A highly important 2,000-acre historic agricultural and sporting estate on the Purbeck coast is being offered for sale with a guide price of £25 million.
Encombe House is one of the most distinguished country houses in the South West, the original house being substantially remodelled and extended by John Pitt, the well-known Parliamentarian and amateur architect. In 1804 Encombe was purchased by the eminent lawyer, Lord Eldon, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, who became Lord Chancellor in 1806. Anthony Salvin subsequently made some alterations for the Third Lord Eldon in the early 1870s.
The house has grown in scale over time through several phases of development principally by John Pitt, then MP for Wareham, after he inherited the property in 1735 on the death of his father, George Pitt of Stratfield Saye, later the seat of the Duke of Wellington. The structure of the central block dates from an earlier house that was the ancient seat of the Culliford family. The site previously formed part of a retreat of the Abbess of Shaftesbury for more than 500 years. The interior of Encombe consists of several large rooms including a dining room with an ornate plasterwork ceiling designed by John Pitt in the style of William Kent, large arched French windows and an elaborate fireplace. A door in the dining room leads to the colonnade that links the central part of the house to the east wing. The library, remodelled by Anthony Salvin, overlooks the gardens to the south and west and is regarded as one of his greatest achievements. The hall and the staircase in the centre of the house were remodelled by Anthony Salvin in 1870 and are thought to be part of the earlier Culliford house. Encombe’s former stables were also designed by John Pitt and have a central pavilion surmounted by a clock tower. Part of the stables were converted into a dining hall used for shooting lunch parties.
In his book In Search Of The Perfect House, Marcus Binney comments that the central chimney in the form of a triumphal arch was almost certainly designed by John Pitt. He also notes that, while many 18th century country houses consist of a grand centre flanked by lower wings, Encombe is like five almost identical classical houses joined together.
Both wings at Encombe have self-contained apartments while the east wing is arranged for use as an annexe or additional guest accommodation.
Current owners Mr and Mrs Charles McVeigh acquired Encombe in 2002 and have carried out an extensive award-winning restoration of the house and the formal grounds.
Encombe’s landscape is one of the finest in Britain with Grade II listed parkland surrounding the house which is approached by a long drive winding down from the head of the valley from the village of Kingston. In the grounds and set on the surrounding downs are a number of listed follies including an obelisk erected in 1835 in honour of Lord Stowell, the brother of Lord Eldon, and the grotto formed of large stone blocks laid to form a bridge with a labyrinth and alcove underneath. Other landscape features of special interest include Swyre Head, Houns Tout, Chapman’s Pool and St Aldhelm’s Head.
A well equipped livery stable has recently been created on the site of former farm buildings in the heart of the Golden Bowl, 1,000 acres at the heart of the estate which is totally private having no public right of access. Post and railed paddocks to the north and west of the yard provide grazing and exercise facilities, while there is excellent riding over the estate itself and the network of bridleways in the locality.
In addition to the main house, which includes two self-contained staff flats, there are 10 houses and cottages and a quantity of agricultural land. Apart from the Golden Bowl there are three other secluded coombes, each leading to the coast.
Encombe also has one of the finest high pheasant shoots in southern England and its land includes two-and-a-half miles of coastline designated as a World Heritage Site.
The estate has only changed hands five times in the last 1,100 years and Savills’ Alex Lawson, who is handling the sale, said: “Encombe is without doubt one of the most desirable estates in England and the sale will attract considerable interest from buyers worldwide. It is rare for a traditional family estate with a house and location of this calibre to come to the market. It is also highly unusual to find an estate that has an exceptional principal house in such good repair, together with an estate within a genuine ring fence, offered with over 2,000 acres.”
Mark McAndrew of Strutt and Parker said: “Turning in to the drive at Encombe and catching a first glimpse of the house nestling way below you makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. It is an exceptional and entrancing place.”
The Encombe estate as a whole has a guide price of £25 million. More information is available from estate agents Savills on 0207 499 8644 and Strutt & Parker on 0207 629 7282.
Bournemouth Echo, Monday 22 September 2008