Pur­sue a Dorset dream

The county’s sub­stan­tial prop­er­ties of­fer ar­chi­tec­tural style in spades

Country Life Every Week - - Property Market - Penny Churchill

Fol­low­ing the death in May last year of the dis­tin­guished lawyer and for­mer Vice Chan­cel­lor of ox­ford Univer­sity, Lord neill of Bladen, his Dorset fam­ily home, Black­down House Farm at Bri­antspud­dle, 10 miles from Dorch­ester, has been launched on the mar­ket at a guide price of £2.45 mil­lion through Strutt & Parker (01722 344010) and Sy­monds & Samp­son (01305 261008).

The sale of the pic­turesque, 245-acre farm with its sub­stan­tial Arts-and-crafts house built in the 1920s, rep­re­sents the fi­nal un­rav­el­ling of the once-great Bladen es­tate cre­ated by Lord neill’s wife’s grand­fa­ther, Ernest Deben­ham, in the run-up to the First World War.

The pretty thatched vil­lage of Bri­antspud­dle stands along­side wa­ter mead­ows in Purbeck’s tran­quil Pid­dle Val­ley Con­ser­va­tion Area, some eight miles east of the county town of Dorch­ester. The vil­lage takes its name from Brian de Turberville, its 14th­cen­tury lord of the manor, and, in 1683, was owned by Wil­liam Frampton, who united the manors of Throop, Bri­antspud­dle and Aff­pud­dle into a sin­gle es­tate. The lands re­mained in Frampton fam­ily hands un­til 1914, when fi­nan­cial prob­lems forced the sale of part of the es­tate, in­clud­ing the vil­lage of Bri­antspud­dle, to the vi­sion­ary busi­ness­man Ernest Deben­ham, grand­son of Wil­liam Deben­ham, the founder of the Debenhams depart­ment-store em­pire.

Dur­ing his 35 years at the helm of the fam­ily firm be­tween 1892 and 1927, Sir Ernest over­saw a rapid ex­pan­sion of its op­er­a­tions and, by the early 1900s, was a very wealthy man when he de­cided to adapt mod­ern busi­ness meth­ods to farm- ing. His dream was to cre­ate a large-scale, self-suf­fi­cient agri­cul­tural en­ter­prise that would help to re­gen­er­ate the ru­ral econ­omy by in­tro­duc­ing new tech­nol­ogy and cen­tral­is­ing pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion, thus en­abling a larger num­ber of work­ers to live on the land.

Fol­low­ing his ini­tial ac­qui­si­tion of some 3,500 acres across the vil­lages of Bri­antspud­dle, Aff­pud­dle and Turn­er­spud­dle, Deben­ham con­tin­ued to buy land and, at its peak in 1929, his Bladen es­tate—named af­ter

the old form of Blag­don or Black­down, the hill above Bri­antspud­dle—was farm­ing some 10,000 acres in and around the Pid­dle val­ley and pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment for about 600 work­ers.

On re­tir­ing from busi­ness in 1927, Sir Ernest de­voted the rest of his life to run­ning his south Dorset es­tate, the dairy side of which was a no­table suc­cess, go­ing on to be­come part of Ex­press Dairies. In 1931, he was awarded a baronetcy for his ser­vices to agri­cul­ture and, in par­tic­u­lar, his work on model farms.

A sleepy ham­let of no more than a dozen thatched houses when Sir Ernest first bought it, Bri­antspud­dle ex­panded con­sid­er­ably af­ter the First World War, when 40 new thatched cot­tages—many de­signed in the Arts-and-crafts style by Halsey Ricardo and Macdon­ald Gill—were built to house lucky Bladen es­tate work­ers. Each cot­tage boasted a bath­room, an in­door lava­tory, elec­tric light­ing, pumped wa­ter, a quar­ter of an acre of gar­den and a pig pen, so work­ers could pro­duce their own food.

Alas, the post­war years were dif­fi­cult for both busi­ness and farm­ing and the es­tate needed reg­u­lar in­jec­tions of fresh funds to keep it afloat, so when re­ces­sion hit, the funds dried up and the es­tate went into ter­mi­nal de­cline. In 1943, 19 farms were sold off and, by the time Sir Ernest died in 1952, most of the rest had also gone, as had Bri­antspud­dle’s for­mer work­ers’ houses—all now much-prized, pri­vately owned fam­ily homes.

Black­down House, which is un­listed, stands in a com­mand­ing but pri­vate po­si­tion on the edge of the vil­lage, over­look­ing ma­ture gar­dens, park­land cur­rently farmed in hand and, re­flect­ing the Deben­ham fam­ily’s well-known pas­sion for forestry, in­ter­spersed with small wood­land glades and larger blocks of wood­land.

