William Cash’s recently launched “serviced country house” business, Villarum Estates, has made a play for one of the most important historic houses in Norfolk, the spectacular Grade I listed East Barsham Manor on the county’s “Champagne Coast”.
This is Villarum’s second acquisition, following the purchase of a 14th Century ecclesiastical estate with literary credentials in Shropshire last month (read all about it on PrimeResi here).
Built in around 1520 for Sir Henry Fermor, Henry VIII was a regular visitors to East Barsham Manor – which lies just outside of Walsingham, where the King made a barefoot pilgrimage to beg for a son – leading the vendor to describe it as a “mini Hampton Court”. Indeed, Barsham and Hampton Court are two of only a handful of surviving Tudor brick manor houses. It’s also just down the road from Prince Wills and Duchess Kate’s country pad.
The eight-bedroom property, which needs a fair amount of work, has been on the market for quite some time, going round the houses with agents including Savills, Fine & Country and Sotheby’s International. It was, however taken off the market and the asking price slashed by 25% just before Villarum swooped to negotiate a private option with the owner, artist and entrepreneur Roy Griffiths.
Originally listed at £3.95m, Griffiths dramatically trimmed his asking price to £2.95m just last week. Griffiths bought the house in 2014 from Sir John Guinness for something around the £2.75m mark, with grand plans to convert it into a boutique hotel. It transpired, however, that some neighbours weren’t so keen on the neighbourhood luxury hotel idea, stalling development.
Now Villarum has stepped up, seeing an opportunity to restore Barsham to its former glory as a grand residence. The idea is to sympathetically renovate the 8,500 square foot manor house (plus three-bed cottage, detached gatehouse and 4.5 acres of formal gardens) and throw in some five-star finishes to create an extraordinary escape for affluent families. If it all works out, the whole house will be available to hire by the weekend, week or month, complete with liveried staff and a fully-serviced Downton-Abbey-meets-Klosters-ski-chalet set-up.
William Cash, founder of Villarum Estates (pictured above at East Barsham Manor): “It has never been a better time to buy English stately homes, and this is the ultimate Tudor mansion that will be the perfect backdrop for guests to enjoy a slice of the Downton Abbey high life with a fully serviced country house rental basis. It is next to some of the best shooting estates in Norfolk and only five miles from Burnham market and the coast, so it is in prime location on Norfolk’s Champagne Coast with near neighbours including some of Norfolk’s most glamorous aristocrats as well as Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
“The Property will be refurbished and decorated by Lady Laura Cathcart, who works with her Norfolk-based mother Vivien Greenock, formerly a senior director of Colefax & Fowler, who has decorated many stately homes including Badminton for Duke of Beaufort and did Oscar Della Renta’s country retreat in upstate New York.”