The usual spring rush of country houses coming to market has been later this year – a combination of the hangover from the uncertainty in the market of the last couple of years along with that of the General Election. That traditional shop-window of the country house – the Home section of the Sunday Times – has this week (16 May 2010) heralded what it sees at the start of the rush by including three pages of those for sale.
For those who like their country houses to look traditional from the outside but prefer a more modern interior then the Grade-II listed, six-bedroom Sandley in Dorset, set in 178-acres, might be perfect – if you have the necessary £9m. The owners decided that the rather ‘quaint’ style of the house was not for them and so they spent ‘a couple of million pounds’ and over two years to strip it back and then make it look very ‘London’. Personal taste is the final arbiter for whether you think this is a good thing – but not all tastes are the same and it can mean that the appeal of the country house is taken to new markets.
However, if your tastes are more usual and traditional then there are other options. Holt Manor in Wiltshire, set in 94-acres, mixes both old and new with a more traditional interior cleverly concealing the latest in sound, television and security systems. With parts dating back to the 12-th century, the Grade-II listed house has been thoroughly modernised whilst still being a recognisably English country house. £5.95m [Holt Manor: Knight Frank]
If, however, you are looking for a more architecturally impressive house, the Ebberly House, near Winkleigh in Devon, could well be the house for you. Designed by Thomas Lee, a student of Sir John Soane, Ebberly was described by Pevsner as an ‘unusual and attractive house’ and was the first to sell in Devon for over £1m when it sold in 1997. The Grade-II* listed house possibly benefited from Soane’s personal influence as he was working nearby at Castle Hill which may explain the elegant, and very Soanian, top-lit oval stair hall with its fine cantilevered wooden staircase and curved doors, or the drawing room divided using three shallow arches. Set in 250-acres it has a wonderful estate featuring 20-acres of woodland, estate cottages generating £20,000 p/a in rental income, and spectacular views across to Dartmoor. It was also given an excellent and detailed write-up in Country Life – always a good seal of approval. [Ebberly House: Savills]
Perhaps one of the most interesting of the houses featured is unfortunately only given a photo and no details is Chapel Cleeve Manor in Minehead, Somerset. Perhaps now not strictly a country house as it only has 7-acres, at £1.695m for 17+ bedrooms, it may seem a bargain for someone who wants to live in a country house but doesn’t want the responsibility of an estate. Although such a situation a hundred years ago could have led to the demolition of the house as happened to so many others. Yet, with so much wealth now generated without the need for a large estate to support the house, it’s now entirely reasonable for someone to take on and enjoy such a pleasing Gothic-Revival house. The house has been used as a conference venue for a number of years but with careful restoration this could be rescued from commercial use and be a spectacular home for someone who requires a lot of space. [Chapel Cleeve Manor: Webbers]
So has the rush started? Nobody really knows and asking estate agents is never an exact science. Several house which have been launched recently are still waiting to find new owners but the right house launched at the right time for the right price usually does find the right buyer.
Full story: ‘The landscape has changed‘ [The Sunday Times: Home section]