In the spring of this year house prices rocketed in London and the South-east. Properties sold in a matter of days and, in at least one case, hours. Silly money was offered by either the cash-rich or the panic- stricken. But not everyone spent a fortune to acquire a dream residence, writes Penny Jackson, in her review of the most interesting homes to be sold in 1997.

A lot of money certainly makes for a memorable sale, but is that the only factor? Far from it if this selection of properties is anything to go by. So the most expensive house of the year appears, but also a mobile home and a "hovel". Unforgettable can be pounds 40,000 as well as pounds 20m.

An elegant, unspoilt Georgian house that has not been "suburbanised" sold for around pounds 1m with Savills. The family who bought Corsley House in Wiltshire treasure the walled kitchen garden, which is as it would have been at the turn of the century. Instead of garaging, they inherit a greenhouse with six grapevines and on the 50 acres of grazing land there is not a swimming pool to be seen.

A paddock with a home is the best way of describing Dun Roamin, in Kingswood, near Aylesbury, Bucks. And only a mobile home at that. But it had hundreds of inquiries from all over the country, many of them from people who hoped that mobile could be turned into permanent bricks and mortar. No such luck. But Blackhorse Agencies sold it for pounds 40,000 to a couple who presumably love horses and know how rare it is to find a mobile home with any land at all.

Anyone selling in north Oxford has this sale to be grateful for. It may look like an unexceptional Victorian family house, but it set a new precedent for prices. Spacious, but semi-detached and slightly tatty, with seven bedrooms, cellars and a secluded garden, it sold in Canterbury Road for more than pounds 900,000, some pounds 200,000 above what Savills thought was top whack. It was the only house like it on the market at the time (May) in a hot area for schools.

What a position - and the house is not half bad either. At the Old Rectory, East Portlemouth, south Devon you stand in the drive and look across lawns and the unspoilt Salcombe estuary. A rare creature on the market at any time, this house sold twice in the year, on the second occasion for just under pounds 1m through Marchand Petit. It has six acres, with walled garden, boathouse and moorings.

A fairytale cottage with ceilings of twisted branches and billowing plaster. You have to be the size of Hansel and Gretel to live there since at some points it is no more than 4ft high.

As the only agricultural "hovel" in original condition in England, the Thatched Cottage at Ludgershall, Bucks, with its picture-book garden, became a media celebrity. Hordes of romantic callers came down to earth when they learned it was single storey with two bedrooms. John D Wood sold it for pounds 165,000.

A snip - at pounds 20m. Aubrey House, an early Georgian mansion in west London, was the most expensive to be sold this year but first came on the market at pounds 25m in '96. It has the largest private garden outside of Buckingham Palace. In the international league of wealthy buyers, the British are not as rare as they were, according to Knight Frank, which conducted the sale. More than a few have outgrown their pounds 10m homes.

Portholes in the attic used for firing cannons at the Roundheads and a magnificent oak staircase have survived Naas House, Lydney, Gloucestershire. Much else within the shell didn't but "in need of restoration" - some pounds 250,000-worth - brought the adventurous flocking. Being used as PoW camp couldn't have helped. It went for more than the guide of pounds 250,000, again through John D. Wood.

Few places have the cachet of The Village, a converted school in Battersea, London, colonised by the likes of David Linley and Natasha Caine, who made moving south of the river fashionable. This three-bedroom, loft-style penthouse sold for pounds 575,000 through CityScope. Such is the nature of the place that the new owner, who shared a Spice Girl name, was under seige from the media for days.

Oxney Court, in Kent, is a 16th century Gothic ruin with the makings of a six-bedroom country house. Once Cluttons Daniel Smith had weeded out the dreamers, they had five offers. The buyer from London, who paid around the pounds 260,000 mark, "understood what lay ahead". At least planning permission has been granted.

Images of somewhere like Gaunt Mill flash through buyers' minds when they plan a move to the country. This had it all in a year of scarcity, says Knight Frank. A period property, separate cottage, mill pool, and lovely gardens and within easy distance of Oxford. In a couple of weeks there were 85 viewings and it went for well over the guide price of pounds 650,000.

Those people who have been waiting for five years for a Georgian house in parklike grounds will gnash their teeth at seeing Ashcombe House slip through their fingers. A house of this calibre and age is particularly rare in Sussex. It went on the market at pounds 850,000 and sold within three weeks via Cluttons Daniel Smith.

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