Back to the fu­ture

Bring­ing a his­toric house to life can be ful­fill­ing, what­ever stage it’s at

Country Life Every Week - - Property Market -

Launched in last week’s Coun­try Life at a guide price of £6 mil­lion through Sav­ills (020–7016 3820), his­toric, Grade Iilisted ash house at Id­desleigh, north Devon—the fam­ily seat of the Mal­lets of ash from the early 1500s to 1881 —is the most ex­cit­ing small Devon coun­try es­tate to hit the mar­ket so far this year. Set in some 125 acres of lush pas­ture, park­land and wood­land over­look­ing Dart­moor, with the north Devon surf beaches a mere 25 miles away, the clas­sic Devon manor —with its el­e­gant, well-or­gan­ised in­te­rior, loads of bed­rooms, en­chant­ing gar­dens, sta­bling, swim­ming pool and ten­nis court—has ev­ery­thing a sport­ing fam­ily could ever want.

Look­ing at its gleam­ing Ge­or­gian façade, it’s easy to imag­ine this el­e­gant manor house, built, ac­cord­ing to its list­ing, in the early to mid 18th cen­tury, as home to some of north Devon’s most prom­i­nent fam­i­lies. Less ob­vi­ous is the fact that, for well over a cen­tury —from the late 1800s un­til 2004— the build­ing’s es­sen­tial Ge­or­gian char­ac­ter, un­al­tered dur­ing the Mal­let fam­ily’s ten­ure, was largely ob­scured by a num­ber of Vic­to­rian ad­di­tions, which were even­tu­ally re­moved in the course of a painstak­ing restora­tion pro­gramme car­ried out by the present own­ers and their pre­de­ces­sor.

In 1879, the ash es­tate was put up for sale by the mother of Sir claude coven­try Mal­let and bought, two years later, by the in­flu­en­tial ‘Squire’ Smythos­bourne, a JP, Deputy Lieu­tenant of the county and high Sher­iff of Devon in 1900. no sooner had he taken pos­ses­sion than he be­gan mak­ing al­ter­ations to the house, in­stalling a new mansard roof and, later, two prom­i­nent bay win­dows and a con­ser­va­tory on the south front. Var­i­ous out­build­ings and a ser­vice wing were also added to the rear of the house.

For the Smyth-os­bourne fam­ily, life at ash house ap­pears to have re­volved around horses and hunt­ing, a tra­di­tion that con­tin­ued with their suc­ces­sors, the car­leton cow­pers—se­ri­ous live­stock farm­ers, who owned the prop­erty from 1947 to 1972. The house re­mained un­changed dur­ing the ten­ure of sub­se­quent own­ers un­til, in 2000, IVF pi­o­neer Ian craft bought ash house and set out to re-cre­ate the sober Pal­la­dian man­sion of the Mal­lets’ day.

It was a mam­moth un­der­tak­ing, which pro­gressed slowly for al­most a decade, by which time, the outer shell was com­plete. By then, how­ever, Prof craft had be­come se­ri­ously ill and, in 2009, his fam­ily sold the es­tate to the cur­rent own­ers. There­after, they quickly as­sem­bled a team of build­ing, con­ser­va­tion and gar­den­ing ex­perts and over­saw oper-

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