This lovely house — Grade II-listed — was built four centuries ago, when (no doubt) all around was rolling fields and endless Bedfordshire skies. Today, it’s a couple of hundred yards up a country lane, that comes straight off the main A505 heading from Hitchin to Luton, with a large cemetery just along the road.
So not quite a countryside idyll, then, but at least you know the neighbours will be dead quiet.
Balancing the house and the location is always part of the fun with any property, of course. And if you’re after a place truly in the country, then a thatched cottage such as this one at the other end of the county — a delightful two-bedroom beauty at £435,000 — is really in the middle of nowhere.
According to its Historic England listing, the present Grade II-listed manor house dates from the 17th century or earlier, although the original manor of Morley was one of three Shermanbury manors listed in the Domesday survey.
Restored, enlarged and partly rebuilt over the years, Morley Manor stands in 14¼ acres of pristine gardens, grounds and post-and-railed paddocks, with southerly views to the South Downs.
It offers more than 6,900sq ft of sumptuously refurbished living space, including a large reception hall and four reception rooms.
The equestrian facility includes a stable courtyard with 11 stables, a heated rug room, a horse wash-down bay with hot and cold water, a heated tack room (what bliss!), a separate oak tack room and two first-floor apartments.
In the early 19th century the house kept an extensive library, and the Brontës were regular visitors; many details of the house, particularly the interior, suggest fairly clearly that it was the inspiration for the Lintons’ home, Thrushcross Grange. Anne Brontë was just as inspired as Emily, incidentally: Ponden is also the model for the titular house in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
Ponden Hall is in the village of Stanbury and is even accessed via a lane with a suitably Gothic name: Scar Top Road. It’s huge: there are eight bedrooms, a paddock, four acres of land and a further two-bedroom annexe — ideal for the Nelly who looks after your family, or for use as a potential holiday let to Brontë-mad tourists.
The oldest parts of the hall date to 1541, but most of the house as it stands today goes back to 1634 — and the evidence of its great age is plain to see.
The beams, walls, floors, ceilings, fireplaces and windows are gloriously authentic — and the owners have doubled-down on the effect with some wonderfully inspired furniture choices, especially with the beds. Don’t fret about the fact that you’d struggle to find similar pieces yourself: the vendors are apparently happy sell it on via separate negotiation.
For the past 10 years or more, the manor’s globe-trotting owner and ‘serial collector’, Tony Hill, has painstakingly restored and modernized the quirky, 3,700 sq ft house set in three-quarters of an acre of totally private gardens in the heart of the town, with guidance and advice from Cheshire-based Nigel Daly Architectural Design.
In the rolling countryside of north Oxfordshire, Grade II-listed The Manor House at Chipping Norton has ‘the wonderful homely feel of a house your parents might have lived in for 30 years,’ says David Henderson of Savills in Stow-on-the-Wold.
Stone steps from the hall lead to the light-filled main drawing room with its oriel window and window seat, where bespoke bookcases made from reclaimed elm boards surround the open fireplace. Another flight of stone stairs leads from the inner hall to the dining room with its vaulted ceiling and impressive carved stone fireplace. A large games/media room is used as a home cinema, office and party room.
Chipping Campden is a town charmed by limestone. Its walls dance by the light of the dying day… Chipping Campden’s High Street is best viewed from the covered market of 1627, looking up towards the church tower. The houses are of a creamy local limestone. Walls are offset by grey-brown roof tiles and white woodwork, fronted by foxgloves, hydrangeas and a skirt of lawn.’
The High Street of Chipping Campden is described as ‘the best piece of townscape in Gloucestershire and arguably one of the best in England’, not by the agents, but by Nikolaus Pevsner himself.
The 18th-century, five-bedroom home is awash with period features, such as an oak staircase, fireplaces and exposed beams. The garden planted with hornbeam, yew and box hedging, as well as rose beds and herbaceous borders, leads through to the private parking area with three spaces.
The Cotswolds is a rural area of south central England covering parts of 6 counties, notably Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. Its rolling hills and grassland harbour thatched medieval villages, churches and stately homes built of distinctive local yellow limestone. The 102-mile Cotswold Way walking trail follows the Cotswold Edge escarpment from Bath in the south to Chipping Campden in the north.
The wisteria at Petworth’s private garden is simply astonishing. Non Morris takes a look at how it’s done, with pictures by Val Corbett.
The beautiful pergolas in the Cloister Garden are trained with Wisteria floribunda Alba, a white Japanese wisteria selected for the tantalising length of its racemes — up to 24in — and the way the flowers open gradually along the stem, which prolongs its flowering period. The wisteria is pruned once only, in September.
First published in 1897, Country Life is itself a late-Victorian institution. What could be more appropriate, therefore, than to celebrate this anniversary with a collector’s issue of articles and photographs from the magazine’s archives?
An opening timeline offers an overview of the Victorian Age, but the focus of what follows is exclusively architectural. The coverage of country houses has always been central to the magazine, but it can also claim to have been a pioneer in the study of Victorian architecture through the work of two former Architectural Editors, Mark Girouard and Michael Hall.
This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, respectively in May and August, 1819. Their marriage 21 years later in 1840 was long arranged and, after a difficult beginning, grew to be unexpectedly happy. With perfect symmetry, it lasted 21 years, until Prince Albert’s early death in 1861.