Carter Jonas Markets Ashdown House
Date of Article
May 06 2009

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There are some things in life that money just can’t buy, and among them is the freehold to National Trust properties. The Trust holds its properties in perpetuity, but there are some instances where a few lucky people can become tenants.

Ashdown House, Oxfordshire

Ashdown House, located deep in the heart of the Lambourn Downs, has been owned by the National Trust since 1956, but was sold on a 60 year lease in 1990. Carter Jonas is now offering the balance of that lease for sale - the closest anyone may ever get to “owning” one of The National Trust's historic country houses.

The lease to Ashdown House includes 84.7 acres of land and along with it comes three keepers’ cottages on a site of almost half an acre, on a separate 99 year lease that started in 1993, and 14.83 acres freehold that includes a spectacular modern orangery and pool.

For Chris Boreham, a Partner in Carter Jonas' Newbury office, the whole deal brings a sense of déjà vu, as he was involved in the original lease negotiations:

“The approach to Ashdown House is marked by a roadside field of stones – glacial deposits from the Ice Age – that is backed by woodland,” he says. “The driveway to the house passes through the trees and many people wonder what lies behind. The answer is one of the most spectacular country houses in England and as a person who sees many country houses in the course of a year that’s not a description I apply lightly.

“Since the day the first lease was granted, the house has been improved beyond all recognition thanks to the restoration carried out by the current lessees.

“The house has had as much love lavished upon it as it has money invested in its upkeep and taking on this property is not going to be for the financially faint hearted. On the other hand, the rewards of occupying a country house that must be a trophy among such properties is not to be missed.

“The house dates back to the mid 17th Century, with the two pavilions that flank it added about 20 years later. It was built by the loverlorn Lord Craven for Charles 1’s sister, Elizabeth, the exiled Queen of Bohemia, that she might avoid the plague in London. Sadly, she died before she could see it and he never married but the property remained with the Craven family until 1956 when it was given to the National Trust.

“Back then it was almost derelict – today it is pristine. There are four floors at ground level and above, plus a lower ground floor, but the crowning glory is the cupola and roof terrace that give the most fantastic and far-reaching views. It’s possible to imagine previous generations standing there soaking up the view and maybe the hunting going on around them.

“Ashdown House now has six bedroom suites plus a further two bedrooms and bathrooms. There is also copious entertaining space, but the house also lends itself to the role of the perfect hideaway.

“One of the lodges is now staff quarters and the other houses storerooms and a workshop. The keepers’ cottages have been divided to form a two bedroom and separate four bedroom home. The Orangery, the work of Philip Jebb and with a heated pool and tennis court, is freehold and could be sold for around £1.5 million but I would imagine whoever buys the lease to the house will want to keep it as part of this desirable and otherwise unattainable estate.”

The 41 year remainder of the lease, plus the 83 year lease on the cottages and Orangery freehold, is £4.5 million and it is possible that it could be extended by the National Trust to match the 99 year lease of the cottages for an additional £1 million.