Coun­try buy­ers keen to get up and go

The wealth of top schools and uni­ver­si­ties is driv­ing de­mand in Buck­ing­hamshire

Country Life Every Week - - Property Market - Penny Churchill

DAMIAN GRAY of Knight Frank’s busy Ox­ford of­fice (01865 790077) is in buoy­ant mood: ‘Al­though oth­ers in the busi­ness seem to think we’re stand­ing on the edge of the abyss, in July, our London of­fices recorded their busiest pe­riod for 12 months, al­though we don’t re­ally know why. Al­ready, this in­creased ac­tiv­ity in the cap­i­tal ap­pears to be hav­ing an im­pact on the coun­try-house mar­ket in Buck­ing­hamshire and Ox­ford­shire, which is largely schools-driven.

‘In Ox­ford, where the de­mand from in­ter­na­tional buy­ers for flats and houses is enor­mous, we’ve been see­ing a new Chi­nese fam­ily look­ing to buy ev­ery 10 days or so. Given the peren­nial short­age of stock in Ox­ford it­self, fam­i­lies who al­ready own flats there but want more space are now start­ing to buy houses in the coun­try within 20 or 30 min­utes’ drive from their city base,’ he re­veals.

‘Schools have al­ways ranked high on the agenda for coun­try-house buy­ers in Buck­ing­hamshire and com­pe­ti­tion for good houses within easy reach of Stowe, Rugby or Tu­dor Hall is still strong. Fur­ther­more, with Sil­ver­stone just across the county bor­der in Northamp­ton­shire, large coun­try houses with land in north Buck­ing­hamshire are also a tar­get for the For­mula 1 fra­ter­nity,’ adds Mr Gray.

He hopes to whet the ap­petites of these and other buyer groups with the launch onto the mar­ket of the im­pec­ca­bly re­stored, Grade Ii-listed Foscote Manor at Maids More­ton, Buck­ing­hamshire—2½ miles from Buck­ing­ham and 28 miles from Ox­ford— for which joint agents Knight Frank (020– 7861 1065) and Sav­ills (020–7016 3713) quote a guide price of £7 mil­lion.

Set in 39 acres of land­scaped gar­dens and park­land a cou­ple of miles north of the univer­sity town of Buck­ing­ham, the manor of Foscote (or Foscott) is listed in the Domes­day sur­vey among lands be­long­ing to the Bishop of Bayeux. Ac­cord­ing to Pevs­ner, in 1639, the prop­erty was ac­quired by Edward Grenville and he’s thought to have built the present house, some say in about 1656. De­scribed as ‘a large square build­ing of stone’, its front is Ja­cobean in style, with a 17th-cen­tury north-east front and a re­built 17th-cen­tury porch.

The Foscote es­tate re­mained with a branch of the Grenville fam­ily un­til the sale of the 2nd Duke of Buck­ing­ham’s es­tates in 1848, af­ter which it passed to Lawrence Hall. His son, also Lawrence, suc­ceeded him in 1866 and it was he who ex­tended the house to the north-west in 1868; his widow had the south-east front re­mod­elled in 1908.

Last seen on the mar­ket in 2009, the pur­chase of Foscote Manor by its cur­rent own­ers was the re­sult of a care­fully planned lo­gis­ti­cal ex­er­cise, in which a line was

drawn around London show­ing suit­able coun­try-house lo­ca­tions within a max­i­mum one-hour jour­ney from the me­trop­o­lis. Foscote Manor’s lo­ca­tion 12 miles west of Mil­ton Keynes with its su­per-fast, 35-minute train ser­vice to London Eus­ton and easy ac­cess to the mo­tor­way network, via junc­tion 14 of the M1 or junc­tion 9 of the M40, surely helped to clinch the deal.

Me­taphor­i­cally at least, not one of Foscote’s mel­low stones was left un­turned in the course of the restora­tion of the house and gar­dens that fol­lowed. The manor’s 11,345sq ft of liv­ing space in­cludes an im­pres­sive re­cep­tion hall, a stair­case hall a fine, or­nate, 17th-cen­tury oak stair­case, a light, triple-as­pect draw­ing room, a splen­did dou­ble-height din­ing room and a full-height oak-pan­elled sit­ting room.

Other well-planned rooms in­clude an in­for­mal din­ing room and a light, mod­ern fam­ily kitchen. Three first-floor bed­room suites in­clude a vast mas­ter suite oc­cu­py­ing the south and west wing with views over the park and two guest suites; the sec­ond floor houses four fur­ther bed­rooms and two shared bath­rooms.

