Tag Archives: Country Manor

ACKTON HALL

A house with a fine reputation and family links to Nostell Priory. The advent of the industrial revolution altered its history and eventual loss.

Ackton Hall - AA Lamb
Ackton Hall, Featherstone. A rare photograph of the house in better times. A.A. LAMB.

According to Eilert Ekwall, in ‘The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names’, the name of ‘Ackton’ refers to an ‘oak-tree farmstead’. This appears far-removed these days, and a far cry from those days of the Victorian industrial revolution when Ackton was at the forefront of coal production. The hamlet grew up between Wakefield and Pontefract, then in the West Riding, but it was Ackton Hall that became the focal point for the area.

The first mention of Ackton Hall appears to have been in the Featherstone Parish Register in 1570, belonging to the Frost family and later passing by marriage to the Beckwiths, who sold it in 1652 to Langdale Sutherland for a price said to be £5,000.¹

The Winn family
The mansion passed to Edward Winn, the younger son of the second baronet of Nostell Priory, binding the two country houses together. Ackton Hall passed to his heir, Thomas Winn (1714-1780), who inherited a much larger house in 1765. Thomas married Mary Duncalf, daughter of Humphrey Duncalf, in 1753, and his only child was Edmund Mark Winn (1762-1833).²

The family of Winn was descended from a cadet of the house of Gwydir, who left Wales in the sixteenth century and settled in London. The immediate ancestor of this branch was George Winn, draper to Queen Elizabeth, who had issue Edmund Winn, of Thornton Curtis in Lincolnshire, who died in 1615, having married Mary, daughter of Rowland Berkeley of Worcester, sister to Sir Robert Berkeley, Knt, one of the Judges of the King’s Bench, by whom he had three sons.

George Winn, the eldest son and heir, whose residence was at Nostell Priory, was created a baronet by King Charles II in 1660. The title passed down the line until Sir Rowland Winn, High Sheriff of Yorkshire  in 1799, who died unmarried in 1803. The title was then devolved upon his cousin, Edmund Mark Winn of Ackton Hall.³

Ackton Hall - The Featherstone Chronicle
Ackton Hall, Featherstone. The date on this photograph is unknown. The house was rebuilt in 1765. THE FEATHERSTONE CHRONICLE.

History portrays Sir Edmund Mark Winn as “a truly worthy country gentleman, with all the politeness of the ancient school, and all the consideration of the kind landlord.” ⁴ He died unmarried in 1833 and Ackton Hall passed to his niece, Mary, eldest daughter of Colonel Duroune of the Coldstream Guards.

She had married Arthur Heywood (1786-1851), the son of Benjamin Heywood of Stanley Hall, in 1825. The Heywood family were descended from Nathaniel Heywood who settled in Drogheda. He had three sons, Arthur, Benjamin and Nathaniel, who all returned to England.

Arthur Heywood Snr, settled at Liverpool and, with his brother Benjamin, founded a bank, Heywood and Co, and by his second wife Hannah, daughter of Richard Milnes of Wakefield, a principal member of a distinguished Non-Conforming family, had four sons, two of whom settled at Liverpool and two at Wakefield.  Neither of the Liverpool sons had children, but Benjamin Heywood of Stanley Hall left a son, Arthur Heywood, who became Mary’s husband.⁵

The death of Arthur Heywood in 1851 was arguably the end for Ackton Hall as a rural mansion. His widow, Mary, remained until her death at Great Malvern in 1863. The estate was put up for sale and the sale catalogue describes the hall as an attractive stone built mansion on a moderate scale seated on a hillside and surrounded by a richly wooded and undulating country.

“Extending on the south and east is a tract of rich park-like land studded with noble oak and other trees of large growth and great beauty. The lawn and pleasure grounds slope gently to the south-west and are well-arranged with retired shrubbery and shaded walks embracing extensive views over luxuriant meadows and a magnificent country.

“In the ground floor are the entrance hall, inner hall, dining, drawing and morning rooms, and a library. On the first floor are a drawing-room and two large bedrooms, and on the second floor are another five bedrooms and three servants’ rooms. There are two water closets. Outside is a stable yard with accommodation for ten horses, a double coach house, a dovecote and farm buildings for the 42 acre farm. There are two kitchen gardens, a conservatory and a vinery, and the hall also has its own spring water supply.”¹

Despite the best efforts of the sales catalogue to find an occupant there was no chance that the hall was going to retain its charm.

Ackton Hall - Yorkshire (Featherstone in Pictures)
Ackton Hall, Featherstone. The mansion was later converted into flats. FEATHERSTONE IN PICTURES.


George Bradley and the price of coal
The surrounding area was now ripe for industrialisation, and coal was the valued prize for ambitious entrepreneurs. The Ackton Hall estate was bought by George Bradley, of the Castleford firm of Bradley and Sons, Solicitors, who had seen the potential for exploiting the mineral assets of the land. It is suggested that he bought the hall and estate in 1865 for £23,400, with another £20,300 used to buy additional land. The cash was borrowed from the University Life Assurance Society, a transaction he would later regret.

Before arriving at Ackton Hall he had been living with his father at Leeds. He was admitted as a solicitor in 1853, but his practice had gradually dwindled due to falling business. As well as the Ackton Hall estate, he later purchased freehold land in Essex, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Rutland and Yorkshire.

Initially, George Bradley leased Ackton Hall land to John Shaw†, who opened a colliery called Featherstone Main that soon became the largest pit in England. Encouraged by Shaw’s success, Bradley sank two of his own shafts to the Stanley Main Seam and opened his own colliery called Featherstone Manor. It was later extended to the Warren House Seam and at its peak was extracting about 200 tons each day.⁶

“The next and future returns cannot fail to give a much larger quantity, seeing that several very important estates with large areas of coal are now being opened out.” Sheffield Independent. 2 April 1870.

