If you’re in the market for a sprawling countryside abode once owned by a literary icon, Combe Florey, a magnificent Grade II-listed Georgian manor house formerly home to satirical novelist Evelyn Waugh, could be just the property for you.
Situated in 35 acres of lush Somerset parkland overlooking the Quantock Hills, the delightful property has played host to numerous famous faces throughout the years, including poet laureate John Betjeman, actors Peter Cook and Alec Guinness and writers Salman Rushdie and Muriel Spark.
Built in the 17th century on the site of an Elizabethan home, which was pulled down after the English Civil War, the house was extensively remodelled in 1730 by former owner William Frauncies, who gave it a classical look in the style of the architect James Gibb, with red sandstone ashlar façades and yellow sandstone window surrounds. The property was then sold to the Perring family in 1799, and later to the Batchelor family in 1896. 60 years later, Combe Florey was acquired by Waugh, the author of beloved classics like Brideshead Revisited, Scoop and Vile Bodies, who lived there with his family up until his death in 1966 at the age of 62. It remained in the Waugh family until 2008 when they sold it to the current owners, who have now put the property on the market at a guide price of £5.5 million.
‘It’s rare to find a house of such good stature, standard and significance as Combe Florey House, and one with such a fascinating and rich history,’ Oliver Custance Baker, Senior Associate Director at Strutt & Parker, told Tatler. ‘As with many Georgian country homes, their proportions and elegance stand the test of time making them well suited to modern family life.’
Approached through a gatehouse and a long private drive climbing through stunning parkland, Combe Florey offers a mighty 16,232 sq ft of living space, with further accommodation in a three-bedroom Keepers Cottage. A grand reception hall awaits guests upon entry, centered by an impressive early 18th century newel staircase and flanked by the drawing room and the library.
Despite undergoing major renovation, many of the house’s original features remain conserved, including fine ceiling mouldings, panelled doors, chimneypieces and original stone and wooden floors as well as details added during Waugh’s time there, from the stone steps and porch at the front entrance to his daughter Margaret’s name and the date 1964 scratched into a window pane in the drawing room.
A large orangery on the ground floor provides a central hub to the house and allows connection between the formal library, dining room and drawing room and the informal sitting room, family room, study and breakfast room. The grandeur continues outdoors with the property’s beautiful formal gardens, large flagstone terrace and open lawn, with a large circular pond forming the centrepiece with an ornate three tier fountain. Dotted around the estate are a traditional range of ancillary country house buildings including a coach house, stores and kennels as well as a party barn and pool house, adapting the historic property to 21st century living.
‘Nestled in the foothills of the Quantocks and views extending down to the West Somerset Railway, Combe Florey House is a hidden gem that’s been well looked after over the years,’ says Baker, noting that the house’s location and surroundings are becoming increasingly popular with relocating families. ‘The length of time it’s spent in the ownership of the Waugh family is testament to how treasured it has been as a family home.’
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