Foscote Manor has been a bliss­ful week­end re­treat for its cur­rent own­ers, but with many fam­ily mem­bers hav­ing al­ready moved on, the time has come to down­size. With lit­tle left to worry about, the next in­cum­bents can make the most of the manor’s many ameni­ties, which in­clude lovely land­scaped gar­dens, sta­bling, a swim­ming pool, a ten­nis court and a two-acre lake.

It may well be that the chronic short­age of high-qual­ity coun­try houses that has plagued the mar­ket in re­cent years could fi­nally work to the ad­van­tage of sub­stan­tial coun­try houses that have been com­pletely ren­o­vated in a style likely to ap­peal to to­day’s younger, more im­pa­tient buy­ers, who are bored with sit­ting on the side­lines and would be more than con­tent to buy the en­tire con­tents of the house if it meant that all they had to do was walk through the door and un­pack their bags.

Ten min­utes up the road from Foscote Manor, Knight Frank are also han­dling the sale at a guide price of £6.25m of The Manor at Lilling­stone Lovell, a beau­ti­fully crafted, 14,657sq ft house set in the mid­dle of its 120 acres of land, six miles from Buck-in­g­ham, seven miles from Sil­ver­stone and 34 miles from Ox­ford.

Here again, the cur­rent own­ers, who bought the prop­erty in 2008, have com­pletely trans­formed the house, in­stalling new ser­vices, new bath­rooms and a vast, new kitchen with an open-plan breakfast area lead­ing out into the gar­den.

The vil­lage of Lilling­stone Lovell is one of the old­est and most un­spoilt in Buck­ing­with

hamshire and its name de­rives from the Old English for ‘Ly­tel’s bound­ary stone’, a ref­er­ence to its prox­im­ity to the Northamp­ton­shire bor­der. Once a part of Ox­ford­shire con­trolled by the royal manor of Kirtling­ton, the vil­lage was trans­ferred to Buck­ing­hamshire un­der the Coun­ties (De­tached Parts) Act 1844.

In 1546, the manor was given by the King to Sir Nicholas Went­worth and re­mained in his fam­ily un­til 1784. The Went­worth fam­ily seat was a Tu­dor man­sion, de­mol­ished when a cousin in­her­ited the es­tate, the foun­da­tions of which are said to be vis­i­ble in dry weather. In the early 1820s, the es­tate was sold to the De­lap fam­ily from North­ern Ire­land and, in 1923, the es­tate was fi­nally bro­ken up and sold off, mainly to for­mer ten­ants. The ear­li­est part of the present manor, which is un­listed, dates from 1744, al­though the main house was built in 1860.

The house, built of lo­cally quar­ried cut stone, is ap­proached through grand en­trance gates along a drive that leads through the deer park and wood­land to a large grav­elled court­yard at the front of the house. Grand liv­ing and fam­ily com­fort are both well catered for in the main ground-floor re­cep­tion rooms; spa­ces for amuse­ment in­clude a snooker room and bar, a cinema, a gym and a wine cel­lar. Up­stairs, a sump­tu­ous mas­ter suite has two dress­ing rooms, a bath­room and a shower room, plus five fur­ther bed­rooms, all with en-suite bath­rooms. A self-con­tained an­nexe is cur­rently used as of­fices.

For prac­ti­tion­ers of eques­trian sport at the high­est level, The Manor boasts mouth­wa­ter­ing sta­bling and train­ing fa­cil­i­ties. The main sta­ble yard, ar­ranged around a large, en­closed stone-paved court­yard, has 14 loose boxes, two hot and cold wash/ so­lar­ium boxes and all the usual tack, feed and stor­age rooms. Nearby is a cov­ered horse-walker and lunge pen and there is an Olympic-sized in­door school, to­gether with a range of mod­ern farm build­ings and two iso­la­tion boxes. Most of the land is laid out as 16 post-and-railed grass pad­docks and within the sta­ble yard are two guest or staff cot­tages.

His­toric Foscote Manor at Maids More­ton is well placed for com­mut­ing by car or by rail as well as the area’s ex­cel­lent schools. £7m

The house’s stylish in­te­ri­ors of­fer a wide range of fam­ily com­forts and amuse­ments, in­clud­ing a gym and cinema room

Re­cently ren­o­vated The Manor at Lilling­stone Lovell is set in 120 acres and of­fers ex­ten­sive eques­trian fa­cil­i­ties. £6.25m

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