However, George Bradley’s coal-mining aspirations were hindered by lack of finance. In 1888, his dream ended when a writ was issued by the High Sheriff of Yorkshire on Ackton Hall. Bradley had been living in the mansion, but mounting debts were leading him into trouble.  His miners hadn’t been paid, he had defaulted on payment of rates and more importantly, he was behind on mortgage payments.

Ackton Hall north side - Featherstone in Pictures
The north side of Ackton Hall in happier times. FEATHERSTONE IN PICTURES.
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - 9 Aug 1890 - BNA
A sale notice from the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 9 August 1890. THE BRITISH NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE.


Samuel Cunliffe Lister, Lord Masham
In the summer of 1890, it was rumoured that Messrs Lister and Co, of Manningham Mills, near Bradford, had purchased the Ackton Hall estate, including the Manor Colliery, adjoining Featherstone Station on the Wakefield branch of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. The estate had been due to go to public auction, but the sale by private treaty was believed to have been £180,000.⁷

In the end, it turned out that the estate had been bought in a private capacity by Samuel Cunliffe Lister, and not on behalf of the shareholders of the company. He had bought the greater part of the estate, about 1,200 acres, and carried with it all the mineral rights. George Bradley could remain at Ackton Hall and kept some adjoining land, but the mineral rights right under the house had been acquired by Mr Lister. According to the Yorkshire Post, the output from the Ackton Colliery had been comparatively small owing to the want of development, but now that the property had come into the hands of a man of such well-known enterprise and energy as Mr Cunliffe Lister, a guarantee was at once forthcoming that a great change in this respect would shortly take place.”⁸

Ackton Hall Colliery - Author Unknown
Ackton Hall Colliery. It became a thriving colliery under Lord Masham. AUTHOR UNKNOWN.

Samuel Cunliffe Lister was one of the largest landowners in the North Riding, and in the previous nine years had expanded upwards of three-quarters of a million in purchasing the Swinton Park estate, near Masham, from the heirs of Mrs Danby-Vernon-Harcourt, Jervaulx Abbey from Lord Ailesbury’s trustees, and the Middleham Castle property, which he had bought a few months previous.

In time, George Bradley moved to Rectory House in Castleford and was declared bankrupt in 1897. The following year, the conveyance for Ackton Hall passed to Mr Middleton of Leeds, a transaction that was later brought before West Riding magistrates. In January 1906, four Leeds men were charged with having stolen a quantity of lead from Ackton Hall. It was also stated that the defendants had also engaged in removing furniture from the mansion. Thomas Middleton, a Leeds jeweller, told the court that he and his brother were the owners of the hall as trustees under their father’s will. Middleton stated that the defendants did not have permission to remove the lead. However, the case was most unusual due to the fact he claimed George Bradley had never asserted that he had a right to live at the hall, neither did he set up a right to the property. He said his father had taken possession of Ackton Hall after advancing George Bradley money. The case of theft was dropped due to insufficient evidence, but the affairs of George Bradley appeared ever more curious.⁹

Ackton Hall Colliery - Healey Hero (1)
The colliery took its name from the grand old mansion. HEALEY HERO.

The acquisition of Ackton Hall by Samuel Cunliffe Lister (1815-1906) was purely for commercial reasons. He was a rich man, born at Calverley Hall,  the son of Ellis Cunliffe Lister-Kaye, who had assumed the name of Lister on taking possession of the Manningham estate, near Bradford, under the will of Mr Samuel Lister of Manningham Mill.

He was one of the greatest Victorian industrialists, a man who went against his family’s wishes to enter the church and started out in the counting house of Messrs Sands, Turner and Co in Liverpool.

Samuel Cunliffe Lister - Lord Masham - NPG
Samuel Cunliffe Lister, 1st Baron Masham (1815 – 1906). NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY.

On attaining his majority, young Lister prevailed upon his eldest brother to enter the worsted spinning and manufacturing business at Manningham, where their father erected a mill for them. It was here that the attention of the future was directed to the problem of machine wool combing, which at that time was in the embryonic stage. Failures to construct an efficient machine wool-comb had been so numerous that any idea of an invention capable of supplanting the labours of hand-combers was regarded as a major obstacle.

Samuel Cunliffe Lister, however, was of a different opinion, and, finding that a machine upon which an inventor named Donisthorpe was working, although at the time in a very imperfect state, gave the greatest promise of success, he bought the machine for a good round sum, and then taking Mr Donisthorpe into partnership, set himself to work out the idea of the apparatus. In this task the partners succeeded after years of labour and the expenditure of many thousands of pounds. The success of the invention practically placed the wool-combing industry for a time in Mr Cunliffe Lister’s own hands, although to begin with he had to encounter litigation in connection with his patents.

This was typical of the man and during his lifetime patented over a hundred inventions which revolutionised the silk and wool trade; to carry out his ideas, he spent a fortune of £600,000 and was more than once on the brink of ruin. In due course, however, the patents brought in a great financial harvest, and for some years before the Manningham Mills were floated as a company, the average net profit was £2 million a year.

Few men lived a life of steadier application to business, and on one occasion he publicly stated that for twenty-five years, he was never in bed later than five o’clock in the morning.

Ackton Hall Colliery - My Featherstone Collieries
By 1924, Ackton Hall Colliery was at its peak employing 1,940 men underground and 636 on the surface. MY FEATHERSTONE COLLIERIES.

It was characteristic of the man that he should not care for public honours, and probably none of his intimate acquaintances were surprised when he declined to accept a baronetcy on the Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1877. The Peerage was not conferred until 1891, when the veteran inventor was in his seventy-sixth year.¹⁰

In addition to investing large sums in landed property, the new Lord Masham successfully turned his attention to the working of collieries. He ploughed significant amounts of money into Ackton Hall Colliery and it soon became one of the most successful pits in the country. He began to provide social facilities and housing for the miners, and the new town of Featherstone was developed in the field between Ackton and Purston as a mining town with good quality housing and social services.¹¹

However, in this industry he had an unfortunate experience with his workpeople, and it was remembered that in the dispute in the coal trade in 1893 the military fired on rioters who were destroying property at the Ackton Pit Colliery.*

Ackton Hall Map - NLS
NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND.
Ackton Hall Map - NLS 1
The old map shows the site of Ackton Hall. The house and colliery have long since disappeared. The modern-day satellite image shows that the site of the house has now been grassed over. GOOGLE MAPS.

