The economics of selling a country house: Kiddington Hall

Kiddington Manor, Oxfordshire (Image: Country Life)

An article regarding the sale of Kiddington Hall in the Financial Times has highlighted that the asking price of a country house when put on the market is not the amount which will end up in the buyer’s pocket.

When grade-II listed Kiddington Hall was launched on the market in September 2009, the price tag of £42m reflected its status as one of the most important houses to be offered since the sale of Easton Neston in 2004.  The main house was built in 1673 and sits in the centre of it’s 2,000-acre estate in Oxfordshire, with parkland designed by ‘Capability’ Brown. The house was remodelled in the 1850s by Sir Charles Barry in his trademark Italianate style which included the creation of a large courtyard and extensives terraces in the gardens.

The beautifully elegant house is being sold by Erik Maurice Robson, whose father bought the house for £115,000 in 1950. The sale was court ordered to fund his £8m divorce settlement, and valued his freehold interest in the house and estate at just £16m. This article states that this value is what remains after “excluding furniture, capital gains tax and sale costs”.  Mr Robson has now asked the court to reduce the value of the settlement as, due to a fall in property values, his interest is now worth only £13.18m.  This seems a remarkably small amount to be able to realise from such a high asking price and perhaps emphasises that a country house is not the pot of gold many imagine it to be.

Full story: ‘Stately home at heart of divorce appeal‘ [Financial Times]

Townhead House, untouched since 1939, to be restored

Townhead House, Lancashire (Image: SAVE Britain's Heritage)

Townhead House is a rare thing indeed – a house which has not been altered since before the last people to use it left in 1939 but also is not in a dire state of dereliction.  Its unoccupied status was a cause for concern and although parts of the house required attention, overall the house was in remarkable condition.

Built in 1729 for Henry Wiglesworth using parts of a 17th-century building, the architect is unknown but achieved an elegant if somewhat austere house using large blocks of coursed limestone.  Inside, the main rooms with their fine Georgian panelling and particularly the staircase indicated the architect was influenced by other such as Wren, Jones and Gibbs.  This can be seen with the use of certain architectural elements before they became widely known through pattern books such as Batty Langleys.

The grade-II listed house was used just a shooting lodge between the 1890s and 1930s.  Now finally, a local man, semi-retired businessman Robert Staples, has bought the house and has promised to sensitively restore it to use as his home:

“The works will ensure that the integrity and longevity of Townhead is not compromised and that the building has a continued and long future.”

All this bodes well for this important part of the local architectural heritage. Also encouraging is Mr Staples’ professed desire to return the house to being the centre of a ‘gentleman’s estate’ – a welcome reversal of the pattern of the last 50 years when small estates were increasingly broken up and lost.

Full story: ‘Historic Slaidburn house set to become a home again after 100 years‘ [Lancashire Telegraph]

Lytham Hall restoration to secure future

Lytham Hall, Lancashire (Image: Lytham Hall blog)

To secure the future of what is considered to be one of the finest Georgian houses in Lancashire, the owners of  Lytham Hall have unveiled an ambitious £5m restoration plan.

The house was built for Thomas Clifton by the famous architect John Carr of York between 1752-64 and incorporated elements of the existing Jacobean house.  It remained the Clifton family home until the 1960s when it was finally sold to Guardian Royal Exchange Insurance who owned it until 1997, and is now run by Heritage Trust for the North West on a 99-year lease on behealf of the owners, Lytham Town Trust.

The £5m plans are the first part of an eventual £10m plan to upgrade every aspect of the house and estate to provide holiday accomodation, a tea room and conference facilities.  Although a shame that the house is no longer a home, it’s encouraging to find plans which respect the history and architectural importance of the house as they seek ways to ensure a secure future.

Full story: ‘New lease of life for historic hall‘ [Lytham St Anne’s Express]

English Heritage grant helps towards Sockburn Hall restoration

Sockburn Hall, County Durham (Image: Sockburn Hall Project)

A project to restore the long-neglected Sockburn Hall has received a boost with a grant for £37,000 from English Heritage.  This is in addition to the £38,000 it was also awarded last year as part of a long-term project to make the house watertight, eliminate the dry rot and then restore the interiors.

The grade-II* listed Sockburn Hall was originally built in 1834 in a neo-Jacobean style for the Blackett family on the site of a lost Jacobean house built for the Conyers family which had vanished by 1823.  The house became notorious in 2000 when the sisters who lived there were prosecuted for keeping animals in squalid conditions in the various rooms of the house. Listed on the English Heritage ‘Buildings at Risk’ Register it had long been a cause for concern as water penetration and vegetation growth threatened the structure of the house.

The family have taken on the house as a restoration project to avoid selling it and risking it being developed and have created a small group of volunteers who are valiantly clearing the grounds and restoring features whilst specialist firms are working on the house. The grant in 2009 enabled emergency repair work to be undertaken on the roofs and guttering to remove the temporary tin sheeting and to ensure good drainage to help stop water ingress into the building.  This project will take years but hopefully, one day, the family will be able to move back into this house and make it a home again.

You can follow the progress of the work either on their website or via the Sockburn Hall Facebook group where you can also volunteer to help out.