Buy Of The Week: Yaverland Manor

This island home was mentioned in the Domesday Book, transformed into Jacobean splendour in the 17th century and lovingly restored in modern times. Now a piece of living history is for sale. Mary Wilson reports
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The Independent Online

The Isle of Wight has many things going for it - beautiful countryside, sandy beaches, great sailing, red squirrels, dinosaur fossils and excellent quality of life. Many people have fond memories of the island, either from school trips or holidays spent there, but it is a delightful place to live as well.

The Isle of Wight has many things going for it - beautiful countryside, sandy beaches, great sailing, red squirrels, dinosaur fossils and excellent quality of life. Many people have fond memories of the island, either from school trips or holidays spent there, but it is a delightful place to live as well.

Measuring 23 miles by 13 miles, it is only a half-hour ferry ride from the mainland and, with a population of about 120,000, it is still as unspoilt as it was in Victorian times. Osborne House, where Queen Victoria spent many happy holidays, is one of the many attractions, bringing more than one million visitors to the island each year.

The Isle of Wight also has a proliferation of early manor houses, with a total of 126 being mentioned in the Domesday Book. One of these is Yaverland Manor, on the south-east coast - a beautiful, Grade I-listed house, said to be one of the finest examples of a 17th-century manor house in southern England. Its history goes back to Norman times, but it was transformed in 1620 by Jermyn Richards, a local brewer, into the fine Jacobean manor it still is today.

Over the massive fireplace in the 40ft-long, stone-flagged Great Hall is a wonderful mural painted in 1840 by one previous owner, one of the Hamond-Graeme family, depicting the coats of arms of owners up to his time. "This room is the heart of the manor," says Rory Monck, who is reluctantly selling the house on behalf of his mother, the Hon Mrs Sheila Monck, who is in a nursing home.

"My parents bought it just before the Second World War and farmed here successfully until my father died in 1987," he says. "They restored it beautifully, rewiring, replumbing and modernising, while retaining all the medieval character." They also joined up the former Brew House to the main house, creating a games room and utility room with self-contained two-bedroom flat over.

Many of the ground-floor rooms have stone floors, exposed beams and large fireplaces, and throughout the house are quirky features - cupboards in unusual places, 5ft-high solid oak doors and original leaded-light windows with two signatures of the makers, James and Jeremiah Jollife, engraved into two panes.

On the impressive Jacobean oak staircase, there are four carved heads - one of which is meant to look like James I, but in fact bears a closer resemblance to Richard Branson. In a cupboard in one of the bedrooms, there is a secret chamber which could have been a priest-hole or smuggler's hiding place. "This room is the only one that is panelled," says Rory. "When my parents bought the house, half the panelling was missing, but as luck would have it, they found it in a barn at the other end of the island and reinstated it."

Another unusual feature of the house is that it has probably one of the earliest fitted kitchens, with curved table and bench seats. "This was built for my parents in the 1950s and is still exactly the same as it was. Someone into that period of furniture would love it," he says. The same carpenter also built the library shelves.

Around the house are stunning gardens with an avenue of lime trees and ancient magnolia and fig trees, and from the front, there are views over Sandown Bay. To one side are stables and paddocks - Rory's mother bred Welsh Mountain ponies - and beyond that, as far as the eye can see, are woodland and pastureland belonging to the estate.

After Rory's father died, the land was rented out, but the farmer gave it up two years ago, as he could no longer make money out of it. "You have to diversify to make it work nowadays," says Rory. "Perhaps the farm buildings, some of which are modern, some listed, could be a successful equestrian enterprise for someone."

He then entered into the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, whereby the arable land reverts to grassland, the woodland is restocked and coppiced, and important areas of archaeology protected.

There are two sites of special scientific interest on the estate, and in 2001, Yaverland Manor was featured on Channel Four's Time Team; a dig on the estate revealed the possibility of an Iron Age hillfort once existing there.

Although the manor is less than half an hour from the nearest ferry, it is the separation from the mainland, by the Solent, that puts some people off.

And as you have to take a ferry, hydrofoil or hovercraft to get anywhere, you are forever clockwatching to catch the next one. However, with six different routes leaving from varying departure points, there is rarely a time when it is impossible to get off the island, even when the weather is frightful.

Not many people commute daily to London, although there are plenty going over to Southampton or Portsmouth, and an increasing number who do a weekly or four-day commute. The lucky ones go by helicopter, or for those with a small plane, there are airports at Sandown or Bembridge.

But the Isle of Wight offers real value for money. Property prices are lower than the mainland by about 20 percent, although they have caught up in the past 10 years, especially in the most popular destinations such as Yarmouth, Cowes and Bembridge.

The price of Yaverland Manor - £2.5m for house with garden, farm buildings, paddocks and nearly nine acres - could buy you a three-bedroom penthouse in central London. Or, the price increases to £3.55m for the whole estate which extends to 545 acres.

Peter Meiklejohn, of Dreweatt Neate, says :"I see it being bought by a wealthy person who values the history and conservation aspects of the property, or by someone who wants a lovely house, which is large but not unmanageable."

Yaverland Manor Estate, with five bedrooms, five reception rooms, attic rooms, stabling, farm buildings and tennis court, is for sale through Dreweatt Neate, 01962 842742, and Hose Rhodes Dickson, 01983 521144