Prop­erty Mar­ket

A closer look at the Sur­rey Hills could re­veal beau­ti­ful houses with in­trigu­ing pasts

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Penny Churchill

Penny Churchill finds gold deep in the Sur­rey Hills

One of the first ar­eas in eng­land to be des­ig­nated an AONB back in 1958, the 163sq mile Sur­rey Hills AONB cov­ers a quar­ter of the county, from close to Farn­ham in the west to Oxted in the east and from Leather­head in the north to Ock­ley in the south. Despite the mil­lions of tourists who flock an­nu­ally to beauty spots such as Box Hill near Leather­head, or Leith Hill, near Dork­ing—at 965ft above sea level, the high­est sum­mit of the Aonb—their wooded slopes hide many ar­chi­tec­tural gems that no stranger ever sees, tucked away as they are at the end of their long tree­lined drives.

‘The slopes hide many ar­chi­tec­tural gems’

Two such houses are Grade IIlisted Fred­ley Manor at Mick­le­ham, near Dork­ing, at the north­ern edge of the AONB, and Shoot­lands House at Abinger Com­mon, just over five miles to the south as the crow flies, both of which have come to the mar­ket through Sur­rey agents Grant­ley (01483 407620) at guide prices of £4 mil­lion and £3.5 mil­lion re­spec­tively.

The present Fred­ley Manor was orig­i­nally a cot­tage on the an­cient Fred­ley Manor es­tate, which was sold many times be­tween 1571 and 1803, when the son of the then owner, David Jenk­in­son, de­scribed as a ‘lot­tery agent’, died and the es­tate was sold off in three parts. The cot­tage and the lands sur­round­ing it, then known as Fred­ley Farm, were bought by Richard Sharp, who made his for­tune as a hat­ter and West Indies trader in Lon­don. A man of many clubs and so­ci­eties, his ready wit and so­cial tal­ents earned him the nick­name ‘Con­ver­sa­tion Sharp’ and the friend­ship of the lead­ing lit­er­ary and po­lit­i­cal lights of the day.

Sharp di­vided his time be­tween his Park Lane house in Lon­don and his gen­tri­fied ‘cot­tage home’ at Fred­ley, where, be­tween 1797 and 1835 —the year he died—he en­ter­tained an eclec­tic mix of writ­ers, po­ets, sci­en­tists, politi­cians and le­gal giants, among them Sir Wal­ter Scott, Wil­liam Wordsworth, Sa­muel Co­leridge, Michael Fara- day, Sir Humphrey Davey, Lord Ma­caulay and the un­for­giv­ing Lord Chief Jus­tice Jef­fries, to name but a few.

In the early 1800s, Sharp, who never mar­ried, adopted Maria Kin­naird, who was born on the Caribbean is­land of St Vin­cent and or­phaned by a vol­canic erup­tion. She went on to in­herit the bulk of Sharp’s prop­erty, in­clud­ing a fine house in Lon­don and the es­tate at Fred­ley, where she died in Jan­uary 1891.

Given ev­ery so­cial, ed­u­ca­tional and cul­tural ad­van­tage by her adop­tive fa­ther, Maria mar­ried army sur­veyor Thomas Drum­mond in 1835 and went to be­come a lead­ing Society host­ess, following Sharp’s tra­di­tion of en­ter­tain­ing the great and the good at Hyde Park Gar­dens and at Fred­ley in the years be­tween 1843 and 1891.

The good times rolled again be­tween 1970 and 1990, when the Aus­tralian-born novelist, film di­rec­tor and pro­ducer James Clavell owned Fred­ley Manor. When in Eng­land, the much-trav­elled au­thor of best­sellers such as King Rat, Tai-pan, Shogun,

No­ble House and Whirl­wind, en­ter­tained gen­er­ously at his Sur­rey coun­try manor. Film and TV leg­ends such as Roger Moore and Larry Hag­man were reg­u­lar vis­i­tors, as were high-pow­ered ex­ec­u­tives from ma­jor Hol­ly­wood film stu­dios, who re­put­edly en­joyed some wild times within Fred­ley’s se­cluded grounds.