Decline and fall
The rise of Ackton Hall Colliery also led to the demise of the mansion. Its proximity to the workings rendered it undesirable, the views obscured by the workings,  and it was eventually split into flats. The new town of Featherstone quickly developed in the field between Ackton and Purston but, by 1969, the mansion had become so dilapidated that it had to be demolished.¹²

Ackton Colliery was the first pit to close following the end of the 1984-1985 national miners’ strike.

Ackton Hall before demolition - Featherstone in Pictures
Ackton Hall in a derelict condition that inevitably led to its demolition. FEATHERSTONE IN PICTURES.

Notes: –
† John Shaw (1843-1911), of Welburn Hall, Kirby Moorside, colliery proprietor, chairman of the South Kirkby, Featherstone, and Hemsworth collieries. Three times unsuccessful Conservative candidate for Pontefract, who died in 1911, only son of George Shaw of Brook Leys, Sheffield.

He went to Featherstone with his father in 1866, to open out the coal field. Subsequently the South Kirkby collieries were acquired, and in 1906 the Hemsworth collieries were added. The company became known as South Kirkby, Featherstone and Hemsworth Collieries Ltd. For some time, he lived at Newland Hall, near Normanton, but soon after he removed to Darrington Hall where he remained until about 1896, when he went to live at Welburn.

*In July 1893, a fall in the price of coal led to owners to stockpile output and ‘lock out’ their workers. In Featherstone, workers were increasingly restless and on September 7 rumours spread that coal at Ackton Hall was being loaded onto wagons and then transported to the owner’s mill in Bradford. An angry crowd gathered outside the pit and confronted Mr Holiday (the pit manager) and a work gang that was loading the wagons. Eventually troops were called in. Three officers and 26 men arrived from the First Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment. A local magistrate, Bernard Hartley JP, read the Riot Act. When the crowd didn’t disperse the troops were ordered to fire warning shots. The second volley of shots wounded eight people, two of whom died of their injuries. As a result of the debacle the Liberal Government lost much of its working class support.

¹ The Featherstone Chronicle – A history of Featherstone, Purston and Ackton from 1086 to 1885.
² The Peerage.
³ Leeds Mercury. 13 June 1891.
⁴ Leeds Intelligencer. 22 June 1833.
⁵ ‘The Rise of the Old Dissent, Exemplified in the Life of Oliver Heywood 1630-1702’ by The Rev Joseph Hunter, F.S.A. 1842.
⁶ Featherstone’s Three Collieries.
⁷ Yorkshire Evening Press. 21 June 1890.
⁸ Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 20 August 1890.
⁹ Leeds Mercury. 13 January 1906.
¹⁰ Leeds Mercury. 3 February 1906.
¹¹ Wakefield Council. Featherstone Delivery Plan 2014-2016.
¹² ‘Lost Houses of the West Riding’ by Edward Waterson and Peter Meadows. 1998.

Further reading: –
Featherstones Three Collieries
The Featherstone Chronicle

BEAUPRE HALL

Nothing remains of Beaupré Hall, an unloved manor house, that was eventually abandoned. In the 1960s, developers replaced it with a housing estate.

Beaupre Hall 1963
Beaupré Hall, Norfolk. WILLIAM SMITH COLLECTION.

In the late 1960s, the owner of a new bungalow in the long-straddling village of Outwell, that lie on both sides of the River Nene in Norfolk, gazed out at the remains of a stone building in his back garden. What to do with them? In the years to come, these would presumably have been removed and the gardens landscaped to match the modern house. The stones might well have come in handy.

Over fifty years later, there are no traces of those ancient stone relics.

Once upon a time, this was a house called Beaupré Hall, erected in the early sixteenth century by the Beaupre family, who also held the manors of Sautrey, Wells, Norton, Hakbech and Thurning. The estates became the property of Edmund Beaupré, and eventually absorbed into the Beaupré estate.1024px-Beaupre_Hall_Outwell_Norfolk

The house was built between 1500 and 1530, added to later with a castellated gate house, and subsequently extended and altered by members of the Beaupré and Bell families. Dorothy Beaupré had married Sir Robert Bell in 1559 and succeeded to the manor. He was a speaker in the House of Commons of England and the Beaupré estate stayed in his family for generations.

Beaupre Hall - Norfolk - Lost Heritage (1)
Beaupré Hall, Norfolk. LOST HERITAGE.
Beaupre Hall - Norfolk - Lost Heritage (2)
Beaupré Hall, Norfolk. LOST HERITAGE.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the house had fallen into disrepair, the family fortune squandered by Beaupré Bell in the late 17th century onwards. He was said to have been a keen antiquary, more interested in collecting relics than spending money on the upkeep of the old manor house.

His son, also Beaupré Bell, died unmarried in 1741 and the house passed to his sister, Elizabeth, and her husband William Greaves. They made repairs to the house and demolished those parts beyond restoration. It was inherited by their daughter, Jane Greaves, who had married Charles W. Townley of Fulbourn in Cambridgeshire.

In 1889, a correspondent, known simply as H.K., wrote in The Methodist Recorder:

“Far back into centuries I should have to go in imagination to find the man who built Beaupré Hall, with its gabled and mullioned windows and beautiful gateways and courts and porches, with its picturesque towers and chimneys outside, and its wilderness of oak-panelled rooms and passages inside.”

Charles Townley thought the house surplus to requirement and had unsuccessfully attempted to dispose of it at auction in 1888. The house was probably tenanted because, at this time, Beaupré Hall was occupied by three ladies – the Misses Wilsons – who kept an open house for visiting Methodist preachers.

