Prop­erty Mar­ket

You never know what you might find when you open the front door of a his­toric coun­try house these days

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

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

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