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The Independent Culture
Hopefuls looking for estate cottages huddled around a landowner's stately pile should keep an eye on empty properties for signs of imminent restoration, find out the name of the agent and join the queue - even the most modest dwelling attracts stiff competition.

Knight, Frank & Rutley in Cirencester recently offered a three-bedroomed semi-detached cottage on a private estate in Herefordshire with a guide rent of pounds 260 a month. The property was "pretty basic and had no central heating, but people were falling over each other to get in there". A shortlist of 20 applicants was eventually invited to tender bids. The cottage was let for pounds 320 a month.

Less basic cottages in commuting distance of a big city fetch much higher rents. Two-bedroomed Crossbush Lodge on the Norfolk Estate, near Arundel, is currently offered at pounds 750 a month. Three-bedroomed Ridge Farm-house on Neston Park estate, near Bath, is offered at pounds 1,400 a month. At Hampton Court Park, a newly decorated single-storey Victorian cottage is offered at pounds 400 a week. All three are available through regional offices of Cluttons.

In Dorset, Savills (01202 887331) is renting a converted Grade II listed clockhouse on behalf of Encombe Park estate for around pounds 500 a month. On Lord Cardigan's Savernake estate in Wiltshire, Hamptons in Marlbor-ough (01672 516256) is seeking offers for a flat in a converted stable with a guide price of pounds 350 pcm.

For details of properties on the Chippenham Park estate (see main text) contact Bidwells on 01223 841841. Estate lettings at Hardwick are handled by Savills (01491 579990). And Richard Astor's Kirby estate is managed by Strutt & Parker (01635 521707).

The National Trust has an extensive portfolio of cottages scattered all over country estates. Estate departments are "inundated with enquiries", but the Trust points out that no waiting lists are kept. As a general rule, their policy is to let properties to local people and to confine advertising to the regional catchment area. An exception is Selworthy Cottage on the Holnicote estate in Exmoor (early 1800s, vernacular revival style, currently being restored) which will be marketed nationally work on it is finished next year.

Long repairing leases on neg-lected estate cottages are occasionally offered. And in some cases, public pressure has forced owners into selling or leasing endangered listed estate buildings. SAVE's 1994 handbook, "Stop This Rot", featured several derelict properties that have now found caring custodians. A new edition will be published shortly. Contact SAVE on 0171- 228 3336.