Prop­erty Mar­ket

Al­though not grand, these three fam­ily houses boast a wealth of his­tory

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Penny Churchill

Penny Churchill finds a house needn’t be grand to have a his­tory

ENG­LAND’S great houses are not the sole cus­to­di­ans of the coun­try’s past. This week, three lesser-known fam­ily houses re­veal in­trigu­ing as­pects of the coun­try’s rich and var­ied his­tory.

English his­tory is the stock in trade of royal em­broi­derer Rhoda Nevins, whose feet have barely touched the ground these past few years, as she’s gone from work­ing on one high-pro­file em­broi­dery project to an­other. Hav­ing trained at lon­don’s Royal School of Needle­work, what started out as a hobby has led to the cre­ation of a re­mark­able col­lec­tion of the em­broi­derer’s art, in­clud­ing her pièce de ré­sis­tance, the mag­nif­i­cent, 12-panel Magna Carta Em­broi­dery de­signed to com­mem­o­rate the 800th an­niver­sary of the sign­ing of the Magna Carta.

The project, com­pleted in June 2015, in­volved the par­tic­i­pa­tion of 12 vol­un­teers, most of whom she met while work­ing on her Guild­ford Em­broi­dery, which she pre­sented to the city in mem­ory of her late hus­band, Mike, who was mayor in 2007–8. To date, other ca­reer high­lights have in­cluded be­ing part of the team that em­broi­dered The duchess of Cam­bridge’s wed­ding dress and the Ju­bilee vest­ments cre­ated for the Bishop of South­wark and his area bish­ops.

The same level of cre­ativ­ity and at­ten­tion to de­tail is ev­i­dent through­out The Mill House at Pir­bright, Sur­rey (Fig 1), the Nevins fam­ily home of the past 20 years, which is cur­rently for sale through Knight Frank (01483 565171) and Sey­mours (01483 228723) at a guide price of £1.595 mil­lion. Mrs Nevins and her late hus­band shared a pas­sion for the in­dus­trial her­itage of their de­light­fully quirky house, listed Grade II, which dates from the 17th cen­tury, with 18th- and 19th-cen­tury al­ter­ations and ad­di­tions, and was a work­ing wa­ter­mill un­til 1939.

Com­pris­ing three dis­tinct parts— the orig­i­nal, cen­tral, tim­ber-framed mill build­ing refaced in 1780, the 18th­cen­tury, red- and blue-brick miller’s house and a two-storey, 19th-cen­tury barn ex­ten­sion—the Mill House boasts a wealth of orig­i­nal fea­tures, in­clud­ing stone floors, ex­posed tim­bers, leaded-light win­dows and im­pres­sive fire­places, many of them sourced by the Nevinses them­selves.

At the heart of the build­ing is the heav­ily beamed down­stairs sit­ting room, which houses the cogs and wheels of the re­stored mill ma­chin­ery, be­yond which an in­ner hall ac­com­mo­dates the huge wa­ter wheel bear­ing the name of the man­u­fac­turer, Brooks and Shoe­bridge of Guild­ford, one of whose for­mer chair­men was, co­in­ci­den­tally, the great-great-grand­fa­ther of the present owner. Still in me­chan­i­cal mode, stairs rise around the mill wheel to the first-floor draw­ing room, where the top work­ings of the mill are an­other point of in­ter­est.

In all, the house of­fers 4,374sq ft of liv­ing space, in­clud­ing three re­cep­tion rooms, a master suite, three bed­rooms, two bath­rooms and a mez­za­nine-level work­room/fifth bed­room in what was prob­a­bly the orig­i­nal grain store. A fur­ther 1,123sq ft of pe­riod out­build­ings in­cludes a splen­did El­iz­a­bethan barn, which could be adapted to a va­ri­ety of al­ter­na­tive uses.

Al­though the house it­self un­der­went a ba­sic makeover by pre­vi­ous own­ers in the 1980s, the prop­erty’s 1.9 acres

‘The Mill House boasts a wealth of orig­i­nal fea­tures

‘on A sweet carv­ing of a dog and stag the sill’

of en­chant­ing gar­dens—a fo­cal point of which is the for­mer millpond, stream and wa­ter­fall—are en­tirely down to years of work and plan­ning by Mr and Mrs Nevins, Tim Har­riss of Knight Frank re­veals.

