Buy Of The Week: Summertown, Oxford

This villa is one of Summertown's only 'whole' houses - but it needs a lot of hard work. Nick Lloyd Jones reports
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The Independent Online

The Grade II* listed eight-bedroom Summertown Villa occupies a wonderfully secluded spot on the outskirts of north Oxford. Screened by high boundary walls of golden Cotswold stone, the white stucco two-storey house was built in the 1830s in the classic Regency style before being extensively remodelled 30 years later with Victorian embellishments.

Little has changed since then and it is as if you step back in time as you approach the house along the sweeping, yew-lined gravel drive. The villa when first built comprised a study, dining room and drawing room on the ground floor with four bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs

Meanwhile, to the rear and sectioned off by stout soundproofed doors, was aservants' wing with scullery, pantry, flower room and larder on the ground level and three bedrooms above accessed by a separate staircase. Period features are all around: simple marble fireplaces in all of the principal rooms; stick baluster staircase with intricately carved panelling and polished mahogany handrail; ornate mouldings, plasterwork and archways; and distinctive encaustic tiled flooring throughout the hall and ground-floor passageways.

So unchanged is the servants' wing that it wouldn't be out of place in a museum. The pantry is lined with a beautifully crafted selection of shelving and cupboards, while, embedded in the kitchen wall, there is a chunky cast-iron range that is coal-fired and framed by distinctive toffee-brown tiling. There's even an antique wooden panel of bells still screwed into the scullery wall that would have been used to summon maids, footmen and butlers.

Another of the house's surprises is a perfectly preserved art deco bathroom on the first floor in which bath, sink, loo and tiling are in a matching shade of soft green with a narrow black trim finish. There is also a sizeable slate-roofed outbuilding to the north east. This is a former coach house that is skirted by a stable-yard and accessed by twin sets of timber double doors.

The main body of this building would make a perfect double garage, the pair of store rooms to either side used as studies or workshops while the hay loft would lend itself to a granny-flat conversion.

Important changes were made after the property changed hands in the 1850s. The new front door was installed on the southern side. Solid oak, it is framed in a casing of intricately carved Cotswold stone. Two extensions were also added. The first was the north-facing library-cum-billiard room with its long distinctive roof lantern. The other was the pair of twin conservatories added to the western side of the house overlooking the back garden. These were connected by a glass covered veranda running the entire length of the house, sporting a series of elegant cast-iron pillars and intricate lattice-work based on one of Brunel's designs.

This inspired addition lends the house a pleasing symmetry, echoed in the acre of formal gardens - a generous expanse of lawns flanked by laurels, bays and shrubbery. A gravel path bisects the lawns before dropping down a flight of stone steps where a pair of giant American redwoods - almost 100ft tall - stand sentinel.

Summertown is a leafy enclave about a mile from the city centre. The area has much to recommend it - including a parade of local shops and very good nearby schools. It is easy to understand why it has become such an increasingly popular spot for families in recent years.

It has a high concentration of large Victorian houses. However, most have been divided up into bedsits and flats for students. Summertown Villa is pretty much alone in having survived intact, but is not without its drawbacks.

Very little has been done to the place since the 1860s and it is in desperate need of renovation. Its owners - investors who bought it four years ago - have carried out a few very basic structural repairs such as restoring the boundary wall. They also tackled the veranda, which had been in danger of falling down - sandblasting its cast-iron pillars and lattice-work, re-glazing and replacing rotting sections of joinery.

There is still a lot of work to be done. The house needs rewiring and for central heating to be installed. And being listed, it will probably be no easy matter obtaining planning permission for structural changes.

"The place needs a lot of tender loving care," admits co-owner and architect Richard Landenberg. "It's quite a daunting task, but it's an opportunity to acquire a grand family house that has remained pretty much untouched since the mid-19th century."

Get the spec

What's for sale: Eight-bedroom two-storey Regency villa in the heart of north Oxford's Summertown area with four bathrooms, two conservatories, large cellar and billiards room.

Serious kit: White stucco façade embellished with elaborate honey-coloured Costwold stone carvings; a profusion of period features including original floor tiling, cornicing and arches.

How big? 539sq m with 83sq m former coach house set in its own acre of landscaped grounds.

Extras: Recently restored boundary wall and 1860s veranda; twin conservatories overlooking formal gardens; outbuilding that is ripe for

conversion.

Buy it: Summertown Villa is on sale through Kemp & Kemp Residential (01865 510000) for £2m.

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