Although lit­tle changed since it was first built and now in need of up­dat­ing, the ap­peal- ing, eight-bed­room house of­fers 5,200sq ft of cheer­ful, light-filled liv­ing space, with im­pres­sive fire­places and wooden floor­ing in the main ground-floor rooms. It comes with a de­tached two-bed­room sta­ble flat, tra­di­tional sta­bling, garag­ing and of­fice space, a se­lec­tion of work­ing farm build­ings with sep­a­rate ac­cess, to­gether with pas­ture and amenity and com­mer­cial wood­land— some for sale sep­a­rately in up to five lots.

A guide price of £2.5m is quoted by the Wim­borne of­fice of Sav­ills (01202 856800) for Nor­bur­ton Hall at Bur­ton Brad­stock,

near Brid­port, an­other un­listed Arts-andCrafts-style house, which stands in five acres of lovely land­scaped grounds on the north­ern edge of the vil­lage, less than a mile from Dorset’s fa­mous Juras­sic coast­line.

It, too, has its roots in the county’s rich soil, hav­ing orig­i­nally been a for­ti­fied farm dat­ing back to the 1640s and known as Squire Brown’s build­ings in 1902, when its owner, Ed­ward Toronto Sturdy, com­mis­sioned his un­cle, the Arts-and-crafts ar­chi­tect R. A. Sturdy, to carry out a ma­jor re­fur­bish­ment.

The project in­cluded the con­ver­sion of a for­mer dairy to an an­nexe on the west side of the house and of a for­mer thresh­ing barn to a res­i­den­tial barn on the north side, plus the ad­di­tion of a wing in­cor­po­rat­ing the im­pres­sive main hall with its carved stair­case and leaded light win­dows.

Clas­sic Arts-and-crafts el­e­ments in­clude some won­der­ful fire­places, plus lots of wood pan­elling and join­ery, coloured glass and mul­lioned win­dows.

The cur­rent own­ers, who bought the hand­some stone house in 2005, have skil­fully but un­ob­tru­sively adapted Nor­bur­ton Hall to the re­quire­ments of a thriv­ing self­ca­ter­ing and B&B busi­ness, con­vert­ing the build­ings sur­round­ing the eight-bed­room main house into five holiday cot­tages, although the com­plex could eas­ily be re­stored to sin­gle or even mul­ti­ple fam­ily ac­com­mo­da­tion, the agents say.

The scenic Blackmore Vale in west Dorset has changed lit­tle since Thomas Hardy im­mor­talised it in his Wes­sex nov­els more than a cen­tury ago. The same time­less qual­ity is part of the en­dur­ing charm of Grade Ii*-listed Chet­nole House in the pleas­ant vil­lage of Chet­nole, eight miles south-west of Sher­borne, a clas­sic Queen Anne-style vil­lage house set in some eight acres of de­light­ful gar­dens and pad­docks run­ning down to the River Wrig­gle, within the vil­lage’s heav­ily pro­tected Con­ser­va­tion Area.

Philip Ri­bon of Jack­son-stops & Staff in Sher­borne (01935 810141) quotes a guide price of ‘ex­cess £2.5m’ for the house (also known as The Court), which was his grand­fa­ther’s fam­ily home for 50 years be­fore be­ing sold to the cur­rent own­ers, who have clev­erly brought it up to mod­ern stan­dards and are now look­ing to down­size.

Built, ac­cord­ing to its list­ing, in the mid 18th cen­tury and ex­tended at ei­ther end in the early 1800s, the house boasts 6,520sq ft of liv­ing space, in­clud­ing an el­e­gant en­trance hall, four re­cep­tion rooms, a fam­ily kitchen/break­fast room, mas­ter and guest suites, three fur­ther bed­rooms and three beau­ti­fully con­verted at­tic bed­rooms.

A pur­chaser will have the op­tion of con­vert­ing the ex­quis­ite, de­tached red-brick coach house that in­cor­po­rates the orig­i­nal stalls, a large open-fronted garage and a twobed­room cot­tage.

Set in 245 acres, Arts-and-crafts Black­down House Farm at Bri­antspud­dle, was part of the once-great Bladon es­tate. £2.45m

Hand­some stone Nor­bur­ton Hall at Bur­ton Brad­stock cur­rently in­cludes a suc­cess­ful holiday let and B&B busi­ness. £2.5m

Queen Anne-style Chet­nole House at Chet­nole has de­light­ful grounds run­ning down to the River Wrig­gle. ‘Ex­cess £2.5m’

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