This fantastic four-bedroom Grade II-listed house in Ulcombe is set in the heart of the Kentish Downs. A patchwork of different architectural styles, it was constructed over several centuries and meticulously cared for by the current owner. The central part of the building is Jacobean, flanked on either side by Georgian and Victorian extensions. The oldest house in the village, it was formerly a working farm and is surrounded by a mature garden with extensive views towards the south. London is reachable by train from nearby Ashford in 40 minutes, and the delights of the Garden of England are on the doorstep,
Setting the Scene
Ulcombe is a village nestled in the heart of Kent with a history inextricable from the orchard and agricultural heritage of the area. This Grade II-listed house was originally a productive farm that was the beating heart of the community.
A quiet lane leads to the house from one of Ulcombe’s central streets, past two sets of wooden gates and a recently built timber lodge. Over the generations, the house has been added to and extended, meaning it is a tale of three eras. In the middle is the lime-pointed Jacobean brickwork, to the right is the Flemish bond popularised in the Georgian era, while the frontage on the left reflects the Victorian sensibility for order. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
Entry to the house is through a glass-panelled front door to the principal living and dining area, set in the original 17th-century section. Low timber beams and walls painted in the moody ‘Downpipe’ by Farrow & Ball create an intimate atmosphere. An exposed brick fireplace, replete with an iron wood burner, creates a natural focal point, and filament light fittings cast a warm glow on darker nights. A terracotta tiled floor in the entrance lies against exposed wooden flooring in the dining space, hinting at the multiple phases of the building’s construction.
A passage to the left of this room leads to the day room. Hallmarks of the Victorian era can be seen in this bright and airy space in the high ceilings, delicate moulding and an elegant fireplace. Here, the colour scheme of cream and white is used, allowing original features to sing. A bay window, with its original shutters, looks out on the garden and the magnificent views of the undulating Kent countryside.
The kitchen is in the Georgian part of the house and has a low-beamed ceiling and exposed wooden floorboards. The room has recently been refitted with teal and white cabinetry and a large central island, which creates storage space and conceals appliances. Light streams through the 8×8 box sash window that also looks directly onto the garden.
The main bedroom has the same soaring ceilings and elegant fireplace as the Victorian day room, as well as an unrivalled view over the landscape. The southerly orientation of the house means that the room is flooded with natural light throughout the day and captures the last of the day’s sunlight, deepening the ‘Paynes Grey’ shade of Craig & Rose paint on the walls in the evening. An en suite is finished in a similar white and teal colour scheme to the kitchen.
The second bedroom is in the Jacobean section of the building. Here, a large fireplace sits in between two sash windows. The walls are painted a combination of blush pink and white, creating a light and airy atmosphere. A further two bedrooms are in the Georgian wing, with one currently configured as a home office. In both, low ceilings and grey walls create a cocoon-like atmosphere.
A recent redecoration has seen the family bathroom fitted in a more contemporary tone. ‘Pearlescent’ tiles by Fired Earth surround the bath, with an overhead shower, neatly offset the grey flagstone floor and wooden accents.
There is a separate bathroom with a shower on the first floor and a guest WC in the entrance hall.
The Great Outdoors
The southerly orientation of the garden means flora and fauna flourish. The lawn is bordered by flower beds where roses bloom, while trees grow heavy with plums, pears and apples in the summer and autumn.
At the most easterly corner of the garden, the sunniest spot, the current owner has erected a greenhouse that merges seamlessly with the surrounding foliage. A gravel pathway leading from here to the house meanders between two ancient yew trees. A patio that runs the length of the house is the perfect spot to watch the changing seasons or soak up the Kentish sun. A small gate at the bottom of the garden has access to the network of public footpaths leading from the house.
Out and About
The house is tucked away in the pretty village of Ulcombe, close to villages Headcorn and Lenham, both of which have shops, a doctor’s surgery and a good range of pubs. The area is spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants. The Milk House in Sissinghurst is one of the best-loved due to its emphasis on local produce and its lovely garden that overlooks vineyards. The Dirty Habit in Hollingbourne derives its name from its status as an 11th-century stop-off point for those on the Pilgrim’s Way towards Canterbury. For fine dining, The West House in Biddenden is an excellent choice, as much for the food as for the setting in a 16th-century weaver’s cottage.
There is an excellent range of primary and secondary schools in the area. Within the village, the Victorian Church of England primary school is one of the oldest in Kent. The surrounding area also benefits from a range of Grammar schools, including the Outstanding Ofsted-Rated Invicta Grammar for girls and Maidstone Grammar for boys. Public schools include Sutton Valence School, Sevenoaks School and Benenden School.
Despite its tranquil setting, Ulcombe is exceptionally well-connected. It lies just a 15-minute drive south of the M20, connecting directly to the M25 or leads down to Folkestone and the Kent coast. Ashford is 14 miles away and has a high-speed rail service to London St Pancras in 40 minutes.
Council Tax Band: F
The name Ulcombe derives from the old English meaning the ‘valley of the owls’. A historic parish in the heart of the Kent Downs, the village has its origins in the Paleolithic period. There is also archaeological evidence of Bronze and Iron Age occupation.
By the 12th century, the parish church of All Saints was built and still stands to this day. It is now a Grade I-listed building replete rare examples of Medieval stained glass and yew trees in the churchyard over two millennia old.
The house’s origins can be traced to the 17th century when it was established as a working farm, growing fruit and hops. By the 19th century, the Bensted family had bought the farm. They increased its productivity and ensured it flourished as a community meeting point. A legacy of this family’s custodianship of the land can be seen in the garden, where a footstone is engraved ‘MB 1802’. (what does this mean?)
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