You never know what you might find when you open the front door of a historic country house these days
Penny Churchill finds the perfect mix of Classical with contemporary
LAUNCHED on the market in this week’s Country Life at a guide price of £3.95 million through Savills Country department (020–7016 3713), Grade Ii-listed Missenden House (Fig 1) at Little Missenden, two miles from the historic market town of Old Amersham, Buckinghamshire, represents the surprisingly happy marriage of classic, 18thcentury architecture and contemporary interior design.
Built in 1729 as a four-square Georgian ‘box’ for Jonas deacon, a wealthy east India merchant, Missenden House was extended some 20 years later and again in about 1850, when its most durable resident, Capt John Otway Cuffe, added the 1½-storey west wing. He died in december 1899, leaving the house to his widow, after which it passed through a number of owners, before being split into several units in the 1950s.
The present owners, who have lived there since 1994, have reinstated the landmark, double-fronted house as one residence and undertaken a recent remodelling of the house and gardens. The main house now offers two separate, self-contained annexes, one connecting to the ground-floor accommodation and the other, incorporating store rooms and a wine cellar, on the lower-ground floor. In all, it boasts more than 9,000sq ft of living space, including five/six reception rooms, five first-floor bedrooms with four bath/ shower rooms and three second-floor bedrooms with two bath/shower rooms.
Although decorated and furnished in uncompromisingly Minimalist style, with brilliant blue the dominant colour throughout, the streamlined interior underlines the elegance and fine proportions of the original Georgian reception rooms. The drawing room and dining room have matching bay windows with traditional shutters, feature fireplaces, ornate cornicing and wood panelling. In contrast, the state-of-the-art kitchen in the centre of the house has sleek lines in stainless steel with blue-pearl granite worktops. To the rear, doors lead through a spectacular stainless-steel and glass conservatory to the patio and the beautifully landscaped side garden.
The gardens of Missenden House have been laid out by the owners in a series of garden rooms. The front garden has a traditional lawn, herbaceous planting and ornamental trees, bounded by yew hedges; the new east wing garden designed around Welsh slate menhirs, features spring bulbs and roses. To the north, a new potager garden is a mix of flowers, fruit and vegetable beds, again bounded by yew hedges, and the inspiration for a Zen garden next to a pond on the south-east side of the house was apparently ‘borrowed’ from a design by Christopher Bradley-hole.
The picturesque village of Little Missenden lies within the glorious Misbourne Valley, the least developed of the five ‘troughs’ that split the Chiltern Hills, mainly because, unlike other Chiltern valleys, major landowners in the area declined to sell land for development when the railway arrived in the late 1880s. Ironically, the biggest threat now to this wonderfully unspoilt AONB is the impending arrival of HS2, although Missenden House will remain largely unaffected, says selling agent Hugh Maconochie, who points out that the route of the proposed line near Little Missenden will run through a tunnel on the opposite side of the A413.
When property-fund manager Alistair Calvert and his wife, Amelia, an equine physiotherapist, bought idyllic, Grade Ii-listed The Mill House (Fig 2) at Gibbons Mill, near Rudgwick, West Sussex, in February 2011, it was to be their ‘forever house’, where they expected to see out their days in gentle rural seclusion.
‘Rooms of elegance and fine proportions’
Six years on, however, now that they have completed a total renovation and refurbishment of the part-timberframed former mill, built in 1766, Mr Calvert’s business has expanded to the point where a family move to Jersey is imminent. As a consequence, their delightful home, which combines the charm of the old with the latest and best of the new, is on the market through Savills (020–7016 3822) at a guide price of £3.75m.
Set in some 12 acres of landscaped gardens, pasture and light woodland, The Mill House is approached from a shared farm road via a sweeping gravel drive, with a separate spur leading to the guest cottage, farm buildings and stables. Despite its local significance, the house is unlisted, which made it easier to open up and rearrange the ‘very dated’ interior that greeted the Calverts on their arrival.
Much has changed, and key elements of the mill’s 5,800sq ft of accommodation, which includes five reception rooms, six bedrooms and five bath/ shower rooms, are the cosy, oak-panelled snug, the orangery, with its glasscovered well and French doors leading to the terrace, and the spacious, beautifully fitted family kitchen— clearly the heart of the house.
Although daunted at the prospect of leaving her ‘forever house’, Mrs Calvert has come to terms with reality by compiling a detailed history of The Mill House, an impressive document she plans to leave for the new owners so they can add their own chapter. It chronicles the ownership of the house from 1766, when it was built by landowner Richard West, to, among others, the Churchman family, owners from 1808 to 1907, after which it was bought by wealthy Scottish ship-owner Robert Henderson and Paul Adorian, chairman of Rediffusion, who owned it from 1957. In the 1970s, when home to Bonnie Tyler’s manager, the house was known to the pop fraternity as ‘The Club’, a reference to the wild, debauched parties that took place. Things are much quieter there now.
Old and new sit cheek-by-jowl at Grade Ii-listed Wormley Hill House
near Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, where, behind its inscrutable Edwardian façade, the current owners have completely remodelled the interior, which now has a distinctly Scottish flavour. Hardly surprising, perhaps, given that the owner hails from Scotland and now plans to buy a house in Edinburgh—hence the sale of Wormley Hill House through Strutt & Parker (020–7318 5025) at a guide price of £3.5m.
Originally built as a private house, later in the 20th century, it was used as a children’s home and, by the early 1990s, was in a state of disrepair, reverting to private use in 1995, at which point an extensive conversion programme was carried out. The present vendors took over in 2003/4, when the whole house was renovated, including re-wiring and re-plumbing throughout. More recently, the kitchen/ sitting room/breakfast room was redesigned, creating a magnificent family space, with bi-folding doors opening onto the heated paved terrace —perfect for summer entertaining. Of particular note is the sumptuous drawing room, with its open fireplace.
Wormley Hill House stands in 3.2 acres of mature gardens and grounds and has 8,150sq ft of accommodation, including four main reception rooms, eight bedrooms, six bathrooms and a one-bedroom cottage.
A heated, paved terrace is perfect for entertaining’
Fig 1 above and below: Elegant Missenden House, at Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire, mixes classic with contemporary. £3.95m
Fig 3 above and right: The Edwardian façade of Wormley Hill House, at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, belies its modern interior. £3.5m
Fig 2 top and above: The Mill House, at Gibbons Mill in West Sussex, has been impeccably refurbished. £3.75m