Cast adrift in an open boat, with the endless horizon of the Pacific all around him, Captain William Bligh must at one point have have dreamed of the idyll of an English village. Twenty-six years after the mutiny on the Bounty, he came to live in the Manor House in Farningham, Kent, and it was here that he spent some of his last days.
Just 19 miles from Piccadilly Circus, the medieval village of Farningham has prospered since the Middle Ages due to its position. A comfortable day's ride from London, en route to Folkestone, and a key point on the Pilgrims' Trail, it became a popular stop for traders and travellers. Three inns supplied the journeyer with rest and sustenance, and they remain today: The Pied Bull, a coaching inn, still with its original sign, The Lion Hotel, an inn dating back to Tudor times, where Dickens stayed and enjoyed a spot of trout-fishing, and The Chequers.
A meeting point since Roman times, defended by its own small castle and with its medieval stone bridge still standing, the picturesque village is steeped in history. Situated on the chalky banks of the Darent river, there has been a watermill on this site for more than a thousand years. The present mill, a magnificent, white weather-boarded building dating from the 18th century, has been owned by the same family for 270 years and the recently reinvigorated river is home to kingfishers, trout and crayfish. At the heart of the village is the local butcher, "Eddie's", supplying the villagers with meat as well as gossip.
Most of the village buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries, and is a mixture of typical Kent weather-boarded houses and Georgian brick buildings. Built in 1850, Pine Hurst is among these original village buildings. The imposing double-fronted plaster-rendered façade is enclosed by iron railings surrounding a York-stone flagged front garden with parking space for two cars. Originally a surgeon's house, with a chemist next door, it was snapped up by its present owners 16 years ago.
"We fell in love with the village at first sight. It is such an unexpected find, half an hour from town and yet so idyllic and unspoiled. The connections to London made it an ideal location for us and we have loved living here", says the current owner.
Although not in need of any large-scale refurbishment, the house had been occupied by the same family for a quarter of a century and the interior was tired and worn. Still in possession of all of its original features including fireplaces, cornicing and 12 panel windows complete with shutters, and with the later addition of lustrous parquet floors in the hall and dining room, it required no more than a cosmetic overhaul to bring it back to its original, well-proportioned glory.
Arranged around a central staircase, the study and sitting room on one side of the hall and dining room and kitchen on the other, the simple, doll's house layout is easy and comfortable to live in. On the upper floor, four bedrooms and two bathrooms are arranged around the large and brightly lit landing. A passageway leads to a fifth bedroom with en-suite bathroom, providing comfortably private accommodation for guests.
In addition, the house incorporates a separate one- bedroom, two storey annexe, with open-plan kitchen and sitting room and separate bathroom. Converted from the old stables, it has its own gated side entrance, and provides blissfully private accommodation for a nanny, a granny or a very privileged teenager. "We've had the same nanny for 13 years, and she's been really comfortable and happy here," remarks the current owner.
Besides general decorating work, the current owners have overhauled the kitchen with the addition of an Aga, wall tiles from Fired Earth and an Amtico "slate" floor, keeping the original pantry with cold slate and marble slabs for food storage.
To increase their living space as their family grew, they added a wood and glass orangery forming an extension to the kitchen, measuring 18ft by 10ft. Bathed in light throughout the day, with French windows opening onto the garden, it is a tranquil and inspiring place, overlooking the wide-walled garden with its magnificent, imposing beech tree. "The tree is as old as the house. We have planted a large woodland rockery around its base where the hellebores have run quite wild," says the current owner.
The lawn is enclosed by wide herbaceous borders and, hidden in the far corner, a Victorian summerhouse with a tiled roof and beautiful rough-log corner-supports provides a deliciously romantic hideaway.
Full head-height cellars occupy an area the size of the entire ground floor. Originally the servants' quarters, and still equipped with a sink, fireplace and scullery, the area is divided into three main rooms with a smaller storage area. "This was to be our next project", says the current owner. "Opened up to form one huge room with a separate wine cellar, it would make the most amazing space for parties." It already has windows to the front and back, and its own separate entrance, so could also make a great office for those planning to work from home. And as the house is, surprisingly, unlisted, the new owners will be free to arrange things as they please.
The current owners are making a career-driven move to a new home in the north and, although excited by the prospect, are sad to leave Pine Hurst and its unique village location. "Life here has been wonderful", they say. "We are 15 miles by road to Canary Wharf, and 35 minutes by rail to Blackfriars from Farningham Road station. Popping down to the butcher to pick up your Sunday roast and catch up on the gossip is not something you would expect to enjoy within the commuter belt, but it happens here."
Get The Spec
What's for sale: Unlisted five-bedroom, three-bathroom Georgian house with separate one- bedroom annexe, orangery, walled garden, off-street parking.
Serious kit: all original features, large undeveloped cellars, new kitchen.
How big? Floorplan: 357.3 square metres
Buy it: £950,000, Lane Fox Sevenoaks (01732 459900; www.lanefox.co.uk)Reuse content