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.
Auchendennan House is an impressive A-listed Baronial castle featuring two turrets, set centrally amidst its 55 acres of beautifully designed landscape of parkland and woods. Located close to the southwest bank of Loch Lomond, it enjoys remarkable views across the loch to the mountains of the national park beyond.
The four-storey sandstone castle is approached from the main road, along a private tarmac drive with speed bumps, lined with trees. Through secure gates fitted with a telephone entry system, the driveway incorporates a carriage turning circle, with an attractive water fountain carved with dolphins and shells.
On arrival, shelter is provided by a striking Porte Cochere with arched coach openings, turrets and a vast array of decorative details.
Entered on basement level, you are welcomed into a grand 20th century vestibule, with oak panelling and a large carved fireplace including cherub and female figurines and inscriptions. Hidden in the panelling one secret door leads to a WC, whilst another leads to an office, various storage rooms, and a two-bedroom staff apartment with bathroom, kitchen and living area. Also on this level is a large reception room with its own garden entrance, currently used as a gym.
Giardino Giusti in Verona and Villa Fracanzan Piovene: The centuries-old Italian gardens that evoke the romance of Romeo and Juliet.
The name Giusti has been synonymous with one of Italy’s most celebrated Renaissance gardens since the late 16th century. Originally wool-dyers from Prato in Tuscany, the Giusti family had moved its business north in the previous century, settling in an unglamorous industrial suburb of Verona. Within a few generations, its members were rich and had also acquired the requisite antiquarian and artistic tastes of true Renaissance gentlefolk.
The garden created by Agostino Giusti between 1565 and 1580 was intended to fulfil various functions. It had to showcase his collection of Roman inscriptions and to serve as a setting for the lavish theatrical and musical productions—the predecessors of opera—then in vogue. To this day, the garden retains the surprise element of a stage set, presenting a magnificent and entertaining spectacle that totally confounds one’s expectations of a city garden.
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.
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.