The captivating Cotswolds
From Cider with Rosie country to beguiling wooded valleys, the area still enchants, with some agents enjoying their busiest summer in years
DESPITE the triple whammy of Brexit, the General Election fiasco and the immovable stumbling block of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), countryhouse buyers currently outnumber sellers in the Cotswolds by a considerable margin, says Atty Beor-roberts of Knight Frank in Cirencester.
‘Not surprisingly, the country-house market went quiet in May and June, then suddenly took off in July and August, with a 15%–20% year-on-year increase in the number of prospective buyers from London and overseas and a 60% increase in those from major UK business centres such as Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Reading and Swindon,’ he reveals. ‘Interestingly, our business has been liveliest for houses between £2 million and £4 million in the north Cotswolds, rather than in the more familiar south Cotswolds hotspots around Cirencester.’
His view is backed up by Damian Gray of the firm’s Oxford office, who maintains that the city of dreaming spires is now the first port of call for cosmopolitan London and overseas families looking to settle outside the capital. According to Mr Gray, they look first at the Oxford area for a variety of reasons, among them easy access to London by road and rail, a sophisticated cultural, sporting and country lifestyle and even proximity to the delights of Daylesford and Soho Farmhouse. However, for overseas and national parents alike, the main goal is usually to find their dream house close to the preparatory or public school of their choice, from among the many high-achieving establishments that are scattered throughout the Cotswolds.
Such considerations will no doubt have played a part in the recent sale of two of the area’s most charming country properties.
The exquisite, Grade Ii-listed Evenlode House, Gloucestershire, advertised in Country Life in May as having 6.4 acres of gardens and grounds, 2½ miles from Daylesford, three miles from Stow-on-the-wold and 27 miles from Oxford, found a buyer at £5m in June through Knight Frank and Strutt & Parker. Then, in July, the latter agent exchanged contracts at £6.2m on the pristine, private Cradle House Farm with 27 acres of land at Wigginton, Oxfordshire, 3½ miles from Soho Farmhouse, nine miles from Banbury and 22 miles from Oxford.
Following the unexpected late burst of summer activity, even houses that had lingered on the market for some time have found new owners. Consequently, competition among new buyers for the few really good houses being launched this autumn is likely to be intense.
Knight Frank in Oxford (01865 790077) is handling the sale, at a guide price of £4.25m, of Grade Ii*-listed Cross Hill House at Adderbury, Oxfordshire, 3½ miles from Banbury, 11 miles from Soho Farmhouse and 18 miles from Oxford (about an hour by train from London Marylebone).
A striking, edge-of-village house, the imposing structure is described in Country
Life (January 14, 1949) as ‘an early doublefronted stone house to which has been applied a three-storeyed Georgian façade, terminating in great solid pilasters’; its Historic England listing refers to a large, mid-18th-century house in the mid-georgian style, probably incorporating earlier features, built of ‘marlstone ashlar’ under a Welsh slate roof and altered in the early 19th century.
In terms both of its village status and the proportions of its principal rooms, this is a big house in every sense, with a total of 9,127sq ft of internal space, including the converted three-bedroom coach house, which is accessible both from its own ground-floor level and from the first floor of the main house. The basement provides another 1,452sq ft of cellars, currently arranged as four rooms.
The accommodation, laid out on three floors and little altered since it was bought by the present owner 50 years ago, is also extremely generous, comprising three large reception rooms, a first-floor study, four bedroom suites, three further bedrooms and two family bathrooms—the whole lit to the front by rows of full-height southfacing sash windows. The house stands in almost six acres of formal and informal gardens and grounds, including two Victorian walled gardens.
‘At present, when buyers see something they like, they ask themselves “how long will we have to wait for something else like this to become available?” and they just go for it,’ says Giles Lawton of Strutt & Parker’s Oxford office (01865 366660), who quotes a guide price of £2.5 million for elegant, Grade Ii-listed Broad Close at Church Enstone, Oxfordshire, three miles from Great Tew and Soho Farmhouse, 4.8 miles from Chipping Norton and 15 miles from central Oxford.
Built in the early and late 18th century in the classic Georgian style, Broad Close was recently identified in the press as the house ‘directly opposite’ the vicarage that was the childhood home of Prime Minister Theresa May during her father’s 12-year stint as vicar. It stands in 1.7 acres of mainly walled gardens on the edge of this quiet Oxfordshire village, surrounded by rolling countryside and close to Heythrop Park.
It offers 3,800sq ft of living space, including three main reception rooms, a kitchen/ breakfast room, four bedrooms and four bathrooms.
The shortage of new country houses coming to the market in the Cotswolds has forced buying agent Rob Fanshawe of Property Vision to venture further and further west in his search for properties that meet the demands of his increasingly frustrated clientele. One recent entrant that has caught his eye is the ‘sublime’, Grade IIlisted Green Close in the pretty village of Snowshill, Gloucestershire, which sits high up on the Cotswold escarpment above the lovely stone village of Broadway and is widely regarded as one of the most idyllic places to live in the north Cotswolds.
