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What could be more appealing than a row of beautiful houses in a picture-perfect setting? Caroline McGhie explores the country’s roads to happiness
In the pursuit of wealth, status and privacy, we sometimes forget that some of the prettiest streets in the country are as heart-stopping as our greatest country houses and cityscapes.
Largely built many centuries ago, they make the most of local materials and topographical quirks, and the houses along them rise and fall as rhythmically as the notes in a song.
They attract house buyers as surely as bees to pollen, but prices don’t always have to break the bank.
MERMAID STREET, RYE, EAST SUSSEX
You can’t shake off the world of E F Benson’s Mapp and Lucia in Rye: tea shops, choirs, am-dram societies and artists, and everyone knows everyone else’s business. People are drawn by the delightful Georgian and half-timbered houses, cobbled streets, pretty harbour and quirky shops. Mermaid Street is storybook lovely, with cobbles running steeply downhill and historic houses either side.
Phillips & Stubbs is selling a Grade II-listed heavily timbered house with 16th-century origins, four bedrooms, leaded-light windows and crown post roof for £1.4 million. It lies in the heart of the Conservation Area, along from the famous Mermaid Inn, which is one of England’s oldest and is stuffed with four posters and secret passageways. Turn the corner and there is Lamb House, home of E F Benson when he was writing his novels, and earlier by Henry James, who wrote three masterpieces there, The Wings of a Dove, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl. It is now in the hands of the National Trust.
GOLD HILL, SHAFTESBURY, DORSET
So romantic, so steep, flanked by thatch and brick and quintessentially English, no wonder Gold Hill was the backdrop for that famous Hovis advertisement (directed by Ridley Scott). It also starred in the 1967 film of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. “The value increases as you go up the hill,” says Sam Lillington of Connells. “There is a Hovis loaf monument at the top and a very good restaurant, The Salt Cellar, with fantastic views over the Blackmore Vale.”
Many houses are bought by weekenders who don’t mind the lack of parking or the sloping gardens. Connells is selling for £235,000 a three-bedroom brick semi at the bottom. On the other side of town it might be worth £35,000 less. At the top of the hill is a museum, and beyond the historic walls that enclose it is Shaftesbury Abbey, built by Alfred the Great.
BROAD STREET, LUDLOW, SHROPSHIRE
“Broad Street is without doubt one of Ludlow’s finest addresses,” says Helen Lowery of Strutt & Parker.
For Pevsner it was one of the most memorable streets in England. “At the top,” says Lowery, “is the 18th-century Buttercross, built as a classical town hall. At the bottom is the Broadgate, a medieval gate with an 18th-century castellated house above. Properties on this street are often admired and therefore highly desirable, so tend to sell well and quickly.”
She is currently selling at £300,000 a four-storey building on the street, which has been used as offices but which could be converted into a stylish town house.
The town heaves with shops promoting locally sourced and artisan foods, so you can live like a king on pork pies, black pudding and handmade breads, or eat out in the Michelin-starred restaurants.
RAVENSDOWNE, BERWICK-UPON-TWEED, NORTHUMBERLAND
A polite Georgian street with the Nicholas Hawksmoor-designed military barracks and parade ground at the top and massive Elizabethan defensive walls at the rear, Ravensdowne represents all the charming contradictions of the town. These days it is utterly gentrified, but over the centuries it has been taken and retaken by the Scots. The massive medieval embankments were the most advanced defensive military technology of the time and are so big you can go for walks on them. Barbara Pentecost of Smiths Gore, who is selling a Grade II-listed house at £225,000, says Ravensdowne attracts a good clutch of ex-clergy, artists and musicians as well as holiday home owners. You can emerge in the morning and sniff sea salt and kippers in the air as you walk along the walls and drink in the view of the Tweed estuary, the beaches, and across to the red-and-white-lighthouse and Lindisfarne in the distance.
CHURCH HILL, KERSEY, SUFFOLK
Church Hill begins at the Church of St Mary at the top of the hill and drops down to the ford called The Splash at the bottom. Along the way it passes pink thatched cottages and wobbly timber houses before veering off into an elbow called The Green. At the bottom is The Bell Inn, a pub that locals love, and the Church of England primary school, which Ofsted has rated outstanding.