In the 1890s, Beaupré Hall was finally sold to the Newling family who remained until the twentieth century. On hindsight, the problems for the old manor house started here. A gale in 1915 severely damaged the building, and a chapel in the north-west range had its roof torn off and allowed to become derelict.

Christopher Hussey, the architectural writer, visited Beaupré Hall in 1923, its condition was such that he anticipated its eventual destruction.

Beaupré’s biggest problem came in the form of the Royal Air Force, who requisitioned the hall during the Second World War. Afterwards, the mansion was in serious disrepair, with substantial roof damage.

Beaupre Hall - Norfolk - Lost Heritage (3)
Beaupré Hall, Norfolk. LOST HERITAGE.

There were those who almost loved the house and might have saved it. In 1947, the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, gave it listed status, but little else. A fire in 1953 worsened its condition, and it was left to Mrs Kingsman, (formerly the wife of Edward Newling, who had married Stuart Kingsman), to offer the hall to the National Trust. It declined the offer, becoming the second heritage body that turned its back on Beaupré Hall.

The house and 13-acres of land was put up for sale and had two subsequent owners. Nevertheless, Beaupré Hall was quickly becoming a ruin.

Beaupre Hall - Norfolk - Lost Heritage (4)
Beaupré Hall, Norfolk. LOST HERITAGE.

During the 1950s, barrack huts left over from RAF occupation were used to house students on the ‘Holidays with Pay Scheme’, the ruins of Beaupré Hall no doubt providing an adventure.

The ‘Victoria County History’ reported that much of the building was still standing, but the development of a modern housing estate in its former grounds was a shadow quickly advancing on the house. A photograph taken by Country Life magazine in 1963 showed new bungalows in front of the broken-down house.

Nine years later, the Ministry gave permission for the house to be demolished, the only reminder being the name of the road on which the housing estate stands… Beaupré Avenue .

Beaupre Hall - Norfolk - Country Life Archives (1)
Going. COUNTRY LIFE.
Beaupre Hall - 1966 - Smith, Edwin (1912-1971)
Going. EDWIN SMITH COLLECTION.
Beaupre Hall - Norfolk - Google Maps (1)
Gone. GOOGLE MAPS.

BROOMSWOOD MANOR

Miller Christy devoted his life to research and literature. He built himself a replica Tudor house, all its details taken from old Tudor houses in Essex.

Broomwood Manor - 2018 - Savills 1
Broomswood Manor, Chignal St James, Essex. Image: Savills.

Appearances can be deceptive. Broomswood Manor, at Chignal St James, looks like a 17th century house, but was designed by Frederick Rowntree at the turn of the 20th century. It was built in 1912-13 for Miller Christy, the historian, and was known as Broomswood Lodge, with leaded-light windows, herringbone brickwork with exposed timbers under a tiled roof, and fine shafted chimneys.

Miller Christy (1861-1928), a bachelor, was an authority on archaeology and ornithology in Essex. He was an inexhaustible writer – ‘The Birds of Essex’, ‘Trade Signs of Essex’, ‘Manitoba Described’, ‘Essex Rivers and their Names’, ‘The Genus Primula of Essex’, ‘Our Empire’, ‘History of Banking in Essex’ and the ambiguously titled ‘A Museum of Fire-Making Appliances’. If writing books was not enough, he was a regular contributor to ‘The Essex Review’.

He might have been an illustrious writer, but a businessman he was not. He co-founded Hayman, Christy and Lilly, printers of London, which spectacularly failed, leading him into bankruptcy and was the cause of a nervous breakdown in 1920.

Christy gave up Broomswood Manor and moved to London where he died eight years later.

MillerChristy - Goldhanger in the Past
Robert Miller Christy (1861-1928) died at Middlesex Hospital in London after an operation. As well as being a naturalist and archaeologist, he was the curator of the Museum of Fire-Making Appliances. In his house he displayed a collection of fire furniture in use before the days of modern grates. Image: Goldhanger in the Past.
Broomwood Manor - 2018 - Savills 24
Broomswood Manor, Chignal St James, Essex. Image: Savills.

The house was bought by Major Charles E. Hodges and his wife, who remained until 1925, and later passed to Major Gerald V.N. Riley (1897-1953).

Charles Hodges giving away his daughter Joan Eileen Walker Hodges to ilfred Sutton Page - June 1925 - Essex Record Office
Charles Hodges giving away his daughter Joan Eileen Walker Hodges to Wilfred Sutton Page – June 1925 – Image: Essex Record Office.

Its most notable owner turned out to be Edmund Ironside, son of Field Marshal William Edmund Ironside, 1st Baron Ironside, a senior officer in the British Army, who served as Chief of the Imperial General Staff during the first year of World War Two.

Edmund Oslac Ironside, 2nd Baron Ironside (born 1924) sat in the Lords from 1959 but lost his seat because of the House of Lords Act 1999, when all but ninety-two hereditary peers lost their right to sit in the house. Prior to this, he had gained the rank of Lieutenant in the Royal Navy in 1943 before retiring from the military in 1952. He later worked at Marconi Ltd, English Electric Leo Computers, Cryosystems and International Research and Development. He also became a consultant with Rolls-Royce.

Ironside married Audrey Marigold Morgan-Grenville in 1950 and succeeded to the title following the death of his father in 1959. Although living at Broomswood Manor for several years, he is better-known for living at Priory House at Boxstead, in the same county.

