Important 17th Century English Country House – DIRT

Built around 1640, Barnham Court is an important Grade I listed property in West Sussex, approximately 60 miles from London. Presumed to have been built for a wealthy merchant, the house is in what is known as the Artisan Mannerism style. That is, English architecture created by masons, rather than architects, between about 1615 and 1675, copying designs from pattern books. Architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner wrote of Barnham Court that the house was the best of its date to be found in the county.

Barnham Court is very similar to Kew Palace, which is to this day a royal palace belonging to the English monarch. Pevsner wrote that the house “is so similar to Kew Palace…that the same designer must have been responsible.” The smallest of all royal palaces, Kew Palace was originally built as a fashionable mansion for a London silk merchant in 1631. King George II, who reigned from 1727 to 1760, bought Kew in 1729 as a residence for his three eldest daughters. After that, generations of royalty, including George III when he suffered from bouts of madness, used Kew as a refuge from London’s overcrowding. Today Kew Palace is open for tours as part of Kew Gardens.

Much like Kew Palace, Barnham Court’s facade features three curved Dutch gables. Although Barnham has often over its long history been part of a working farm, its style and quality make it more of a gentleman’s residence than a farm. At one time the estate comprised 200 acres; now the property is only 6.2 acres.

On sale for around $5.4 million through Inigo as well as through Phillippa Dalby-Welsh in Savills, the 7,151-square-foot home features five bedrooms and five bathrooms. The outbuildings include a one bedroom cottage as well as other buildings used as garages and a gardener’s shed. The listing notes that these can be used for offices or additional accommodation.

The house and gardens have undergone a complete restoration. Phillippa Dalby-Welsh says: “Barnham Court is quite simply one of the most stunning and architecturally significant country houses to come to market in years. Many would like to see their home as a work of art, but Barnham Court is in a league of its own.

The hall, the large living room, the library and the dining room are completed by two recently renovated 17th century orangeries. (An orangery is a greenhouse or conservatory attached to the main house where oranges and other fruit trees were kept during the cold English winters.) Rooms include fascinating original beams and other structures, such as the brick arches of the kitchen. The formal rooms are beautifully proportioned; the elegant original windows and views over the gardens form a beautiful backdrop. Modern touches to the house include underfloor heating and a carbon neutral solar energy solution.

Outside, the gardens include both formal and informal designs. Formal designs include Dutch-style parterres and old English cut and trimmed yews. Land north of the house was landscaped in the 1930s, and a pond was extended south in the 1970s to surround an island accessible by bridge. There is also an orchard and woods, all of which are havens for wildlife. For humans, there is a heated pool.

It may not be a royal palace, but it comes pretty close. Close enough for an Anglophile American millionaire to take advantage of the weak dollar and live out his aristocratic fantasies. Listing agent Dalby-Welsh adds: “The house is in a prime location, close to the glorious south coast and will offer a family or even an art collector the ultimate lifestyle.”

Laura J. Boyer