses in all their many varied and beautiful forms.
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6 Responses to ‘So you made the 2012 Sunday Times Rich List…’ – a selection of country houses for sale

  1. Norman Josling says:

    Excellent choices! Having trouble making up my mind. Although not really a country house, I might be tempted by Heathcote, Ilkley, (Carter Jonas) A lot of house for £1.9m and a decent architect thrown in.
    Norman

  2. Jeff Aldridge says:

    Country Life could never get too heavy for me! I am curious to know how the magazine determines the order of property listings in the property section. I suspect that pricing comes into play. I have missed your posts and am very happy to see them once again. Thank you

  3. Evelyn says:

    Bletchingdon and Kirtlington are a picture aren’t they ? I am often pleasantly surprised by the unique features that can be found in England’s Palladian homes. It rather goes with the territory I suspect. Interesting post and I was just getting around to Oxfordshire although I covered Blenheim Palace some time ago after I saw a spread about it in our W magazine. Have a look at it sometime. I posted it on February 7 in 2008.

  4. Harry says:

    Bletchingdon is still in the County Life property section. I am not however to keen on the way it has been decorated inside, as with many of the property in that section of the magazine, there just always seems to be something missing, or as I saw a few weeks ago in the property section, ghastly, modern, leather furniture in a Georgian dining room and the same again in a Gothic Revival entrance hall.

  5. Pingback: ‘A Commodious Mansion, or rather Maisonette…’ Heathfield House, Oxfordshire | countryhousereader

  6. Paul says:

    Yes Bletchingdon is still on the market asking £20m. The house has had several viewings from interested parties and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with the house itself, it presents very well, is in excellent condition and the decor inside is actually beautiful and very tasteful when viewed in person. The main issue with buyers seems to be the lack of outbuildings and improvements that other houses have in abundance such as Stables, Gardens, Garages and outbuildings along with leisure facilities and staff accommodation which would cost the purchaser a considerable amount to reinstate. Also the house is slightly less then private having a public footpath crossing the grounds very close to the main house. The market itself is very strong with recent sales such as Stargroves at Newbury which sold in 2 weeks for £15m + with several bidders vying for the property and I’m sure it won’t be long before a buyer is found to take Bletchingdon on as it is simply stunning.

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