Edmund Ironside - The Tatler - 17 May 1950 - BNA
From The Tatler, May 1950. The wedding of Miss Audrey Morgan-Grenville, daughter of Col. the Hon. Thomas and Mrs Morgan-Grenville. The bridegroom was an officer of the Senior Service – Lt. the Hon. Edmund Ironside – and the best man, and the sixteen members of the guard of honour, were brother officers. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
Ironside - The Sketch - 22 Oct 1958 - BNA
Mrs Edmund Ironside was photographed with her two children, Fiona, who was five, and three-year-old Charles, in 1958, in the garden of Broomswood Manor. Her husband, the Hon. Edmund Ironside, was the son of Lord Ironside, whose peerage was created in 1941 to crown his outstanding military career. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

In 2005, after the death of its then-owner, Broomswood Manor stood empty for a year before being sold for £1.1 million. Since then, the house has been restored and enlarged, and in September 2018, it was on sale at Savills with a guide price of £2.6 million.

Broomwood Manor - 2018 - Savills 29
Broomswood Manor, Chignal St James, Essex. Image: Savills.

HARMSTON HALL

A significant country house re-emerges from obscurity, this prestigious Grade II* listed mansion stands in a parkland setting with far reaching views across the Trent and Witham Valleys.

Harmston Hall - 2018 - Savills (1)
Image: Savills.

A lot has been said about the views from Harmston Hall, on the Lincoln Cliff overlooking the River Witham. From its parkland, on a clear day, you can see the Derbyshire Hills, some 60 miles or so away. This spectacle is foremost in the estate agent’s selling brief, along with the floors – oak floors, oak floors inlaid with mahogany detailing, and lots of pine floors. Yes. A lot has been made about the wooden floors here.

The oddest thing is that outside the North Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, not many people have heard of Harmston Hall. The fact that it has re-emerged from obscurity is due to it being offered on the open market at Savills with a guide price of £3.45 million.

The land on which it stands once belonged to the Thorold family, resident here since 1456. The present Queen Anne house was started by Sir Charles Thorold (1655-1709), but it was his younger brother, Sir George Thorold who completed it in about 1710. The mansion became the summer retreat of the Lord Mayor of London, a man who acquired a baronetcy and distinguished title ten years later. Sir George added a tall north front to the house, but this was pulled down in 1892 when the family departed Harmston Hall for good.

The buyer was William Henry Morton, a farmer, magistrate and county alderman, who, in 1892, spent a considerable sum of money altering the house, employing Lincoln architects William Mortimer and his son, William Malkinson Mortimer, to carry out the designs. A new front was created in the same style as the original building, incorporating a new entrance and porch, surmounted by a tower. The roof was stripped of its tiles and recovered in green slate, while new windows were added to the upper storeys. Inside, all the rooms were completely renovated, but despite his extravagance, Morton only stayed at Harmston Hall for six years.

Harmston Hall - 2018 - Savills (2)
Image: Savills.

The estate was sold in 1898 to Nathaniel Clayton Cockburn, a grandson of Nathaniel Clayton, a Lincoln iron founder. Its new owner was a military man, a Major in the Imperial Yeomanry, who ended up serving in Palestine during World War One. Cockburn died in 1924 and its big rooms briefly became the domain of his sister.

The inevitability was that Harmston Hall was far too big and expensive to maintain. Therefore, it was no surprise when it was sold to the Lincolnshire Board for the Mentally Defective, who opened it as a ‘Colony for Mental Defectives’ in 1935… and consigned the country house to decades of bleak insignificance. Just imagine the despairing shrieks from the inmates echoing through those long corridors. This was a time when Britain wasn’t particularly good at dealing with mental health… many of its occupants probably shouldn’t have been there at all. The hospital was eventually absorbed into the National Health Service (NHS) and buildings spread across the parklands.

Harmston Hall Hospital later became an administrative block and closed for good in 1989.

As always happened, the abandoned hospital was left to decay – broken windows, leaking roof, rotten floors and ceilings – its former institutional use adding to the air of dereliction.

Harmston Hall - 2018 - Savills (8)
Image: Savills.

Its saviour was Peter Sowerby, a local property developer, who bought the estate in 1996. There were probably those who thought him mad enough to have been one of the hospital’s former residents. However, when Sowerby flattened the hospital outbuildings and built a new housing development, there appeared to be some wisdom attached to him after all. He doubled the population of Harmston and transformed the quiet village into an important commuter settlement for Lincoln.

Decisively, Harmston Hall itself was restored and turned back into a family home over a period of ten years. In 2008, it was on the market for £4.5 million, considerably more than the guide price being asked for today.

There are few signs of its former use. The house is entered through a panelled entrance lobby with stone flooring. This leads into a Reception Hall, complete with Rococo chimneypiece, Georgian fanlight doorways and Ionic columns in front of the staircase. The principal rooms include the main Drawing Room, along with a former Ballroom (complete with the oak flooring and inlaid mahogany detailing). The Dining Room and yellow Sitting Room all have original Queen Anne wooden panelling with pine and oak floors respectively. An ornate Billiards Room is embellished with mahogany panelling, carvings, huge mahogany doors along with decorative cornices, and, of course, more oak flooring. Upstairs there are seven primary bedrooms.

Being a former Historic Formula 1 Champion, it is no surprise that Sowerby has also included garaging for 20 cars.  The big difference from its former existence as a country house is the addition of both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool.

The Grade II* listed house stands within 13-acres of land, including a terraced garden with those spectacular views, and a further 30-acres of former parkland available separately.

All images were taken in 2014.

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BRAMSHILL PARK

For the first time in 65 years this house might be going back into private ownership, but it will require deep pockets to do so

Bramshill 2018 (KF) (5)
Image: Knight Frank.

In 1936, there was excitement and relief when Lord Brocket, who as Mr Ronald Nall-Cain had represented Wavertree as its MP until 1934, bought Bramshill Park. This country house had been the residence of the Cope family for 200 years, but there was a danger of it passing out of private ownership as had happened to so many other mansions at the time.

It was bought as a second home for his family in more rural surroundings and further from London than Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire.

As it turned out, Lord Brocket, a man of considerable wealth, was its last private owner.  He held on to the property until 1953 before selling it to the Government. However, sixty-five years later there is a chance that Bramshill Park might become a family residence once again.

