These three historic village properties are still at the heart of local life
Penny Churchill finds historic houses at the centre of things
HISTORICALLY, as the official residence of a senior churchman who was often wealthy in his own right, the village rectory enjoyed a status second only to that of the manor house, with which it was usually linked. Small wonder, then, that the finest old rectories, invariably built on enviable sites close to the church at the heart of the village, were snapped up by astute buyers when, in the 20th century, the Church found that it could no longer afford the upkeep of such grand houses.
One of Hertfordshire’s hidden gems is elegant, 17th-century The Old Rectory at Hertingfordbury (Fig 1), a small village located just over a mile from the county town of Hertford and 22 miles from central London. Recently launched on the market through Savills (01279 756800) at a guide price of £3.5 million, the substantial former rectory stands within a glorious parkland setting, with landscaped gardens leading down to the banks of the River Mimram. Some experts maintain that the historic
‘Rectories were snapped up by astute 20th-century buyers’
parkland may have benefited from planting undertaken by Humphry Repton on the nearby Panshanger estate in the 1790s. Certainly, the ancient beech trees beside the river have been attributed to Repton.
According to the Victoria County History, the house was originally built in 1638, when Edward Baynes was Rector of St Mary’s, at about the time that Thomas Keightley was building at Hertingfordbury Park. Baynes was a cultivated man, who was evidently influenced by the fashion of of the day for gentry houses with an imposing main façade, good ceiling heights and Classical proportions. The rectory also boasted a milkhouse, a brewhouse, a millhouse and a buttery, yet was never occupied by the rector, who continued to live in a modest house in the village and his grand new house was let to wealthy London merchants.
The early 18th to mid 19th centuries saw the livings in the Church reach the height of their desirability, with the clergy enjoying significant status in society. This was reflected in the style of their houses, which, in the early 18th century, saw The Old Rectory extended to the north, and the rooms at the western end of the house enlarged to provide grander reception rooms and a bedroom with an adjoining servant’s room.
In 1801, Dr James Hook was appointed chaplain to the Prince Regent, later George IV, and shortly afterwards took on the living of Hertingfordbury in addition to his role as Rector of Saddington in Leicestershire. Known, as were many of his clerical colleagues, for being ‘more remarkable for the number of his benefices than for the work he did in any of them’, Dr Hook had The Old Rectory re-fronted in brick and the entrance moved to the east, which allowed him to see parishioners without encroaching on his personal living space.
The next major milestone in the building’s history was the sale of The Old Rectory by the Church in 1929. By then in poor repair, it was bought by Robert Addis, who set up his toothbrush factory in Hertford after the First World War. He carried out a major renovation, installing a new oak staircase and panelling recovered from nearby Essendon Place, which, along with the polished parquet floors, are a striking feature of the house today.
Requisitioned by the Army during the Second World War, the last 60 years have seen The Old Rectory, listed Grade II, cherished by successive private owners and its four acres of grounds enhanced by a judicious planting programme. It offers 6,730sq ft of living space on three floors, with accommodation including four reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, an orangery, a master suite, four double bedrooms and two bath/ shower rooms on the first floor and a further double bedroom on the second.
It’s a fusion of different periods and styles
For sale for the first time in 30 years—at a guide price of £2.6m through the Chichester office of Jackson-stops & Staff (01243 786316)—the enchanting Grade Ii-listed Compton House (Fig 2) is the principal house in the ancient downland village of Compton, near Uppark, in the South Downs National Park AONB. A rare find in an area dominated by major estates such as Goodwood and Cowdray Park, Compton House was remodelled in the Regency period and home in the late 19th century to the wealthy Rev George Augustus Langdale, who was vicar of the parish from 1854 to 1897.
Discreetly located within more than an acre of private walled gardens near the centre of this popular village, eight miles from the commuter hub of Petersfield and 10 miles from Chichester, Compton House has been carefully maintained during the tenure of its present owners. Accommodation on three floors includes three beautifully proportioned reception rooms, a study, a farmhouse kitchen, seven/eight bedrooms including master and guest suites, five/six further bedrooms and three bath/shower rooms.
Outbuildings include a former coach house, stabling and groom’s quarters, suitable for conversion to a range of uses, subject to planning consent. Well-maintained formal gardens include a walled, pergola-covered terrace, a manageable kitchen garden and a walled ornamental garden with a 35ftlong greenhouse.
The earliest surviving houses in the village of Spratton, eight miles north of Northampton, are stone-built farmhouses dating from the 17th century and the converted stone barns attached to pretty Cotfield House (Fig 3), which stands alongside St Andrew’s Church at the heart of the village, are said to date from that period.
The rear part of the house dates from about 1830, when a few wealthy landowners were building larger, often three-storey houses in that part of the village. The front of the house, however, has a Victorian stone façade with a date-stone indicating 1897. As the house is unlisted, there appears to be no record of who remodelled it in its current form, but given its position, a Church connection seems possible.
Approached through wooden gates and bounded by high stone walls, Cotfield House is hugely private and within walking distance of Spratton Hall, one of the region’s most popular day prep schools, described as ‘extraordinary’ in the influential Good Schools Guide.
For sale through the Market Harborough office of Strutt & Parker (01858 433123) at a guide price of £1.675m, Cotfield House has 6,419sq ft of well-arranged family living space, including three main reception rooms, a snug, a kitchen/breakfast room, six/seven bedrooms and four bath/ shower rooms.
‘Like so many period village houses, Cotfield House is a fusion of several different periods and styles and, although this might suggest an inconsistent “feel” inside, in practice, the combination of some striking principal rooms to the front of the house with smaller, but equally useable everyday family space to the rear, represents the best of both worlds,’ enthuses selling agent Edward Brassey.
Fig 1 top and above: Elegant The Old Rectory stands in a glorious parkland setting in the village of Hertingfordbury in Hertfordshire. £3.5m
Fig 2 top and above: Located within more than an acre of private walled gardens, Compton House is at the centre of Compton in West Sussex. £2.6m
Fig 3: Hugely private Cotfield House is in the centre of Spratton village in Northamptonshire and close to local schools. £1.675m