Prop­erty mar­ket

The en­dur­ing English love af­fair with the Pal­la­dian tra­di­tion is en­cap­su­lated at glo­ri­ous Hen­bury Hall in Cheshire, in­spired by Villa Capra at Vi­cenza

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Penny Churchill

SET against the back­drop of a his­toric 17th-cen­tury land­scape, the ex­quis­ite neo-clas­si­cal Hen­bury Hall near Mac­cles­field, Cheshire, was the re­al­i­sa­tion of a vi­sion long held by its late owner, Se­bas­tian de Fer­ranti. It was en­cap­su­lated in a paint­ing by artist Felix Kelly and bril­liantly ex­e­cuted in per­fect sym­me­try by the em­i­nent coun­try-house ar­chi­tect Julian Bick­nell. Widely recog­nised as one of the most im­por­tant coun­try houses built in Eng­land in the 20th cen­tury, the Hall and its im­mac­u­late, 530-acre es­tate have been launched onto the mar­ket by Sav­ills (020–7016 3780), at a guide price of £20 mil­lion for the whole.

A grand house known as Hen­bury Hall ex­isted in the area in the 1600s. This was re­placed by an­other hall built on the site of the present house in 1742, re­mod­elled in the early 19th cen­tury and dras­ti­cally re­duced in size in the 1850s. Fol­low­ing a dis­as­trous flood in 1872, the es­tate was sold to wealthy lo­cal silk man­u­fac­turer Thomas Brock­le­hurst, who also re­mod­elled the hall.

In 1957, Se­bas­tian de Fer­ranti’s fa­ther, Sir Vin­cent Ziani de Fer­ranti, whose fa­ther founded the Fer­ranti elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing com­pany in the late 19th cen­tury, bought the es­tate from the Brock­le­hurst fam­ily and de­mol­ished the di­lap­i­dated main house, by then rid­dled with dry rot.

The Grade Ii-listed for­mer Ten­ants Hall, built in 1770 and orig­i­nally part of the for­mer man­sion, was con­verted to a house for Sir Vin­cent, who al­ways toyed with the idea of re­build­ing Hen­bury Hall, al­though it was left to his son to re­alise the dream, fol­low­ing his fa­ther’s death in 1980.

Writ­ing in Coun­try Life (Fe­bru­ary 28, 2002), Jeremy Mus­son high­lighted the en­dur­ing English love af­fair with the Pal­la­dian tra­di­tion, which, for lovers of clas­sic coun­try houses, makes ‘a first sight of the great vil­las of the Veneto feel like com­ing home’. For the dis­tin­guished de Fer­ranti fam­ily—an an­ces­tor of which, Se­bas­tiano Ziani, served as Doge of Venice from 1172 to 1178—the Veneto was home. So the con­cept that emerged of an el­e­gant new house in the form of a Pal­la­dian tem­ple set on a com­mand­ing site within Hen­bury’s his­toric park­land made per­fect sense.

In­spired by An­drea Pal­la­dio’s clas­sic Villa Capra (known as La Ro­tonda) at Vi­cenza in north­ern Italy, which served as a model for the early-18th-cen­tury Chiswick House in Lon­don and Mere­worth Cas­tle in Kent, the idea of the new Hen­bury Hall as a ro­tunda, which would make the most of the es­tate’s many splen­did vis­tas, was de­vel­oped by de Fer­ranti and Kelly, who, in 1982, pro­duced an oil paint­ing of how such a house might look.

A year later, in 1983, Kelly in­tro­duced de Fer­ranti to Mr Bick­nell, whose even­tual de­sign for Hen­bury was, ac­cord­ing to Mr Mus­son, ‘a skil­ful evo­lu­tion of the ini­tial idea, meet­ing the am­bi­tions of the pa­tron for a Pal­la­dian

villa that sat­is­fied the re­quire­ments of mod­ern liv­ing… while in­cor­po­rat­ing much of Kelly’s orig­i­nal paint­ing, with four Ionic col­umns to each por­tico, rather than the Pal­la­dian model of six’. Hen­bury Hall’s dis­tinc­tive dome was mod­elled on that of 18th-cen­tury Mere­worth Cas­tle.

With de Fer­ranti’s hand firmly on the tiller at ev­ery stage of the build­ing process, the land­mark new house was com­pleted in 1986 and, the fol­low­ing spring, the fam­ily moved in. Built mainly of French lime­stone with a roof of lo­cal stone un­der its strik­ing lead dome sur­mounted by a lan­tern of gun metal and gilded cop­per, Hen­bury Hall is by no means large in coun­try-house terms, hav­ing lit­tle more than 9,000sq ft of in­ter­nal space, plus 3,300sq ft of cel­lars from the pre­vi­ous house—but what a glo­ri­ous space it is.

In line with the Pal­la­dian tra­di­tion, the ground floor houses the kitchen, util­i­ties, nurs­ery and play­rooms, with the el­e­gant, first-floor pi­ano no­bile cen­tred around a vast cen­tral hall lead­ing to all the main re­cep­tion rooms—the two largest be­ing the din­ing room to the east and the draw­ing room to the west. These richly dec­o­rated rooms, to­gether with the charm­ing li­brary and a pretty sit­ting room with a painted ceil­ing, have im­mensely high ceil­ings and are sep­a­rated from the tow­er­ing cen­tral space by tall, pol­ished-oak doors carved in York by Dick Reid. Still on the first floor, six bed­rooms,

each with its own bath­room, are ar­ranged around a gallery over­look­ing the pi­ano no­bile.

Hen­bury Hall’s 12 acres of breath­tak­ingly lovely gar­dens, which pre­date the present house, are a trib­ute to suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions of de­voted cus­to­di­ans, among them Gilly de Fer­ranti, the present ven­dor and Se­bas­tian’s widow, who has re­stored the Grade Ii-listed walled gar­den, which is now com­pletely or­ganic, grow­ing fruit and veg­eta­bles for the house, along with cut­ting flow­ers. To the west of the walled gar­den is the mag­nif­i­cent pool house, de­signed and built of curved glass by Fran­cis Machin. High­lights of the gar­dens, which are beau­ti­fully laid out around two cen­tral lakes, in­clude ex­ten­sive Vic­to­rian glasshouses by Foster & Pear­son. They are still in use and con­tain many fine and rare spec­i­mens of or­chids and other plants, which are lib­er­ally dis­played through­out the house.

How­ever, true to the English ideal of a ‘proper’ coun­try es­tate, Hen­bury Hall’s pristine 530 acres are no mere show­case for an ar­chi­tec­tural mas­ter­piece. With some 394 acres of farm­land, in­clud­ing park­land and a polo field, to­gether with 108 acres of wood­land, this is a fully func­tion­ing farm­ing and sport­ing unit, with a suc­cess­ful shoot run in con­junc­tion with the neigh­bour­ing es­tate.

Hen­bury Hall, first painted by Felix Kelly then de­signed by coun­try-house ar­chi­tect Julian Bick­nell. £20m

Hen­bury Hall’s tra­di­tional Pal­la­dian in­te­ri­ors in­clude the richly dec­o­rated din­ing room to the east (above) and the el­e­gant first-floor pi­ano no­bile, with its im­pres­sive gar­den view (be­low), both of which are cen­tred around a vast hall

Above: Some 12 acres of breath­tak­ing gar­dens pre­date the present house

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