The bleached grey limestone of Wiltshire makes the most impressive of country houses. Cove House Farm at Leigh, near Cricklade, is a four-bedroom farmhouse with mullioned windows and 32 acres, priced at pounds 450,000. The Chase at Winsley is a six-bedroom house with gardens and paddocks priced at pounds 650,000, while Braydon Hall at Minety is the perfect estate: a 17th-century house with 11 bedrooms, a staff flat, swimming pool complex, arable farm, woodland and shoot, priced at pounds 2m. All are for sale through Knight Frank & Rutley.
The very same stone emerges again in the Howardian Hills of Yorkshire, where the houses have an air of command over the landscape, some of the nicest being those that once belonged to the old estates such as Castle Howard. Carter Jonas is selling the five-bedroomed Old Water Mill at Brandsby, which is built in mellow local stone with ashlar to the front and random stonework to the rear, at pounds 179,000. They are are also offering Scawton Croft, near Helmsley, a listed stone farmhouse with stone flagged floors and views of Rievaulx Abbey, within the North York Moors National Park; the price is pounds 350,000.
The preservation of the estate villages presents its own headaches, however. Earl Spencer is currently involved in trying to mimic the Northamptonshire stone vernacular, with its thatched roofs and leaded light windows at Little Brington on the Althorp Estate in order to maintain the continuity of style. The two new houses being built in the traditional way will eventually be sold through Jackson-Stops & Staff at pounds 295,000 and pounds 245,000.
A glance through the estate agents' shelves to find some of the finest stone houses on the market would not be complete without mention of Stamford, Lincolnshire, which is still reeling from its starring role in the the television adaptation of George Eliot's Middlemarch. The villages close by are just as rich in limestone. At Bainton, for instance, five miles to the east, there is Willow Gate Cottage, which is built of coursed stonework under a thatched roof with five eyebrows, a sitting room with a stone hearth and a stone-walled garden. Carter Jonas have valued it at pounds 265,000.
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