A classic Grade II-listed village house called Green Gables is for sale in The Green, with early 15th-century origins, exposed beams and studwork and gorgeous gardens. “The prettiness of Church Hill carries on into The Green, which is a huddle of cottages,” says Caroline Edwards of Carter Jonas, who is selling Green Gables at £650,000. She says prices here can be more than in the star Suffolk village of Lavenham because it is closer to commuter stations, yet it doesn’t get mobbed by tourists in the same way.
HIGH STREET, STOCKBRIDGE, HAMPSHIRE
It might be small, but it is extremely smart. The River Test glints with trout while the old Grosvenor Hotel, together with the Houghton Club, the oldest fishing club in the country, front it rather grandly. The Thyme & Tides deli, bistro and fishmonger caters for young trendies who have moved out from London, and the whole place has become a haven for foodies.
Set back from the street is Old Church House, a gem of a converted church with three bedrooms, minstrel’s gallery, office in the garden and decking over the river, being sold by Knight Frank at £1.175 million. “There can’t be many prettier streets than Stockbridge High Street,” says Tom Wood of Knight Frank. “It is surrounded by beautiful countryside with the River Test funnelling through it. There are shops which sell fishing tackle, fine butchers and dealers in game.”
LOWER CASTLE ROAD, ST MAWES, CORNWALL
Some of the colour-washed houses in Lower Castle Road have front-row seats to the sea with views towards St Anthony’s Lighthouse and Falmouth Bay. Further along the road is St Mawes Castle, while around the headland is St Just in Roseland church, which Sir John Betjeman described as “the most beautiful on earth”. The seascape is full of locally-built boats tugging in the wind, and crab boats returning with their catch. In summer the passenger ploughs to Falmouth and back.
At The Moorings you cross the road to reach the terraced gardens with steps to the water and the foreshore (which comes with the house). St Mawes is known for Olga Polizzi’s Hotel Tresanton and Idle Rocks, which attract the smart set. The Moorings has four bedrooms and is priced by Savills at £2 million. Jonathan Cunliffe, who is handling the sale, says the road commands a premium of 15 per cent to 20 per cent, plus another 30 per cent to 40 per cent at the water’s edge.
THE CIRCUS, BATH
The residents of this world-famous address owe their splendid surroundings to two men, John Wood the Elder and his son John Wood the Younger. The Elder, described by Pevsner as “one of the outstanding architects of his day”, had the drive and vision to change his city through classically-inspired architecture. The resulting crescents and squares have made Bath a World Heritage Site.
The Circus was designed by the father who never saw it completed – it was finished by the son between 1755 and 1767. The idea came from the Colosseum in Rome. A recently restored five-bedroom Grade I-listed stone house is on at £4.25 million through Savills. Luke Brady, who is selling, believes the premium for The Circus is 20 per cent above the rest of central Bath.
STEEP HILL, LINCOLN
Spectacularly atmospheric and ancient, this street is a stiff, cobbled climb to Lincoln Cathedral, a one-in-seven gradient at its steepest. It is flanked by Norman houses and clusters of drunken medieval buildings with timbering and half-jetties, all in the shadow of the cathedral. There is a wonderful mix of shops, tea rooms and restaurants, designer boutiques, antiquarian books and antique shops. A four-bedroom house is for sale through Pygott Crone at £314,950.
THE HILL, BURFORD, OXFORDSHIRE
One of the prettiest towns in the Cotswolds is Burford, on the River Windrush. The view from the top of The Hill is a great treat. The town was ranked sixth in Forbes magazine’s list of “Europe’s most idyllic places to live” and is the setting for Cynthia Harnett’s children’s book The Wool-Pack.
The four-arch medieval bridge and the water meadows haven’t changed in centuries. It was after a visit to the town in 1876 that William Morris rushed off to found the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
On The Hill is The Old Court, which was built as the magistrates’ court in 1869 by William Wilkinson (who is best known for the Randolph Hotel in Oxford). It has four bedrooms, a Grade II listing and is priced at £1 million by Jackson-Stops & Staff.
Full article and credit to The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/buying-selling-moving/11365629/The-prettiest-streets-in-Britain.html
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