This is a big country house. Bramshill Park is a magnificent Grade I listed mainly Georgian mansion, set within Grade I listed parkland, woodland and lake. It stands just over three miles away from Hartley Wintney, a charming country village in Hampshire. It is now being marketed at Knight Frank as a conversion opportunity, price on application, but expect to pay in excess of £20 million for the privilege, and then there will be conversion costs on top.

Bramshill dates to the Doomsday Book of 1086 when the estate was held by Hugh de Port. In 1347 Sir Thomas Foxley, Constable of Windsor Castle, was granted permission to enclose 2,500 acres of land as a deer park at Bramshill and Hazeley. Sir Thomas was responsible for the construction of the noble mansion at Bramshill which has drawn comparisons with Windsor Castle. The mansion then passed to the 11th Lord Zouche of Harringworth. Zouche needed a large country mansion to consolidate his position at Court and to make a statement that he was a force to be reckoned with. He reconstructed the house between 1605 and 1615.

Bramshill Park - The Graphic - 15 May 1909 - BNA
Bramshill Park photographed in 1909. When this was taken Sir Anthony Cope’s house had just escaped destruction in a forest fire. For three days, 400 mounted troops from Aldershot had assisted local authorities in beating out extensive fires in the neighbourhood of Eversley, Hampshire, the work, it was believed of incendiaries. The fires were put out but not before some 2000 acres had been devastated. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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Image: Knight Frank.

Lord Zouche was a well-travelled and cultivated gentleman and it is to him that the creation of Bramshill House, largely as it appears today, is credited together with its walled gardens, maze and lake. The Henley family bought the estate in 1640 and remained at Bramshill until 1699 when it was sold to Sir John Cope whose descendants remained at Bramshill for 236 years. The Cope’s had a significant influence on both the fabric of the building, and its landscape. Much of what we know of the changes to the house and grounds over this period are described in a book published in 1883 by Sir William Cope, the main phases of internal change appear to be as follows:

  • 1720. Introduction of the mezzanine floor and Queen Anne Stairs.
  • 1812. Construction of the “Dark” corridor in the courtyard to allow independent access to the first-floor rooms and improve internal circulation.
  • 1850-90. Incremental changes, mainly replacement of failing external fabric and re-organisation of the ground floor of the north wing. Introduction of bathrooms.
  • 1920. Removal of partitions and walls from the former billiard room and “Red” dining room to create the Morning room.
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In 1936, Bramshill was bought from the Cope family by Ronald Nall-Cain, 2nd Baron Brocket. During the Second World War, the house was used by the Red Cross as a maternity home for evacuee mothers from Portsmouth, and afterwards as a home for the exiled King Michael and Queen Anne of Romania and their family.

Bramshill Park - The Sphere - 18 July 1936 1 (BNA)
A Jacobean gem: The exterior of Bramshill which was built between 1605 and 1612 by Lord Zouche, a friend of Ben Jonson and one of the Peers who tried Mary Queen of Scots. When this photograph was taken in 1936 no structural alterations had taken place since 1705, and Lord Brocket, as the new owner, intended to make very little change. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
Bramshill Park - The Sphere - 18 July 1936 2 (BNA)
‘A famous mansion saved’ said The Sphere in July 1936, The 127-ft Long Gallery at Bramshill Park, the early 17th century residence near Stratfieldsaye, Hampshire, a magnificent architectural example of its period, which had just been bought by Lord Brocket who intended to preserve it in the interests of the nation. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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The State Drawing Room in 1936: A spacious apartment with furniture and tapestries that ranked as museum pieces. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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Following its sale in the 1953 to the British Government it became the Police Staff College in 1960, and was later home to the European Police College, the house and its outbuildings operating as a conference and training centre. Owing to escalating maintenance costs the property was put on the market for £25 million in 2013 and later sold to City & Country for £20 million in August 2014.

The property is now being offered for sale as a private mansion, along with a former coach house and assembly dining hall. It has the benefit of consents pending to restore it back to a single-family residence.

Bramshill Park - The Illustrated London News - Sat 21 Mar 1970 - BNA
Police officers undergoing the Senior Command Course at the Police College, Bramshill, in 1970. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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EASTERLANDS

Slavery, evacuees, refugees and a donkey called Petronella

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‘Easterlands stands in a lawn, tastefully laid out with a fish pond at its base, and commands a beautiful view of its park-like grounds well studded with ornamental trees and the surrounding country.’ From a sales brief in 1862. Image: SWNS.

Back in 2014, this country house hit the market with a guide price of £3.1 million. Unsold, apparently unwanted, it remains for sale with a vastly reduced guide price of £2.25 million. Easterlands at Sampford Arundel, near Wellington, is an impressive residence surrounded by its own parkland with secondary accommodation, traditional outbuildings and mature grounds and gardens.

Knight Frank, who are marketing the property, believe the house dates to the late 19th century. However, it is probably earlier than that, possibly early 1830s because its architectural style is typically Georgian.

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The sale of Easterlands provides the opportunity to acquire a significant seven bedroom country house in need of some refurbishment, set in an outstanding ringfenced park in a truly convenient location for many schools and businesses in the West Country. Image: Knight Frank.

Easterlands House was most likely built for William Bellet who bought the land in 1816 from Richard Yendle of Uplowman, yeoman, and Jeremiah Woodbury of Exeter, innkeeper. His daughter Elizabeth married John Shattock (1792-1860), an English landed proprietor and merchant, who made his fortune at Kingston, in Jamaica, and returned to England between 1831 and 1833. Shattock was connected to Jamaica’s slave trade and duly awarded compensation by the British Government when the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833. There were two small awards, for a group of about ten enslaved people in Good Air, St. Andrew, and for the enslaved people on St. Mary, Jamaica.

A man of immense wealth, the couple settled at Easterlands and when John Bellett Shattock died in 1860 it passed to his eldest son, the Rev. John Bellett Shattock of Stalbridge, Dorset, who put the estate up for sale in 1862.

Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser - 10 Sep 1862 (BNA)
Easterlands was put for sale by the Rev. John Bellett Shattock in 1862. This notice is from the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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From the top of the land there are views over the surrounding Taunton Vale, Blackdown Hills and Wellington Monument and down to the village with the tower of the village Church forming an attractive focal point. Image: SWNS.

Easterlands was sold to Charles Moore in 1864. He was a Liverpool merchant and appears to have let the fully furnished property. Occupants included Charles Hutton Potts (1823-1886) and Major-General Cookson, who was a yearly tenant when the estate was put up for sale again in 1876. Failing to find a buyer, it went back on the market in 1878 under the instruction of Mary Louisa Moore of Clontarf, Dublin.

Dorset County Chronicle - 25 Aug 1864 (BNA)
Getting ready for a new owner. This sales notice from the Dorset County Chronicle indicated that Easterlands was being cleared for the arrival of Charles Moore. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

The estate was sold to Robert Arundel Were (1822-1892), a solicitor and gentleman of Wellington, who held many appointments with local authorities including Superintendent Registrar Clerk to the Wellington Bench, the Board of Guardians, the Rural Sanitary Unit and Milverton Highway Board. When he died in May 1892 the estate was put up for sale just weeks later.

It remained unsold and was let to Arthur Tristram E. Jervoise before the house and estate of 140 acres were bought for nearly £9,000 by Frederick George Slessor in 1897. Slessor, chartered civil engineer, was the son of Major-General Slessor of Sidmouth, Devon, and remained until his death in 1905.

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The house is approached through a wide gated entrance, guarded by a three bedroom lodge cottage, down a long tree lined avenue affording tantalising glimpses of the house amongst the mature trees in the garden and park. Image: Knight Frank.

After going to auction in 1906 it was bought by Colonel Joseph Henry Moore, a retired officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He’d spent 30 years in the Army, serving in the Ashanti War, the defence of the hospital at Foomana and in the Afghan War the occupation of Kandahar and the Battle of Khelal-i-Ghilzai. He later held several appointments in India and was principal medical officer both at Quetta and Bombay.

Easterlands c 1920-1930 (SampfordArundelorg)
A picturesque view of Easterlands. This photograph is thought to date from the 1920s or 1930s. Image: sampfordarundel.org.

Colonel Moore enjoyed Easterlands only briefly. He died there in 1908 but his family remained until 1924 when it was offered for sale by private treaty.

Up until this point, Easterlands had slipped between families and it wasn’t until Alderman Gerald Fox bought the property in 1925 that the house enjoyed any stability.  He moved here with his wife, Beatrice Cornish-Bowden, youngest daughter of Admiral Cornish-Bowden, of Newton Abbot, and was affectionately known as ‘Bee’.

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Gerald Fox (1865-1947), was the second son of Joseph Hoyland Fox, for many years the chairman of Fox Bros, an old family woollen business at Wellington.  He was educated at Marlborough College and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A.. He joined Lloyds Bank prior to becoming a partner in Fox, Fowler and Co, a Westcountry private banking firm, afterwards absorbed into Lloyds Bank itself.  He was also a director of Devon & Courtenay Clay Company, the Commercial Union Assurance Company and of Candy & Company, a pottery firm at Heathfield. Aside his business interests, he also managed to be secretary of Somerset County Rugby Club and Somerset County Cricket Club. (Fox Brothers still survives and is run by ‘Dragons’ Den’ star Deborah Meaden who purchased a majority stake in 2009).

As the current sale particulars point out, Gerald Fox will be best-remembered for taking in several evacuees and refugees during World War Two, when several rooms in the house were converted to accommodate them.  Easterlands also became the headquarters for the local Home Guard and had a near miss in 1940 when a German bomber dropped a 100lb incendiary bomb. It cleared the house and fell into the lake causing no damage except to a tree.

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After his Gerald Fox’s death in 1947, his widow remained until the early 1950s before selling up and moving to the Quantocks.

Easterlands appears to have then been occupied by Mr Hans K.E. Richter and then Lieutenant-Colonel R.S. Rogers, both of whom little is known. However, in 1963, the estate was bought with great fanfare by Mr Edward Du Cann, the Conservative MP for Taunton and Economic Secretary to the Treasury. In later years he would become chairman of the 1922 Committee, the Conservative party’s parliamentary group.

Du Cann
Later Sir Edward Du Cann, a controversial Conservative MP and businessman who was once a contender for the party leadership.

Edward Du Cann (1924-2017) and his wife had been living in temporary accommodation while they waited for the sale to be finalised.  When it was concluded they lived a very public life at Easterlands along with a donkey called Petronella.

He became a well-known businessman with his Unicorn Group, was a director of Keyser Ullman, a banking firm that collapsed in 1974, and later served as a director and chairman of Lonhro (later collapsing owing £10 million to creditors).

After Easterlands he owned nearby Cothay Manor which he was forced to sell after several legal disputes over debts and was made bankrupt in 1993.

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This fine country house has now been in the same ownership for about 35 years and whilst well-cared for and maintained, gives an incoming purchaser the opportunity to refurbish the house and develop the barns and outbuildings to suit their needs, subject to obtaining the necessary planning consents.
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The current owners arrived at unlisted Easterlands during the 1980s.

According to Knight Frank, the main reception rooms are well-proportioned with high ceilings and have elegant detailing including substantial fireplaces and panelling. As might be expected Easterlands provides the traditional room configuration – entrance hall, study/drawing room, dining room, garden room, billiard room, kitchen/breakfast room, pantry, larder, utility room, estate office, three cloakrooms, boot room and extensive cellars. Its master bedroom has two en-suite dressing rooms and bathrooms, in addition to a further six bedrooms and bathrooms.

The house also comes with extensive outbuildings including a two-bedroom cottage, a three-bedroom lodge, a coach house with stabling and stores, as well as barns.

Within its 44.4 -acres are a walled garden, hard tennis court, covered swimming pool, a former vineyard, mature gardens, woodland and a lake.

