Wilby Hall is believed to have been built by Sir Thomas Lovell and lived in, among others, by Sir Robert Wilton, a friend of Oliver Cromwell, who is thought to have stayed at Wilby Hall during a visit to Norwich.
Of special interest to lovers of historic houses is the fact that, throughout its existence, successive custodians — including Russell — have taken care to conserve the many original features of the 6,183sq ft hall, which offers accommodation on three floors, each room having a specific purpose.
Of particular note are the impressive drawing room, the delightful sitting room with its distinctive wallpaper and handsome fireplace, the cheerful kitchen/breakfast room and the charming library.
Wilby Hall is approached from the east along a sweeping, tree-lined gravel drive that allows tantalising glimpses of the splendid brick-built house. To the north of the main building is an Elizabethan walled garden, formally landscaped with box and yew hedging, yew topiary, herbaceous beds, a pond and ornamental trees. A south-facing garden comprising a large expanse of lawn stretches to the moat that borders the lawns from east to west, with mature broadleaf woodland beyond.
The landmark Skerryvore House at Newquay, a substantial 1930s villa built on a one-acre site overlooking the town’s famous Towan surf beach, with dramatic views along the coast from Newquay Harbour to Stepper Point.
In its current form, Skerryvore House provides an entrance hall, sitting room, dining room, kitchen/breakfast room and a bedroom wing with three double bedrooms, all en suite, on the ground floor, plus two further large bedrooms on the second floor.
The grounds offer parking, lawned gardens, decking and hot tub, a studio/workshop and an adjoining one-bed apartment.
As dramatic as it is, it’s not quite unique. From the top of the cliff a tiny footbridge dangles above the sand to another rocky outpost, on top of which lies another house.
Hillfield House was once home to Gloucester’s Trading Standards officers — not that you’d know it to see the place today. Toby Keel takes a look.
This Grade II-listed building, in the Wotton area just north of Gloucester’s centre, was built in the 1860s and is filled with period touches, from the fireplaces and ornate cornicing to stone pillars and the extraordinary stained glass windows.
Just as grand is the first floor, accessed by a stone staircase, lit from a skylight above and ringed by an ironwork balustrade that looks out onto the space below. All your fantasies of hosting a Bridgerton-style ball can finally be fulfilled.
For all this grandeur, the living rooms themselves do offer cosier, more intimate nooks. Off the main hallway and the corridor beyond are a drawing room, sitting room, study, kitchen-breakfast room and seemingly-endless series of reception rooms.
Barnes played a role in everything from the invention of football to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. Carla Passino takes a closer look.
Until an army of 19th-century engineers descended on Barnes to build bridges and railways, this was a world apart, a rural idyll preserved intact by the Thames that bounds it on three sides.
Mentioned in the Domesday Book, the village had made history even earlier, when it was granted by King Æthelstan to the canons of St Paul in the 900s. The link between Barnes and St Paul’s persists more than 1,000 years on, as the Dean and Chapter owns one of the local gems: 122-acre Barnes Common.
Today, its woodland and acid grass-land are an oasis for hedgehogs, bats, butterflies and Nature-starved Londoners, but, for many centuries, they were home to grazing cattle. The livestock even became embroiled in a dispute between Barnes and neighbouring Putney in 1589, when ‘the men of Barnes refused to allow the men of Putney to use the Common and impounded their cattle,’ reports A History of the County of Surrey.
Walking down Mare Street, vibrant even in these days of restrictions, it’s hard to reconcile today’s Hackney with pictures from the past. Shop-lined roads were once babbling streams, pubs were market gardens and this bastion of hip, edgy, urban creativity was a remote village where people retreated for a taste of idyllic countryside. But then, few places have changed more over time than this corner of East London.
According to local lore, the small settlement that sprung up along the Roman roads to Lincoln and Colchester owes its name to a Danish chief called Hacon, whose eye — islet—this was. No trace remains of this early history, but some medieval records indicate that the Knights Templars owned about 110 acres in the Hackney Marshes and built some mills on the River Lea — hence today’s Temple Mills. The village’s first parish church, St Augustine, was named after the Templars’ patron saint.
Dartmoor’s Baskerville Hall is one of the most famous country houses in English fiction. The arrival at its doors of Dr Watson, in the company of Sir Henry Baskerville, is a vivid piece of cinematic direction, artfully combining the Gothic horror tale with the more modern taste for detective thrillers.
Passing a ruined black-granite lodge, Watson and Baskerville go through the gates that are ‘a maze of fantastic tracery in wrought iron’ before reaching an avenue where ‘old trees shot their branches in a sombre tunnel’. The hall is a ‘heavy block’, with a projecting porch, its façade ‘draped in ivy’ within which the odd window or heraldic display can be seen.
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.