The cur­rent own­ers of Fred­ley Manor, James and Cherry Fuller, who bought the house with 20 acres of gar­dens, pad­docks and wood­land in 1995, tact­fully de­scribe its con­di­tion at the time as be­ing ‘not bad’. Since then, how­ever, they have car­ried out a sub­stan­tial ren­o­va­tion and ex­ten­sion of the house, which of­fers 5,464sq ft of stylish liv­ing space, in­clud­ing five good re­cep­tion rooms, a kitchen/ break­fast room, a fam­ily room, a study, and six bed­rooms on two floors (four with en-suite bath­rooms).

The gar­dens—mrs Fuller’s area of spe­cial in­ter­est—have been trans­formed from a wilder­ness into a won­der­ful land­scape of large lawned ar­eas, stone-flagged ter­races, box hedg­ing and herba­ceous bor­ders, all af­ford­ing spec­tac­u­lar views of Box Hill. Leisure ameni­ties in­clude a shel­tered out­door pool, a hard ten­nis court and a grass ten­nis court/cro­quet lawn.

‘An oa­sis in the mid­dle of the woods’ is owner Mar­garet Yule’s de­scrip­tion of Shoot­lands House at Abinger Com­mon, her much-loved Sur­rey Hills home of the past 40-odd years. She and her late hus­band bought the house with 3½ acres of gar­dens and grounds from her cousin in 1975, when the lat­ter ac­quired the sur­round­ing 100-acre farm­ing es­tate with a view to es­tab­lish­ing a rare-breeds op­er­a­tion. In 1990, they man­aged to buy a pre­cious, ad­di­tional 26 acres of land around the house when her cousin went off to Scot­land to breed red deer.

Shoot­lands House, which is un­listed and may have been built as a hunting lodge for a mem­ber of the Nor­folk fam­ily, was de­signed in 1933–34 by the pro­lific coun­try-house ar­chi­tect Oswald Par­tridge Milne. Ar­ti­cled to Sir Arthur Blom­field from 1898 to 1901, he re­mained as his as­sis­tant un­til 1902, when he joined the of­fice of Ed­win Lu­tyens.

Ar­guably the most suc­cess­ful of all Lu­tyens’s as­sis­tants, Milne’s work in­cludes Hun­ter­scombe Place in Ox­ford­shire, Sprow­ston Court in Nor­folk and Co­le­ton Fishacre in Devon—the lat­ter for the D’oyly Carte fam­ily, for whom he worked at both The Savoy and Clar­idge’s.

The following de­scrip­tion of Shoot­lands ap­peared in The Builder on Septem­ber 7, 1934: ‘The house is built on an at­trac­tive site, high up, near Leith Hill. The out­side is lo­cal stone, dug on the site. Sash win­dows are gen­er­ally used. Some of the rooms are pan­elled in pine. The roof is of hand­made red tiles. The Builders were Messrs Mills & Sons of Farn­ham. Mr Oswald P. Milne is the ar­chi­tect.’

As sell­ing agent Michael Oury points out: ‘A fine ex­am­ple of the mod­ern, stream­lined, neo-ge­or­gian style, Shoot­lands has re­mained un­changed apart from the con­ser­va­tory added by the cur­rent own­ers, and projects a per­fect, stylish 1930s interior.’

Set at the end of a long sweep­ing drive, the house of­fers some 5,400sq ft of el­e­gant, un­clut­tered liv­ing space on three floors, with southerly or dual-as­pect views over the gar­dens, pad­dock and wood­land from all the main re­cep­tion rooms and bed­rooms. The ground-floor ac­com­mo­da­tion in­cludes a splen­did draw­ing room with an ad­join­ing mu­sic room, a for­mal limed-pan­elled din­ing room, a sit­ting room, a kitchen/break­fast room and a con­ser­va­tory.

A pan­elled hall and stair­case lead to the master suite and four fur­ther first­floor bed­rooms. The sec­ond floor houses two fur­ther bed­rooms, a bath­room and a 29ft games room.

Dur­ing her ten­ure, Mrs Yule has ‘de­for­malised’ the gar­dens at Shoot­lands, which now re­quire min­i­mal main­te­nance, while al­low­ing max­i­mum ap­pre­ci­a­tion of its mag­nif­i­cent wood­land views.

If walls could talk: el­e­gant Fred­ley Manor at Mick­le­ham has played host to the great and the good of sev­eral ages. £4m

‘An oa­sis in the mid­dle of the woods’: Shoot­lands House, at Abinger Com­mon, makes the most of its spec­tac­u­lar views. £3.5m

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