AMONG grand conversions, few can top Swaylands, a fantastic foible in the heart of Kent built and extended by a series of successful Victorians.
Whereas some major redevelopments never quite make the transition from public building to modern apartments – this is particularly true in the case of religious buildings – Swaylands has a history of entertainment and fun which still permeates the atmosphere.
The conversion by Oakdene Homes of this famous house near Penshurst into 28 two and three-bedroom apartments and six houses gives owners the chance to taste a unique piece of British history.
Built in 1842, the house has had an impressive list of owners, starting with William Woodgate who designed Swaylands as a smaller version of his family’s home. Mr Woodgate, a Deputy Lieutenant for the county of Kent, liked to hold lavish parties at the estate.
After selling Swaylands to Liverpool businessman Edward Cropper in 1859, the grounds and house were extended. When Mr Cropper died, London banker George James Drummond purchased the estate and Swaylands’ reputation as a place for lavish entertainment was born.
Mr Drummond’s circle included the Prince of Wales, King Edward VII and Queen Mary, the wife of George V, author J M Barrie and another famous writer of the period, John Buchan, marking the house as a focal point for English society.
Mr Drummond doubled the size of the house and also landscaped the gardens while purchasing more land. In the end the Swaylands estate grew to some 900 acres.
The house was also the inspiration for the title to one of the most famous novels of the English language, Buchan’s The Thirty Nine Steps, originally a flight of sandstone steps in the grounds.
When Mr Drummond died in 1917, the property passed into the hands of a adviser to King Edward VII, Sir Edward Cassell. It became a military hospital during the Second World War and later an educational establishment for boys before lying vacant for 14 years.
Ann Fulker, Oakdene Homes’ sales and marketing director, said: “The Swaylands estate is a spectacular place to live and combines everything from high specification to stunning grounds.”
Prices at Swaylands start from £499,950 for a two-bedroom apartment. Prices for a house in the new-build Clockhouse Mews start from £479,950. INFORMATION:
Oakdene Homes: 01737 249393/ www.swaylands.co.uk
SWAYING OPINION: The stunning Victorian conversion set in 900 acres