Un­like many ru­ral set­tle­ments in Suf­folk, which dwin­dled or dis­ap­peared when the glory days of the medieval wool trade fell away, the pretty vil­lage of Parham, near Fram­ling­ham, ‘is thick with tim­ber-framed houses, some much grander than oth­ers’, wrote the late Can­dida Lycett Green, who sin­gles out Church Farm

(Fig 3) on the cross­roads as be­ing ‘par­tic­u­larly sump­tu­ous’, with ‘a sweet carv­ing of a dog and stag on the sill of one of its case­ment win­dows’.

Years ear­lier, an ar­ti­cle in Coun­try

Life (Septem­ber 25, 1958) com­mented on the pres­ence through­out the house of a re­mark­able col­lec­tion of 17th-cen­tury painted over-man­tels —some­thing rarely seen in small vil­lage houses.

Rarer still is the fact that, since then, lit­tle has changed at Church Farm, which has been home to its present fam­ily for the past 60 years, and is now for sale through the Ip­swich of­fice of Jack­son-stops & Staff (01473 218218) at a guide price of £650,000.

That fig­ure takes ac­count of the ad­di­tional bud­get of £200,000 that would prob­a­bly be needed to fully ren­o­vate and mod­ernise the house, says sell­ing agent Jonathan Penn, who main­tains, how­ever, that re­pairs car­ried out in the 1980s have made the house ‘per­fectly hab­it­able as it is’, at least in the short term.

Built, prob­a­bly as a dower house, in about 1450 by the Wil­loughby fam­ily, who were lords of the manor of Parham, and em­bel­lished by later fam­ily mem­bers in the 17th and 18th cen­turies, Church Farm, listed Grade II*, stands in some two acres of se­cluded gar­dens and grounds that in­clude a ‘spong’ (old Suf­folk word for a nar­row strip of land) of ma­ture wood­land run­ning along the bank of the River Ore, which flanks the south­ern bound­ary.

The farm­house’s 4,000sq ft of ac­com­mo­da­tion on three floors in­cludes three ground-floor re­cep­tion rooms, a large, cen­tral, first-floor draw­ing room with a fine moulded ceil­ing and wide oak floor­boards, four bed­rooms and two bath­rooms, with a fifth bed­room and bath­room on the sec­ond floor. Ly­ing along­side the main house is a range of tra­di­tional brick and tim­ber build­ings ar­ranged around a cov­ered yard, with po­ten­tial for con­ver­sion to res­i­den­tial or of­fice build­ings, sub­ject to listed-build­ing and plan­ning con­sent.

Sur­rounded on all sides by the rolling acres of the Iliffe fam­ily’s Yat­ten­don es­tate of which it was once a part, his­toric Man­stone Farm at Yat­ten­don, Berk­shire (Fig 2), dates from the 17th cen­tury, when it was re­put­edly the scene of a Civil War skir­mish in the af­ter­math of the Sec­ond Bat­tle of New­bury.

For the past 33 years, the im­mac­u­late com­plex of pe­riod farm build­ings— which in­cludes the four-bed­room main farm­house, a sep­a­rate two-bed­room guest cot­tage, a mag­nif­i­cent tithe barn with plan­ning con­sent for con­ver­sion to a five-bed­room house and a fur­ther open barn—has been the fam­ily home of its cur­rent owner, who is now look­ing to down­size.

For sale through the Hunger­ford of­fice of Knight Frank (01488 682726) at a guide price of £2m, the pretty, 2,720sq ft farm­house—clev­erly ex­tended by the own­ers—has ‘views to die for from ev­ery win­dow’.

Its lo­ca­tion, within easy reach of New­bury, Pang­bourne and Read­ing, makes it an ideal tar­get for grow­ing fam­i­lies mov­ing out of Lon­don for school­ing or life­style rea­sons.

Fig 1 above and below: The Mill House at Pir­bright in Sur­rey re­flects the cre­ativ­ity and eye for de­tails of its own­ers, es­pe­cially in how they have in­cor­po­rated the for­mer mill’s ma­chin­ery. £1.595m

Fig 2: With ‘views to die for’, Man­stone Farm, at Yat­ten­don, Berk­shire, is ide­ally lo­cated for fam­i­lies. £2m

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