For family-friendly elegance and charm, you can’t beat the classics
ALTHOUGH deemed a tad too ‘plain’ by Pevsner, few houses project the simplicity and elegance of a classic Georgian country house with the aplomb of imposing Seend Park, which stands in some 26 acres of magnificent gardens, grounds and parkland on the eastern edge of the pretty Wiltshire village of Seend, four miles from Devizes and 16 miles from Bath. For James Mackenzie of Strutt & Parker (020–7629 7282), who’s handling its sale at a guide price of £4.5 million and who has seen his fair share of country houses over the years, this Georgian gem is ‘one of very few houses that grow on you a bit more each time you walk through the door’.
According to its Grade II listing, Seend Park, originally known as Seend Green House, was the principal house of the village from the 17th century onwards and is said to date from 1620. In the 1660s, it was owned by John Somner, whose friend the antiquary and diarist John Aubrey was born and reared near Malmesbury and, in 1652, inherited large estates from his father, as well as some complicated debts, which, together with a profligate lifestyle, eventually led to the sale of all his family properties. In a rare moment of generosity, Aubrey wrote of Seend: ‘I know not any small country village that has so many well built houses.’
In 1665, while staying with Somner at Seend Green House, Aubrey became engaged to his host’s sister, Joan, but, within the year, the engagement was broken off, resulting in a further three years of bitter litigation. Fifty years later, in 1716, the house passed to Edward Seymour, later 8th Duke of Somerset, on his marriage to Somner’s grand-daughter, Mary Webb.
Seymour inherited his dukedom and lands in Devon and Wiltshire on his father’s death in November 1750 and, 10 years later, his formidable widow, Mary, Dowager Duchess of Somerset, had Seend Green House rebuilt and extended, notably with the addition of the east wing.
The remodelling is commemorated by the stone crest of the Dukes of Somerset that hangs over the front door and a stone plaque on the east wall inscribed ‘Built by the DGS of Somerset’; the house remained in Somerset hands well into the 19th century.
Further alterations carried out in the early 1800s were probably for the banker C. Tylee, who leased the house from 1820 to 1825.
In the late 1980s, the present owners were looking to move to the West Country from their home in Boughton Monchelsea, Kent. They were looking for ‘a special house’, with no fixed ideas on location, when they fell on Seend Green House, which was back on the market, having been bought by a young couple who failed in their bid to convert it to a country-house hotel. The sale was swiftly completed and, in 1990, the new owners embarked on an inspirational refurbishment of the house and grounds.
Apart from general redecoration and some practical improvements to the layout of the house—such as switching the kitchen and dining room back to their original positions on opposite sides of the building, converting dressing rooms to provide additional bathrooms and incorporating a former sitting room into what is now a substantial library—every effort has been made to preserve and enhance its essential Georgian character and make the most of its glorious far-reaching views towards Salisbury Plain.
All floors, windows, shutters, ceilings and fireplaces are original and gleam with a lustre that reflects decades of devoted care. It was also decided that the house should revert to its 17th-century name of Seend Park.
Although the main house offers 11,357sq ft of light-filled living space on three floors, including five reception rooms, a bespoke kitchen/breakfast room, various utilities, 10 bedrooms and five bath/shower rooms, the option to shut off the five second-floor bedrooms makes for easy living and entertaining when children flee the nest.
The recently renovated, four-bedroom Lodge House, which has been home in recent years to the mothers of both owners, provides a further 1,994sq ft of guest or staff accommodation. The original stable fittings in the pretty coach house (currently used as an office) have been retained and could easily be converted back to stabling for three horses.
However, as Mr Mackenzie points out, ‘it’s when you reach the garden that you really appreciate the magnitude and classical Georgian proportions of Seend Park. The enormous walled garden is divided into rooms, with two rose gardens, a white garden, a topiary garden, a large vegetable garden, colourful herbaceous and lavender borders, two small ponds and a lovely summer house’.
He continues: ‘The remainder of the grounds are laid to lawn, with large trees, a small lake with a waterfall, island and jetty, a semicircular wavy yew hedge and a woodland of broad-leaved trees. The unspoiled fields of 17 acres, with a stream and parkland trees, are edged by Love Lane, a pretty walk from the furthest point of the property up into the village.’
It all adds up to a Wiltshire Arcadia, skilfully created with the help of one full-time gardener and his wife, both of whom would be willing to stay on should a new owner wish them to do so.
Back in the Home Counties, the Horsham office of Strutt & Parker (01403 246790) is handling the sale of another Georgian gem, Grade Ii-listed The Old Rectory at Twineham, West Sussex, at a guide price of £2.35m for the light and cheerful house set in 1¼ acres of easily maintained gardens and grounds.
For much of the past 18 years, the former rectory to Twineham’s 16th-century parish church of St Peter—said to be one of the oldest in the county—has been the treasured family home of Sarah Fiedosiuk, her late husband, Josek, and their two sons, now aged 18 and 20. ‘It seems only yesterday that we were living in London, desperately looking to move out with our two small children when, just as we were about to abandon our search—having been gazumped umpteen times—we spotted an advertisement in Country Life for The Old Rectory and immediately fell in love with it. Now, the boys are off to university and I’m looking to downsize to a smaller house in a village nearby,’ Mrs Fiedosiuk reflects.
Built in the early 1800s, presumably by the Gorings, who were lords of the manor at that time, The Old Rectory stands in an idyllic position within the small village of Twineham, seven miles from the commuter hub of Haywards Heath and 12 miles from Brighton. The house boasts some 4,750sq ft of family-friendly accommodation, including three main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, six bedrooms, three bathrooms and cellars with a games room and wine store. The pretty, part-walled gardens are mainly laid to lawn and include a swimming pool, a sunken garden and an ornamental pond.
A Wiltshire Arcadia: Seend Park at Seend is a classic Georgian house nestling in some 26 acres of gardens and grounds. £4.5m
The floors, windows, shutters, ceilings and fireplaces are lovingly restored originals
Seend Park is ‘one of very few houses that grow on you a bit more each time you walk through the door,’ say the selling agents
Decades of devoted care by the present owners are evident throughout
Grade Ii-listed The Old Rectory at Twineham, West Sussex, is the perfect family home, with easily maintained gardens.£2.35m