Described by Mr Fanshawe as ‘charming beyond belief’, Green Close is being launched in this week’s Country Life, at a guide price of £3.8m through Savills in Stow-on-thewold (01451 832832). Owned by the family of the current vendors for almost 100 years and relatively little altered during that time, Green Close exudes the authentic ‘old world’ atmosphere so rarely found in the Cotswolds these days. Set in some 21 acres of terraced gardens, woods, lake and ancient pasture, it enjoys breathtaking views over the surrounding quintessentially English landscape. An article by Avery Tipping in Country
Life (August 21, 1926) reveals that Green Close was formerly four 17th-century cottages, remodelled to form one house for Mr H. Peech in about 1916 by the architect C. E. Bateman, renowned for his sensitive
restoration of Cotswold vernacular properties. It took great ingenuity to transform the four cottages into one pleasing L-shaped building, whose many original features include great open fireplaces, flagstone floors and mullion windows, all of which sit comfortably alongside the various Arts-andcrafts elements added by Bateman.
This unspoilt Cotswold gem offers 3,563sq ft of living space, including impressive, high-ceilinged reception and staircase halls, two/three reception rooms, main and secondary kitchens, two bedrooms suites, three further bedrooms and two family bath/shower rooms. Further accommodation is provided in a pretty, two-bedroom stone cottage and a two-storey, converted barn. Outbuildings include stores, a wine cellar and a stable yard with four boxes.
‘Traditionally, everything goes quiet in July and, in August, we wonder if all the phones have been disconnected, but not this year,’ says Sam Trounson of Strutt & Parker in Cirencester (01285 627680), who has experienced the busiest two months of his 26-year career as an agent and has manfully survived to tell the tale.
The stars of his current stable of classic Cotswold houses include the unlisted Trillgate Farm at Painswick, near Stroud, in Gloucestershire’s beautiful Slad Valley—the famously magical setting for Laurie Lee’s
Cider with Rosie. For sale at a guide price of £2.5m, the picturesque, 17th-century stone farmhouse was previously owned by the fashion designer and author Cath Kidston, who sold it to the present vendors. It stands in 2.2 acres of beautiful gardens and grounds in a wonderfully private setting overlooking the valley and has 3,337sq ft of unexpectedly spacious accommodation inc- luding three reception rooms, a kitchen/ breakfast room, five bedrooms and four bathrooms; further living space is provided in a former barn, which has been cleverly converted to a huge open-plan studio.
‘Buyers who despair of ever finding their dream country house in the Cotswolds just need to be patient, because nowadays most family houses tend to devolve back onto the market every 5–7 years,’ said Mr BeorRoberts wisely back in September 2013, as he launched pretty, Grade Ii-listed Willowbrook House at Lowerdean, eight miles from Stowon-the Wold, onto the market at a guide price of £4.95 million. Lo and behold, the dreamy, late-17th-century house, set in an enchanted wooded valley grazed for generations by the sheep that made the Cotswolds rich, was sold within a month to its present owner, who is moving on, having further refurbished the house originally remodelled by the legendary Rowena Luard.
This time round, Knight Frank (01285 659771) are joint agents with Strutt & Parker (01285 897614) in the sale of the immaculate, 7,180sq ft house at £4.75m. It boasts 7,180sq ft of well-arranged living space that includes three main reception rooms, an office, a games room, a wine cellar, a grand master suite, six further bedrooms and five bath/shower rooms, plus an annexe currently used as an office and workshop.
The house stands in some 11.4 acres of landscaped gardens, orchards, paddocks and woodland, with amenities including a gym, two stables and a four-bay garage.
Edge-of-village Cross Hill House at Adderbury in Oxfordshire is a big house in every sense and stands in almost six acres of grounds, including two Victorian walled gardens. £4.25m
Classic Evenlode House is just 2½ miles from from Daylesford in Gloucestershire and sold for £5m in June
Wonderfully private Cradle House Farm, with 27 acres of land, at Wigginton, Oxfordshire, exchanged for £6.2m in July
Described as ‘charming beyond belief and in one of the most idyllic places to live in the Cotswolds’, Green Close in the pretty village of Snowshill, Gloucestershire, has been in the same family for almost 100 years. £3.8m
Elegant Broad Close sits opposite the vicarage that was Theresa May’s childhood home in the village of Church Enstone in Oxfordshire. £2.5m
Dreamy, 17th-century Willowbrook House, at Lowerdean in Gloucestershire, is set in a wooded valley and has been remodelled and restored to an immaculate level. £4.75m
Set in Gloucestershire’s Slad valley, the magical setting for Cider with Rosie, Trillgate Farm at Painswick was previously owned by designer Cath Kidston. £2.5m