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At the centre of the rambling grounds and gardens is the elegant water feature with its Japanese bridge, which could be right out of a garden in the French village Giverny, Claude Monet’s famous home. Image: Knight Frank.

FAIRCROUCH

The house of McCall: a house of heartbreak, but one likely to net a healthy profit

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There were a few eyebrows raised when Davina McCall, the darling of noughties British TV, paid a modest £3.2 million for Faircrouch back in 2009. A year before, the country house near Wadhurst, had been put on the market by Rosaleen Corfe with a guide price of £4.3 million. It was bad timing for Corfe; according to Land Registry records the estate lost 14 per cent of its value in 2008 as the recession started to affect the property market. Nine years later, following the break-up of her marriage to Matthew Robertson, Faircrouch House is on sale at Savills with a guide price of £6.25 million.

Faircrouch is a substantial and elegantly-proportioned Grade II listed country house, probably dating from the 17th century with a later 18th century front portion, set within nearly 38 acres of private gardens and grounds and with substantial secondary accommodation, including a detached Lodge house at the main gate, a Cottage, Barn and Coach House. The house itself has a porticoed entrance porch, entrance hall, drawing room, dining room, study/library, family room, boot room, kitchen/breakfast room, wine cellar, cellar boiler room, and six bedrooms.

Davina McCall (Garnier)
Davina Lucy Pascale McCall, (born 16 October 1967), the English television presenter and model. She was the presenter of ‘Big Brother’ during its run on Channel 4 between 2000 and 2010. She has also hosted Channel 4’s ‘The Million Pound Drop’, ‘Five Minutes to a Fortune’ and ‘The Jump’ as well as ITV’s ‘Long Lost Family’ and ‘This Time Next Year’. Image: Garnier.
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Faircrouch House. Oil on canvas. Painted by Julian Barrow (1939-2013). Image: The Saleroom.

According to Country Life, the house was originally a medieval nunnery that was suppressed during the Dissolution. It was later owned by a succession of wealthy ironmasters, starting with John Barham, who bought the property in 1560, and including William Benge, the builder of the Gloucester Furnace at Lamberhurst in 1695. At some point, the remains of the nunnery buildings, including those of the monastic cells, were incorporated into the main house, which has been extended several times since.

The back elevation of the stuccoed house shows the oldest 17th century work, and is three storeys high and five casement windows in length. The front is 18th century, two storeys, with six sash windows. All this sit under a hipped slate roof complete with parapet.

Unusually for the area, Faircrouch is built with local stone quarried nearby. Some historians believe it was stone from an earlier medieval building taken from this property that helped in the building of Wadhurst Castle.

The area grew in the 1850s with the arrival of the railway, linking Wadhurst to the City of London. The then owners of Faircrouch were granted a permanent set of steps linking the house, via a woodland path, to Wadhurst Station ‘in perpetuity, in exchange for the sale of the cutting where the railway now runs.

Public Ledge and Daily Advertiser - 25 Jul 1807 (BNA)
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser. 25 July 1807. Image: British Newspaper Archive.

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During the latter part of the 19th century, Faircrouch was home to Mr Walter Prideaux (1806-1889), with links to the famous Prideaux family, a poet and solicitor, who rose to Clerk at Goldsmith’s Hall in London. Born at Bearscombe, he was one of six sons of Walter Prideaux (d. 1832) of Kingsbridge and Plymouth, a Quaker and partner in the Devon and Cornwall Bank.

Walter_Prideux_and_John_Hollins
Walter Prideaux (left) was featured in ‘A Consultation of the Aerial Voyage to Wellburgh’, painted in 1836 by John Hollins.

After he died in 1889, Faircrouch was let to Mr and Mrs Philip B. Petrie before being put up for sale in 1893. When a sale couldn’t be reached, it was re-advertised by the Trustees in 1894, and eventually sold to Mr E. Symes, famous in the area for removing a small iron church in the grounds of Wick House and re-erecting it at Faircrouch in 1898.

Kent & Sussex Courier - Wed 25 Apr 1894 (BNA)
Kent and Sussex Courier. 25 April 1894. Image: British Newspaper Archive.

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During the 20th century, Faircrouch was occupied by successive people, including L.P. Kekewich, Colonel Foster, Geoffrey Grindling, who installed an art-deco music room in the 1930s, and Lady Schuster. During the 1970s it was occupied by Mr Arthur Collwyn Sturge (1912-1986), awarded the Military Cross in 1945, an underwriter at Lloyd’s of London.

By the time the Corfe family arrived in the 1980s, the house was being used as a weekend retreat and in a considerable state of disrepair. At the time, the estate agent described Faircrouch as being ‘in the Eridge hunt country, 400 feet above sea level, keeping free from fog and enjoying the high sunshine statistics associated with Tunbridge Wells, England’s sunniest inland resort’.

Having a background in interior design, Rosaleen Corfe was responsible for the restoration, including a listed barn destroyed by a fallen oak tree in the great storm of 1987. Having lost her husband, and with her sons mainly working overseas, she reflected on ‘a happy family home’ of 26 years, but felt compelled to put Faircrouch on the open market.

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Davina McCall moved from her home at Woldingham, Surrey, after snapping up Faircrouch ‘for a song’. Since then the house has been further updated, the main house presented with a stylish contemporary finish which complements the many character features. The many period features include generous high ceilings and large sash windows which enhance the natural light, decorative mouldings and architraves, deep skirting boards, exposed floorboards, wood panel doors and feature fireplaces.

The landscaped area around the house provides interesting colour and structure with well-stocked borders and planting designed to frame the lovely views from the principal rooms.

A south-facing terrace to the side leads to a part-covered loggia whilst a further sheltered terrace is situated to the rear, fringed by scented planting and with a more formal walled garden beyond, incorporating an ornamental pond, clipped evergreen hedging, a level lawn and a swimming pool with a paved surround.

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