This fine seven-bedroom Grade II-listed Victorian villa, built in the Italianate style in 1872, is set in around two acres of grounds on the edge of the pretty market town of Stalbridge in North Dorset. Nestled in the Stalbridge conservation area, the house sits centrally in mature and wonderfully conceived gardens, positioned on a quiet country lane facing open fields. The handsome elevations are constructed from local stone, with two storeys and generous cellars. Recently fully restored and renovated to an exacting standard, internal accommodation extends to almost 5,500 sq ft. Additionally, a two-storey ancillary wing is connected to the main house, comprised of two bedrooms and separate living quarters. A 13-box stable block offers great scope for further development. Close to the Somerset borders, the pretty local town of Bruton and its acclaimed Newt Hotel is nearby, as are Sturminster Newton and Sherborne in North Dorset. London Waterloo can be reached by train from Templecombe station in two hours; Bristol airport is an hour away.
Setting the Scene
Constructed from Forest Marble limestone and sandstone, the house has stone dressings and is crowned with hipped Welsh slate roofs. The façades are punctuated by original, fully reconditioned draught-stripped windows, unusually arranged as tripartite, paired and single two-pane sashes; there are also small single lights grouped in threes and fours. Standing proudly from the front of the house is the entrance porch, a later Edwardian addition with a trio of roundhead leaded glass apertures. Interior features of note include Minton polychromatic floor tiles, original cornicing, mouldings, doors and fittings, joinery, cast-iron radiators, pitch pine floorboards and Victorian chimneypieces.
The old service wing forms the western range of the main house. It connects at the first-floor oriel window to the ancillary wing, built on a right angle to the main house to form an L-shape plan. It was originally a double coach house with harness and saddle rooms on the ground floor and coachman’s quarters on the upper floor. The architecture is cohesive with the original house’s structure in design and materiality.
The outbuildings and stable blocks are constructed variously of red brick, local stone rubble and timber, under pitched roofs of slate, plain tiles and corrugated sheeting. The garden walls that surround the house are made from local stone rubble and are a beautiful example of vernacular craftsmanship. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
From Park Grove, entry is through stone pillars set into the stone wall surrounding the entire northern perimeter of the house. A Dorset gravel driveway leads to the main house, where the elevations and ancillary wing form an L-shape to create a spacious courtyard.
The entrance porch opens through glass wedding doors to the main decoratively tiled hallway, with plenty of space for coats and boots. The study and downstairs WC are set to the left, and an open well staircase lies directly ahead. A pitched glass roof lantern set above allows light to pour in.
All of the main reception rooms are arranged around the stairwell. The bipartite kitchen and dining room form the heart of the home, overlooking the gardens from all aspects. Originally two separate rooms, these have now been thoughtfully connected via a wide set architrave, with the original wall mouldings and dado rails carefully repositioned. There is a wood burner in the dining area. In the kitchen, cupboards have been handmade by local Dorset joiners Atelier Cabinet Makers and feature beautiful detailing, including dovetail joints. Appliances and a double butler sink with Perrin & Rowe brass taps are integrated, and pale quartz rests atop. There is a new white enamel fully adjustable electric Aga and a separate Fisher & Paykel oven with an induction hob for summer cooking; running costs are offset by solar panels.
The sitting room is positioned to the rear of the plan, with a large canted bay overlooking the gardens to the south. All the windows in this room have original vertical sliding shutters. The walls are adorned with wall mouldings and cornicing. The wood burner is set in the original tiled fireplace.
The rooms on the western range of the house are positioned off a long hallway with a set of back stairs allowing for additional access to the first floor. The generous pantry acts as excellent overflow storage for the kitchen. It has original slate shelves, meat hooks and worktops with a clay tile floor. A second roomy sitting room, currently used as a snug, has a wood burner positioned in a sandstone hearth.
At the end of the hallway is the capacious boot room. Here, polychromatic tiles are laid in a pleasing pattern and a trio of glass-paned doors open to the courtyard. Lying off this space is a storeroom, a generous laundry room and the plant room. This space acts as the engine room of the house, with a brand-new energy-efficient hot water cylinder (with the boiler in the loft above). Additionally, the house has hotel-grade plumbing, several smart thermostats for different zones, and the hot water and electric Aga are solar-fed. The house has also been entirely rewired and has excellent high-speed data connections.
