Launched this week ( 23 June 2010) in Country Life magazine is a fine, grade-II* listed, moated manor house set in nearly 250 acres of Hampshire. Open the first set of impressive wrought iron gates and follow the drive down to the ancient moat and through the second, equally impressive, set of white painted gates over the wooden bridge. Before you stands a beautiful red-brick manor house – but why is the house set in one small corner of the island? Why does the drive lead over the moat but unusually not to the middle of the house? And why does that tower look a bit new?
The answer to all these questions is that Beaurepaire House, as it now stands, is what remains of an important and beautiful manor house which burnt down in 1942 after a chimney fire. What happened subsequently is an interesting example of how disaster need not lead to the loss of the whole house or the estate.
Beaurepaire House has royal connections having been visited twice, once by Henry VIII in 1531 and then by his daughter Elizabeth I during her visit to The Vyne. The moat itself dates from 1369 but the original house was built in the 16th-century but was badly damaged during the Civil War and was only rebuilt in 1777. The design of the new Georgian ‘Gothick’ house followed the rare structure of having a square core with castellated corner turrets. There are relatively few examples of these houses – and the ones we have today are all ruined to some degree (Ruperra Castle, Wales / Lulworth Castle, Dorset) or lost entirely (Compton Bassett House, Wiltshire).
At the time of the fire the house was owned by one of the richest men in the country, Sir Strati Ralli, but wartime building restrictions prevented restoration. After the war the estate was owned by Lady Sherfield and in 1965 she decided to restore the remaining servant’s wing as a house and commissioned the well-known architect Tom Bird, who had restored many other country houses, to make the house habitable. Bird decided to add a sympathetic tower, which continued the existing architectural style, to the fire-damaged southern flank of the remaining wing to not only provide structure but also to improve the proportions of what was left. The addition was less than 10% of what remained but successfully ensured that the house was able to rise again from the ashes of the fire to retain the role it had enjoyed for hundreds of years as the centrepiece to an impressive country estate.
Property details: Knight Frank seem to have forgotten to put the details on their website. Nevermind, here’s a link to all the Hampshire houses they’re selling in the hope that they soon add it in: Knight Frank: Hampshire