Why wait for the fourth series of Downton Abbey to air in the autumn when you can live the stately home dream now?
As the costs of running great country houses escalate, many single owners are selling up, with mansions being divided into wings and apartments under the careful eye of conservation officers, allowing new buyers to own a slice of history with spacious rooms and glorious original features at an affordable price.
Edward Jackson, of Strutt & Parker, based in Horsham, West Sussex, says buying a portion of a grand home can be far better value than a stand-alone house.
“In terms of pounds per square foot, wings tend to be priced at a lower figure than whole houses, so you get more space for your money,” he says. “The saving is at least 10 per cent.”
So if a grand sweeping drive to impress your dinner guests and a piece of parkland is your bag, then a stately home wing could be for you.
Leydene Park, Petersfield, Hampshire
A commuter option is impressively stately Leydene Park in Petersfield, Hampshire, with trains to Waterloo in just over an hour, which has been split into six spacious apartments. The central section of this Twenties country house is on the market with Carter Jonas for £1 million.
The six-bedroom property has three reception rooms and a private terrace with views over open countryside, as well as shared grounds with tennis courts. The shared entrance hall is a knockout — it has a double cantilevered staircase and is lit by a glass dome. The 3,755sq ft apartment has huge rooms: the dining room alone measures 33ft 7in by 19ft 9in, easily the size of a one-bedroom London flat. It also has high ceilings and wedding-cake cornicing.
A recent survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found that a typical four-bedroom modern house measures around 2,409sq ft, while an average three-bedroom semi is around 925sq ft.
Chris Gooch, a senior associate at Carter Jonas, says one of the reasons wings are cheaper than stand-alone homes is that there are fewer buyers competing for them. “A family with young children might feel restricted with less freedom to run about and create chaos and noise.
“An older family, on the other hand, would enjoy tennis courts and swimming pools. And couples would see benefits in being able to go away, leaving the house looked after by a management company, without the hassle or headache of caring for the gardens on their own.”
The service charge for maintenance of house and gardens needs to be built into the costs. In the case of Leydene House it stands at £4,790 a year. “But you have to put that in context. If you bought a stand-alone house in the country you would probably employ a gardener, and you would always have ongoing maintenance,” he adds.
Albury Park Mansion, Surrey
New on the books, great for commuters (six miles from Guildford) and being redeveloped is a stately home reeking of a grandeur that’s hard to resist. Albury Park Mansion in Albury, Surrey, is a Grade II-listed restoration project being handled by Michael Wilson restorations (alburyparkmansion.com). It will have 12 homes in a terrifically grand setting (it was the location for Carrie’s marriage in Four Weddings and a Funeral), and was once owned by the Duke of Northumberland.
The apartments are priced at between £1 million for a 1,542sq ft home and £5 million for a 6,000sq ft apartment — or between £648 and £833 a square foot, compared to between £367 and £403 for terrace homes in the village.
The mansion is quite lovely, inside and out. Each apartment has plenty of original features. One has a drawing room designed by Sir John Soane.
Owners enjoy thoroughly modern media rooms, gyms, spas and wine cellars, plus a private garden or terrace, and communal landscaped grounds. You can be in London in just over half an hour.
South Marlands, Horsham
Jackson is selling South Marlands, a major portion of a country house built in around 1902, close to Horsham and less than an hour by train to London Bridge or Victoria. It is on the market for £925,000 for more than 5,000sq ft. He estimates that a similar detached home would cost £1 million-plus.
There is much to admire about South Marlands, for those looking for epic grandeur: the house is approached via a grand, sweeping drive, it has an acre of private gardens ending in a ha-ha, and there are fabulous views over the South Downs.
There are six/seven bedrooms, four/five reception rooms, garage, cellars, a detached office, and the potential to annexe off the top floor as either a private two-bedroom flat or a rental.
Malmesbury Hall, Hurn, Dorset
What about the central section (of three) of Malmesbury Hall, in Hurn, Dorset? It’s on the market for £1.2 million. This is the business if you are looking for the Downton experience. A fabulous house dating from the 16th century, it was once the seat of the Earl of Malmesbury.
The four-storey section has four bedrooms, two large reception rooms, tons and tons of character and aristocratic-sounding nooks and crannies including a boot room and wine cellar. Its price works out at £225 a square foot. To put the value-added theory into perspective, a charmingly pretty, but hardly grand, two-bedroom cottage in the same area as Malmesbury Hall is on the market at £315,000, or £422 a square foot. Hurn is five miles from Bournemouth, from where trains to London take just under two hours.
Kimberley Elliot, marketing director at Penyards Country Properties, says: “We sell other houses in the area for £1.2 million and they are nowhere near the size of this one. If it was a stand-alone house it would be worth £2 million to £3 million.”