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PrimeResi Quarterly Journal

The handbook of the luxury property industry

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PRQ8

Current issue: Winter 2016/7

Next issue: due for publication in April 2017

‘One of the most important houses in horseracing heritage’ comes to market

Arts & Crafts mansion in Newmarket asks £1.65m

Soham House, one of the most important houses in Newmarket, and which has played a pretty central role in the history of horseracing heritage, is being offered for sale with a £1.65m ticket price.

The 6,000 square foot, seven bedroom house was commissioned by the famous Johnstone family in 1892, as a country home in which to entertain guests from London for Newmarket races. It was designed by top Arts & Crafts architect C J Harold Cooper, who was also responsible for Mayfair’s Green Park House and 1a Palace Gate in Kensington. The property was later bought by Lord Queenborough in 1910, who was thought to be the wealthiest man in England at the time. Lord Queenborough married New York high socialite and Teddy Roosevelt cohort Pauline Payne Whitney; the Whitney family has been one of the biggest horseracing dynasties in the US from the late nineteenth century until today.

Lord Queenborough and Pauline Payne Whitney’s daughter, the Honourable Dorothy Wyndham Paget, who was one of the world’s most prolific racehorse owners owned the property most of her life until 1952. Paget’s horses won a total of 1,532 races in both flat racing and hurdling and her stud in Ireland bred Arkle, one of the most successful racehorses of all time. She was reported to have been worth the equivalent of £100 million on her death in 1960 and a nearby neighbouring road around the property have been named in her memory. Paget was also known as a keen sponsor of motor-racing and in the late 1920s financed the team of supercharged Bentleys created by Sir Henry (Tim) Birkin.

Following Paget’s death, Soham House was acquired by the Horse Racing Forensic Laboratories (now known as the LGC Group) which converted many of the rooms into offices and laboratories, and went on to lead research projects around horseracing, drug testing and commissioned research for owners and trainers. It was pretty important stuff, and received a Royal visit from Princess Anne in 1970 in recognition.

The property was converted back into a residential dwelling in 1997, before it was purchased by the current owners in 2001. Many of the original features have been retained, including an incredible carved oak staircase with a number of elaborate carvings and finials, vast fireplaces and extensive wooden panelling. Interestingly, a stained glass window was removed from one of the bedrooms when the property was purchased by the Horseracing Forensics Laboratory and is now in the Victoria and Albert museum. The window includes four panels with illustrations of “The Brownies” from Mrs Ewing’s children’s book of the same name. There are more Brownies (fairy folk) in wooden panels over the reception hall.

All-in, it’s a pretty impressive home, with a grand vaulted reception room, billiards room (complete with original paintings on panels above a marble fireplace) and that delicious redbrick facade. There’s also a large cellar with a wine store and silver room.

Sham House comes with 1.15 acres of grounds, including a sweeping driveway with an ornate stone fountain and a series of garages and outbuildings. It’s located off of Snailwell Road, alongside a number of key racing yards, including the Godolphin headquarters.

The current owners, Mr and Mrs Barrett, both 49 years old, have lived in the property for over 14 years, but are now ready to downsize. They have two young daughters who have grown up in the house and run a publishing/marketing business.

Mr Barrett, current owner of Soham House: “The best thing about this house is that it really is a family home. It has an incredibly homely feel and has been fantastic for bringing up our daughters. As it originally was built for entertaining, we have had the most amazing Christmases in the house, where we have slept over 20 people, had a vast dining table in the reception hall and a 15 ft Christmas tree. We even had our wedding reception here on the lawns. Despite the space and the option for hosting huge groups of family and friends, the house is equally brilliant for an informal barbecue or a small family gathering. Whilst it was built to impress, the rooms flow easily and the house has a real charisma. The best thing during parties or entertaining is that everyone can go and find their own spot, whether that’s a game in the billiards room or have a go on the piano in the sitting room.

“We will be sad to leave the house and we really would like to see it go to another family. We have had a huge amount of fun here and the house is so versatile it can be anything anyone wants it to be.”

Richard Freshwater, Director, Cheffins: “Soham House is an incredibly rare opportunity to purchase a piece of Newmarket’s horseracing heritage. Properties of this calibre are not often seen on the market in the local area and we expect it to generate a good deal of interest. I should imagine that the property will attract a range of buyers including those who are involved in horseracing and families looking for somewhere as their last move. Newmarket is still a good investment with property prices rising in line with Cambridge whilst offering more value for money than some other surrounding locations.”

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