Kiddington Hall sold – but as a home or an investment?

Kiddington Manor, Oxfordshire (Image: Country Life)

After many viewings and some speculation, the Sunday Times is reporting that Kiddington Hall has finally been sold for £15m to Jemima Goldsmith, the wealthy socialite.  The grade-II listed house, originally built in 1673 but largely rebuilt to designs by Sir Charles Barry, comes with 466-acres of gardens and parkland designed by ‘Capability’ Brown.  The Sunday Times quotes a ‘property source’ as saying “It was a romance. She just fell in love with it.”.

The sale was ordered by the court to fund the divorce settlement of the owner, Erik Maurice Robson, who needed to raise £8m to provide for his ex-wife (for a detailed estimation of the likely proceeds see the comments on a previous post: ‘The economics of selling a country house‘).  The estate, described as a ‘jewel in the heart of Oxfordshire’, was one of the most important estates to be launched onto the market last year as rarely do prime estates with a manageable house, fine gardens and a productive estate, come up for sale in the prime Home Counties and this was reflected in the original asking price of £42m for the entire 2,000-acres and house.

However, considering Jemima’s previous successful forays into property development, is Kiddington Hall to be a family home or will she take the advice of some who say that if she spends a couple of million on refurbishment the property could be worth £20m?  It will certainly be one to watch as if it is relaunched in a year or two, it will provide a useful barometer as to the recovery of prime country property.

The sale of the main house will also mean that the sale of the remainder of the estate, encompassing 1,600-acres plus several farms and houses can proceed.  These sales were contingent on the main sale as without the sale of the main house the rest of the estate could not be sold.  The Sunday Times is reporting that Alec Reed, founder of the Reed recruitment agency, is the purchaser.

More details: ‘Jemima Goldsmith jumps on £15m stately home‘ [The Sunday Times]

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]

Lease one of the best Charles II houses in England – but there’s a catch

Ashdown House, Oxfordshire (Image: wikipedia)

If an almost perfect example of a Grade-I listed, Charles II house set in beautiful protected parkland but only an hour from London was available for £4.5m you might think there was a typo.  However, it’s true but there are one or two minor catches.

Firstly, Ashdown House , built in 1661, is owned by the National Trust so your £4.5m only gets you a 60-year lease (or £205 a day if that’s easier).  Secondly, because it’s National Trust, the house is also open to visitors every weekend April to October (approx 2,000 last year) so that they can see the impressive staircase and ascend the 100 stairs to the viewing platform with it’s fine views over the Berkshire Downs.

So, basically, this is possibly the finest second home in the country – although rather than use it at weekends you may wish to be there during the week. The current owner, Mr Max Ulfane, a businessman and well-known philanthropist, has hosted such high-profile events as fund-raising receptions for the Ashmolean Museum.  Alternatively it might be possible to vary the lease to at least exclude some weekends – especially as the lease was offered with the same terms at the same price in May 2009.

*Update* The Sunday Times today (24 January) says that a 83-year lease is available for £5.3m (£175 per day for anyone putting it on expenses) and that the famous artist Anish Kapoor is planning to take a look and it has already been seen by several others including a top executive at Puma.

*Update* – Sept 2010 – The remaining lease has been taken by Pete Townshend of The Who.

Full story: ‘A grand Charles II house fit for a queen‘ [The Times]

Minor fire at Chastleton House, Oxfordshire

Visitors had to be evacuated from the beautiful Grade-I listed, Jacobean, Chastleton House on Saturday 11 July when a small fire broke out in an upstairs bedroom.  Luckily, damage was minor and the house was largely unharmed, but yet another reminder that fire is always an ever present danger.

Full story: ‘Firefighters tackle stately home blaze‘ [Oxford Mail]