An exceptional Grade I listed William and Mary house
Stedcombe House is an incredibly attractive Grade I listed country house, originally built in the late seventeenth century, and rescued from an appalling state of decay by the current owner after a three year restoration project. His scholarly attention and devotion to its sympathetic architecture has resurrected this magnificent example of a William and Mary house. Stedcombe House is a classical post-Restoration box with two main floors, basement and attic and with four show fronts each of five bays. The house is of red brick (probably baked on site), laid Flemish bond with Portland stone quoins, plinth, string and window surrounds, a timber eaves cornice with carved modillions, and a slated dormered roof with a leaded flat around the belvedere. This last element is original to the building and unique combining the functions of roofed cupola and chimney stack.
The house is entirely hidden until its symmetrical profile is revealed as one approaches via the ascending drive to where the house proudly stands overlooking the Axe Valley to the west, the dramatic Hawkesdown Hill to the south and further wooded pasture of the Bindon Estate to the east. Several things about it are unusual, but its most significant characteristics are its easy flow of rooms and the quality of its design. In keeping with its era, all the rooms benefit from high ceilings and excellent proportions, with an array of fine period features, including handsome chimneypieces, original shutters and elegant panelling.
The west door with moulded Portland stone surround and cornice supported by scrolled consoles echoes the windows and leads to a grand hall and a vista straight through the house to half-glazed doors surmounted by a semi-circular fanlight on the east side. The hall is one of only four rooms that constitute the raised ground floor and all occupy a corner of the house. The resulting dual aspects coupled with substantial sash windows allow in an abundance of light.
The first floor has similar proportions with four bedrooms around a central landing. Two of these are corner rooms with two aspects and the other two have adjoining bathrooms. The south-west bedroom also has a dressing room and an additional bathroom looks after the remaining bedrooms. The attic, which maintains a good ceiling height, has a further four bedrooms, two bathrooms, box room suitable for storage or single bedroom and access to the belvedere which has far reaching 360 degree views.
The lower ground floor has four corner rooms, namely the large family kitchen, the hall which also acts as a more informal sitting room, study/office and utility room. This floor also enjoys excellent natural light due to its good ceiling height and windows extending above ground level and has a separate entrance reached from the basement area, which connects with an underground tunnel to the stableyard.
THE OUTBUILDINGS AND THE LODGE
The stableyard, which is a convenient car parking area, contains a number of red brick and stone outbuildings forming an attractive courtyard. While the two storey part of the Leanto Range and the Stable Block were re-roofed in the 1990's, these buildings are in need of repair and have the potential to provide ancillary accommodation, stabling, workshops, garaging and storage. In 1995 there was planning and listed building consent, which has now expired, to convert the buildings into a cottage and flat as well as reinstating stabling and garaging. The Lodge is located at the road gate and, despite its later date, is playfully akin to Stedcombe House being built, as are the gate piers, of red brick and stone, as well as having a timber eaves cornice gutter and a slated dormered roof with a massive central chimney stack. It comprises three bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, sitting room, utility room and cloakroom.
GARDEN AND GROUNDS
Stedcombe House sits privately in approximately 20 acres grounds including parkland, three walled gardens, pasture and woodland. Perched on the eastern slope of the Axe Valley much of the land is terraced and the house overlooks its own land and the rolling country beyond. There is a covenant on the adjoining land to the north and the east prohibiting development and change of use which protects future privacy the property already enjoys.
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Stedcombe House, which was masterfully rescued from an appalling state of decay following a three year restoration project, is the finest representation of a William and Mary house I have been fortunate enough to visit. Its symmetrical profile sits in a commanding position overlooking the beautiful country of the Axe Valley to the west, the dramatic Hawkesdown Hill to the south and further wooded pasture of the Bindon Estate to the east.George Nares