Great houses to grow up in
The right home is crucial for happy families, with plenty of room to live and play
AT the height of the country-house boom of the mid 1980s, a glamorous young couple with the world at their feet turned off the A303 towards the Chutes, a group of small rural hamlets on the Hampshire-wiltshire border, some seven miles north-west of Andover. They had come to view secluded Standen House at Chute Standen—at a time when outsiders were still something of a novelty in this quiet country backwater.
Having overshot the well-disguised entrance to the estate, they stopped in Lower Chute to enquire of a gentleman who was quietly pruning his roses where they might find Standen House. ‘Are you from London?’ he asked and, on hearing that they were, added abruptly, ‘in that case, I’m not telling you’ and carried on with his pruning. Undaunted, the pair retraced their steps and soon found the house, which they instantly fell in love with and bought, despite it being in generally poor condition.
Now, 31 golden years on, having completely transformed the imposing, 14,768sq ft country house, surrounded by some 41 acres of immaculate gardens, paddocks, parkland and woodland, they’re reluctant downsizers and idyllic Standen House, listed Grade II, is on the market at a guide price of ‘excess £10 million’ through Knight Frank (020– 7861 1078) and Strutt & Parker (020–7318 5190).
The oldest part of the house is a 17thcentury building erected on the site of an earlier farmhouse, to which was added a parallel red-brick range in the mid 1700s, with a full-height bow window added on the gabled east wall later that century. The original building was reshaped in the early 1800s, when it was raised to three storeys,
embellished with a pediment, and became the centre of the present classically symmetrical, Georgian nine-bay façade.
A north-west wing, with a ballroom on the ground floor, was tacked on in the late 1800s, possibly by Capt Freville Cookson, who bought the estate between 1895 and 1899.
In the course of a major renovation in 1986–87, unsightly Victorian extensions were demolished to the delight of even the planners and the interior was cleverly reconfigured to allow the main downstairs rooms to flow effortlessly around the central reception hall. They include a large westfacing drawing room, an elegant mirrorimage dining room, a large games/music room and a stylish kitchen/breakfast room —the latter upgraded to 21st-century standards some five years ago.
Upstairs, a large, south-west facing master suite overlooks the garden and grounds, with the rest of the first floor taken up by two guest suites, two further bedrooms and two family bathrooms. The second floor provides three further bedrooms, two sitting rooms and two bathrooms. New fittings, including a late-17th-century-style oak staircase, were introduced throughout and the east wing converted to a gymnasium and garaging, with two first-floor studies and an estate office.
Nor was inspiration lacking when it came to the outdoors, where the beautifully maintained grounds have been a source of joy over the years. The formal gardens include two walled gardens: one thatched, with lawns, herbaceous borders, rose beds and a rose walk leading to the swimming pool and the other a knot garden with clipped box hedging, a vegetable garden and walls of espaliered fruit trees. To the north and west of the house is a water garden with a stream and a waterfall flowing into the pond.
For the past 30-odd years, life at Standen House has revolved around horses, so it has equestrian facilities that are second to none. These include a pristine stable yard with not a wisp of hay in sight, a full-size, sheltered outdoor manège and nine postand-railed paddocks protected by a large belt of trees along the western and northern borders of the estate. However, perhaps most appealing of all, in this era of monster farm machinery and uncaring drivers, is the network of bridleways leading directly off the estate into miles of rolling country- side, where three generations of the family have enjoyed riding out together, come rain or shine.
‘I can’t think of a better house to grow up in,’ says Mark Rimell of Strutt & Parker of Georgian, Grade Ii-listed Culver, which is surrounded by 52 acres of dreamy lawned gardens, water meadows and woodland on the edge of the historic east Hertfordshire village of Much Hadham, five miles from Bishop’s Stortford and 30 miles from central London. The agents quote a guide price of £4.675m for the estate as a whole, the heart of which is the impressive 18th-century house, which, according to its listing, was extended to the north in the early 19th century and completely refaced in white stucco in the late 1800s.
A sylvan oasis of calm within 40 minutes of Liverpool Street station from Bishop’s
Stortford, the main house is approached by a long, tree-lined drive that leads through parkland running down to the banks of the River Ash. Beautifully maintained and decorated by the present owners, whose cherished family home it has clearly been, Culver boasts more than 10,000sq ft of light and spacious living room, including a grand reception hall, a gracious 34ft drawing room with carved open fireplaces at either end, two further main reception rooms, a large kitchen/breakfast room and 11 bedrooms on two floors‚the upper floor being ‘a children’s paradise’, according to Mr Rimell.
The gardens are mostly laid to lawn and include, to the north, a lovely, part-walled garden with well-stocked borders and an all-weather tennis court, with an indoor swimming pool nearby. Two paddocks, some 10 acres in all, provide excellent grazing for horses and ponies.
For an altogether more rugged country lifestyle, look north to the Derbyshire village of Hathersage, in the heart of the Peak District National Park, where Chris Charlton of Savills’ Nottingham office (0115–934 8020) is handling the sale of the Shuttleworth family’s picturesque, 55-acre Nether Hall estate on the banks of the River Derwent, launched in last week’s Country Life at a guide price of £2.5m.
The family of distinguished military men inherited the nearby Hathersage Hall estate in the mid 1700s and, since then, seven generations of Shuttleworths have been landowners hereabouts. At that time, Hathersage was a small agricultural village subsisting on cottage industries making brass buttons and wire until, in 1750, Henry Cocker harnessed the water from the river to power a mill for making wire. Other mills soon followed until, in the 19th century, steam replaced water power and Hathersage became covered in a permanent pall of smoke. This eventually led the Shuttleworths to build Nether Hall down by the river to the south of the village in about 1840. Built of the local gritstone under a slate roof, Nether Hall, listed Grade II, incorporates the remains of an earlier 17th-century house on the north side and a striking, three-storey, square tower with its original stone spiral staircase to the south of the main doorway.
Designed to take full advantage of the views, the house offers 7,184sq ft of living space, including four main reception rooms, a large kitchen/breakfast room, a Victorian billiard room, seven bedrooms and a firstfloor studio.
Idyllic Standen House at Chute Standen on the Hampshire-wiltshire border has been cleverly redesigned for family life. ‘Excess £10m’
The house sits in 41 acres of immaculate grounds with superb equestrian facilities
‘I can’t think of a better house to grow up in’: classical Culver at Much Hadham in Hertfordshire is a ‘children’s paradise’. £4.675m
In the same family since the mid 1700s, Nether Hall sits on the banks of the River Derwent at Hathersage in Derbyshire. £2.5m