The owners of these two historic properties feel it’s time to hand them on to the next generation of custodians
IN A Book of Houses (1890), the eminent Victorian architect Ernest Newton defines the essence of what COUNTRY LIFE might modestly refer to as a ‘smaller country house’, but which most people today would call ‘a good-sized, manageable country home’. ‘A small house,’ Newton maintains, ‘is in many ways more difficult to design than a large one, for while every part must be minutely schemed, nothing should be cramped or mean looking, the whole house should be conceived broadly and simply, and with an air of repose, the stamp of home.’
Two outstanding historic houses, both listed Grade II*, that exude that harmony of design, relaxed ambience and enviable ‘stamp of home’, are Ecclesden Manor, near Angmering, West Sussex—for sale through Savills (020–7409 8869) at a guide price of £2.95 million—and Church Farm House at Barton Stacey, Hampshire, for which Knight Frank (01962 850333) quote a guide price of £2.15m.
Trailing clouds of happy memories for its owner, Sue Holland, whose family home it’s been for 25 years, Ecclesden Manor stands in some 10 acres of landscaped gardens, lakes and light woodland, a mile east of the ancient village of Angmering, on the southern boundary of the South Downs National Park. First recorded in 1324, and still the most imposing building surviving in the Angmering area, the manor is described in Pevsner as ‘a long, low, comfortable, Tudorlooking building; it takes a keen eye to spot the tiny 17th century touches’.
Although its 1954 listing claims that the house was built by John Forster in 1634, recent research suggests that it was more likely the work of three generations of the Baker family, who were landowners and farmers in these parts before 1590. In 1751, the farmhouse, built of brick and knapped flint, comprised the kitchen, hall and parlour on the ground floor, with three main bedrooms above and servants’ rooms on the attic floor. A photograph from 1910 shows the house looking much as it does today, having been extended to the east in the 1870s, when the accommodation apparently included four reception rooms, seven principal bedrooms, eight secondary bedrooms and a billiard room.
By the early 1900s, the manor had been separated from the farmland and was let to ‘gentry’, until, in 1912, the entire estate was bought by Walter Butcher who, according to Angmering historian Francis Skeet, ‘with great care and taste restored the ancient edifice to its former worthiness, as an early seventeenth century manor house’.
Precisely what changes Butcher made to the house are unclear, but today’s accommodation includes all the important 17thcentury rooms, among them the entrance hall, the medieval screens passage, the drawing room/oak Room, the library and the dining room, together with more recent additions, such as the garden room and the kitchen—‘although it took me 15 years to persuade my husband to install a new one,’ Mrs Holland says.
There are four main bedrooms, a dressing room and three bathrooms on the first floor and the attic rooms on the second floor have potential for conversion to five bedrooms or a self-contained three-bedroom flat.
Mrs Holland recalls the enthusiasm with which she and her late husband embarked on the renovation of the house and grounds following their arrival in 1992: ‘First of all, we rebuilt the entire roof, which I’m told is now good for another 100 years. Then, we redid the wiring and redecorated the whole house, especially the Oak Room and the dining room. At the same time, we called in garden designer John Brookes, whom we knew well, to redesign the garden with ease of maintenance a priority. As a result, I can manage the garden on my own —something I thoroughly enjoy.’
She continues: ‘I’ve always enjoyed entertaining and the house lends itself equally well to doing that on both a large and a small scale. However, in the end, owners of historic houses are only custodians for a time—ecclesden Manor has been a wonderful family house and it now needs a family again.’
Across the county border in Hampshire, the Bourne family have been custodians of handsome Church Farm House at Barton Stacey, a pretty village on the River Dever, 8½ miles north of Winchester, since 1933, when the present incumbent’s grandfather bought the house through Knight Frank on his retirement as headmaster of Haileybury. ‘It cost him a year’s salary to buy it,’ the present owner, Jeremy Bourne, reveals.
Mr Bourne’s father was killed in the Second World War, having returned from the West Indies to join the RAF at the age of 17. Although he survived being shot down in a Spitfire, he later lost his life when his Gloster Meteor was brought down. In 1966, following his grandmother’s death, Mr Bourne’s mother bought Church Farm House from the rest of the family and completely refurbished it.
In 1973, the pretty, 19th-century coach house was converted into two separate units, after which the property was run as a successful Wolsey Lodge.
According to local records, the parish of Barton Stacey takes its name from the Saxon period, when it was a Royal Manor of Edward the Confessor. Church Farm House is the oldest house in the village and the heart of the community, with the annual fête luring visitors along the ancient milelong track leading from the village.
The oldest part of the property itself is said to be one of the earliest ‘flat pack houses’ built at Bucklers Hard on the Beaulieu River from old ships’ timbers and carried by ox cart to Barton Stacey, where it was assembled.
The house is impressively timber-framed, with brick, stone and flint walls under
a tiled roof, the old part comprising the massive, two-storeyed late-medieval frame, thought to date from the 15th century. The present building includes late-18th-century additions and alterations and minor additions from the early and late 1900s.
Also listed is the roadside garden wall of plastered cob with a thatched capping, although thatched cottages became a thing of the past in Barton Stacey village itself when, in 1792, a spark from the forge started a major fire that destroyed many of the houses.
Church Farm House was part of Robert Kirkman Hodgson’s Gavelacre estate in 1911, when the house and its adjoining Marsh’s Meadow were sold away from the estate; the rest was sold by his widow to the Wills family in 1924. Little altered since 1966 and now in need of renovation, the main house has 3,748sq ft of living space, including an entrance hall, three reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, a master bedroom and bathroom, four further bedrooms and a family bathroom.
In addition to the coach house, there is a 1,778sq ft, two-bedroom cottage, plus stables and stores with obvious development potential. The grounds, 6¼ acres in all, include a swimming pool, gardens laid mainly to lawn, an orchard, a stream and a copse, plus that most precious of commodities in this part of the world: the large paddock formerly known as Marsh’s Meadow.
Ecclesden Manor, near Angmering, West Sussex, stands in 10 acres of landscaped gardens, lakes and woodland. £2.95m
The present owners have brought the neglected house back to vibrant and comfortable new life since their arrival in 1992
The spacious dining room is one of Ecclesden’s well-preserved 17th-century interiors
The two-storeyed frame of Church Farm House at Barton Stacey, Hampshire, is thought to date from the 15th century. £2.15m