Additionally, there is a substantial four-room cellar with a separate lower front door and a slate-lined wine cellar under the principal ground floor rooms. The entrance is placed behind the home’s main staircase.
The first floor comprises sleeping quarters, with seven bedrooms, each with an original chimneypiece and three bathrooms. The principal bedroom has a Juliet balcony accessed through slim French windows, which frame incredible views of the vale. The bathrooms have all been completely overhauled, with beautiful traditional chrome-plated brassware and roll-top baths from the Cast Iron Bath Company.
Ancillary accommodation can either be accessed via an independent entrance from the courtyard or discreetly from the main house’s first floor through a connecting door beside the oriel window. It also has separate off-road gated access directly from Park Grove. The upper floor has two spacious bedrooms and a large bathroom, all overlooking the stable block. The ground floor has a kitchen, with cupboards made by Atelier Cabinet Makers to complement the main house’s kitchen. The sitting room has a beautiful original cast-iron range set into the hearth.
The Great Outdoors
The mainly walled gardens are beautifully landscaped and comprise lawns, wildflowers, stone pathways, an Edwardian rose garden with a Victorian sundial and further flower borders. There is a wonderful variety of mature trees, including a magnolia tree and a remarkable 220-year-old giant horse chestnut tree, reportedly the oldest in the county. A mature orchard is filled with fifteen or more eating apple trees, and a fruitful kitchen garden has the remains of a Victorian glass house. There are also Victorian hand water pumps in the garden and a 150-year-old stone well underneath the orchard. Wisteria and climbing roses wind around the southern and eastern façades of the house, springing into bloom in April and June. The paddock is positioned to the west of the house, nearest the stables, and has a separate gated entrance from Park Grove.
There is a range of outbuildings in the grounds, including a 13-box stable block, divided into two separate blocks (one red brick, one timber) set around a stone sett yard. These offer enormous potential to be refurbished as equestrian facilities, garaging, offices or holiday let accommodation, subject to the relevant planning consents, and benefit from their separate entrances from Park Grove, either from the paddock’s five bar gate or the double gates shared with the ancillary wing. There is also a detached red brick pottery, formerly a potting shed, with a pitched clay tile roof. Two garages are incorporated into the existing ancillary accommodation west wing.
Out and About
Grove House is located on the edge of Stalbridge, which has an excellent variety of amenities, including an independent supermarket and further provisors, as well as a post office, a car servicing garage, and a dentist. Other villages of note in the area include Templecombe, Henstridge, Horsington and South Cheriton. The local towns of Sherborne, Sturminster Newton, Shaftesbury, Wincanton, Castle Cary and Bruton all provide various shopping, educational, recreational and cultural facilities. Bruton is possibly the most popular local town, home to the members-only Newt hotel restaurant and gardens, Michelin-starred Osip restaurant and internationally acclaimed Hauser & Wirth art gallery, with surrounding gardens by Piet Oudolf.
Nearby independent schools include Bryanston, Sherborne School for Girls, Sherborne School for Boys, Sherborne Preparatory School, Hazelgrove, Port Regis, Hanford and excellent state schools at Sherborne and Gillingham.
Transport links are excellent, including a mainline railway station available at Templecombe (just 10 minutes’ drive away) with a regular service between the West Country and London Waterloo; journey times are one hour and 55 minutes precisely, with half-hourly direct services. Additionally, the A303 can be joined at Wincanton.
Council Tax Band: G
The house was believed to be designed by the architect George Aitchison RA (1825-1910). He was a member and President of RIBA from 1896 to 1899. The house was built for the land agent of the Stalbridge Estate, owned by Lord Richard de Aquila Grosvenor. George Aitchison’s best-known work is Leighton House in London, built for the artist Baron Leighton. Grove House was also the birthplace of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Lamb, who served with Distinction in World War II in campaigns including the Pacific. The novelist Thomas Hardy is also believed to have stayed as a guest at this home on several occasions.
The previous owners of the house, the Prideaux family, lived here uninterrupted for some 100 years, resulting in almost all the original Victorian features being beautifully preserved.
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