Buy Of The Week: West Sussex

John Galsworthy's former country home has been transformed into elegant flats with flawless contemporary interiors
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The Independent Online

In 1967, long before the advent of multi-channel television, much of the nation was gripped every Sunday evening for 26 weeks by the feuds and dramas of the aristocratic Forsyte family and their London merchant's business. With its high production values and star names, including Kenneth More, Michael York, Eric Porter and Nyree Dawn Porter, the BBC serial drama The Forsyte Saga was the Dallas of its day, a sort of fancy soap opera in posh period frocks.

In 1967, long before the advent of multi-channel television, much of the nation was gripped every Sunday evening for 26 weeks by the feuds and dramas of the aristocratic Forsyte family and their London merchant's business. With its high production values and star names, including Kenneth More, Michael York, Eric Porter and Nyree Dawn Porter, the BBC serial drama The Forsyte Saga was the Dallas of its day, a sort of fancy soap opera in posh period frocks.

The writer of the novels on which the series was based was John Galsworthy, and now the Edwardian home in which he resided and from where he penned the later antics of this entertaining dynasty has been restored and converted into seriously modern, luxury apartments.

Bury House, which is situated in the pretty West Sussex village of Bury, was originally built in 1910 in a Jacobean style suggestive of a much older property.

The Grade II-listed three-storey stone property, which once had 15 bedrooms and elegantly extensive living space, now incorporates six luxuriously appointed two- and three-bedroom apartments for sale.

Each has grand dimensions and a wealth of original features, from stone pilasters to mullioned windows and giant fireplaces. Irene and Soames would not have looked out of place in these surroundings.

Paul Street, the managing partner of The Norchester Partnership, the Chichester-based developer specializing in period conversions which transformed Bury House, comments: "It was important to retain the integrity of the original building both for the building itself and the finished article, but it lent itself well for conversion because it is symmetrical.

"It also faces south so it has lots of fabulous views from all of the windows."

When it was acquired, Bury House had been a nursing home for many years. The owners, firstly West Sussex County Council and then a private partnership, had brutally subdivided it into numerous separate bedrooms and installed exterior drainage pipes running across the mellow stonework. The stone roof, too, needed serious attention.

"It was very run down because the two previous owners had rather different agendas to maintaining a listed building. It needed a lot of restoration work," says Street, pointedly.

The result is an impressive combination of the old and the new. The handsome external architecture is perfectly complemented by the newly refurbished, quality interiors, which boast every mod con.

Kitchens are all fitted out with modern chrome and granite, there are acres of marble in the bathrooms and, that particularly welcome modern invention, underfloor heating has been installed throughout.

In addition to the building itself, the south-facing gardens have been landscaped and an ornamental pond has been restored, providing fabulous views over the countryside.

Molly Miles, senior negotiator of Cluttons, the Arundel-based estate agents jointly handling the sale, comments: "Bury House has historical and aesthetic appeal, but it's also in an extremely beautiful location by Bury Hill with very pretty views over the South Downs.

"It's a striking building full of light and space and fantastic dimensions."

What hits the visitor is that the insides have been converted so sympathetically to the original structure. The Norchester Partnership's first task was to remove all the partitioning and get the building back to how it was originally.

"After that we knocked a few things down but we just created a big footprint of the rooms that were the original design. The open plan living area in one of the suites was actually the drawing room of the original house," says Street.

The apartment conversions are on each of the three floors, with a lift for access to the upper levels , which increases the appeal for possible retirement property hunters.

The biggest apartment is the ground floor Coombe suite (each suite is named after a local village, including Amberley and Houghton), which has an enormous drawing room measuring 24ft by 22ft.

The Bury suite, also on the ground floor, boasts a living area constructed from Galsworthy's original drawing room and has a fabulous fireplace with carved stone pilasters. The room is of similar dimensions to the Coombe suite, but it also has an open plan kitchen bolted on, creating a sociable and modern living space that works surprisingly well in its period shell.

The Norchester Partnership has also cunningly added two totally new-build cottages in the grounds of Bury House, built in traditional style like coach houses so well that they convince as period properties.

Prices are surprisingly keen for what is luxury accommodation set in beautiful countryside within easy reach of Gatwick airport - and only just over an hour by train from London. They start at £395,000, rising to just under £600,000 for the largest suite, while the individual cottages are priced at £450,000.

Andrea Davies, manager of Henry Adams & Partners in Pulborough, the joint agent with Cluttons on the property, says: "Sussex is very low-beamed. You just don't get Victorian or Georgian properties down here with wonderful high ceilings like this. It's a rare, fantastic house."

Galsworthy had a fruitful time while there. During his time at Bury House, he finished off The Forsyte Saga, wrote numerous poems and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1932. The views across the Downs were also said to have inspired much of his poetry, and indeed his ashes were scattered nearby on Bury Hill in 1933.

"I, in no grave be confined, mingle my dust with the dust," he wrote, as a last poetic request.

Twenty-first century occupants might just feel similarly inspired.

Two-bed apartments in Bury House from £370,000 through Henry Adams & Partners, Pulborough (01798 872432)

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