Netherstead Hall - Unlocking the past

PUBLISHED: 16:21 14 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:33 20 February 2013

Netherstead Hall - Unlocking the past

Netherstead Hall - Unlocking the past

The historic status of Netherstead Hall has been rediscovered through its inspirational restoration, reports Marsya Lennox

A Warwick antique dealer alerted Paul and Anna Harvey to a curio due for auction by Sothebys. He thought they might like the 18th century, ironwork dog collar giving Morton Bagot as its owners address.

A year after that, we learned that the name on the collar, Thomas Holyoake, was one of the family who built and owned Netherstead, said Anna. I had this feeling in my stomach when I realised. It had come home.

The beautiful little artefact, complete with its lock and key, is an evocative link with the long history of Netherstead Hall at Morton Bagot.

And since 2003, when the Harveys acquired the property, they have devoted huge energy to unlocking a past that was, in fact, astonishingly close.

The old farmhouse, was by all appearances 17th century and had seen better days. But lurking under a thick layer of render was some superb timber framing, ripe for a renaissance and in surprisingly good condition.

There were other treasures in this hunt for the original Netherstead, part of the local manorial holdings and home to the Holyoakes from the 1640s. Several of the family were solicitors, predecessors of todays firm of Lodders.

Nobody had been in the loft for 100 years, said Anna. There was just a trapdoor. When we went up, the only thing there was an old marble fireplace, in bits. But then we found the original doors, completely untouched, still with their old wooden latches. Even original keys had been left in the locks.

Rather as if the house had been waiting for new custodians, worthy of the task, more secrets were given up to the Harveys.

An important fireplace with original, painted and scratched plasterwork was revealed in the old parlour. More were opened up, barely hidden behind the simple improvements of the last century, some grand examples among them, notably an unusual pillared example in a former kitchen.

Most magical was the discovery that Netherstead had been moated. On excavation, the old ditch, filled in by Victorian times, gave up the propertys oldest find, the original medieval stanchions that held the original drawbridge. This pointed to an earlier house on the same site and indeed, the oldest part of todays property predates the main build of 1650. Dendrochronology has shown the earliest timber, part of a mullioned window, to date from 1495.

Finds from the later periods included shutters from the 1787 parlour, again doing service, having been found, discarded in an old summerhouse.

The moat is again filled with water, one corner of it transformed as a natural swimming pond, kept fresh by specialist planting.

And Netherstead Hall has been restored with meticulous care and inspirational flair, from its sophisticated heating, lighting and music systems to its antique bathroom fittings, oak moat terrace and working, original fireplaces.

The once modest, farmhouse foregarden is now an oasis of paths and knot gardens, impact created with field grown limes, box and cordon apple, all brought from Italy on an articulated lorry.

Paul and Anna with their daughter Alice now plan to move on, five years after having completed the restoration challenge.

It is beautiful and we love living here but the real fun for us has been in creating it all. said Anna.

Now we want to do it again.

*Netherstead Hall is three miles from Henley-in-Arden and seven from Stratford-upon-Avon. It is available with a guide price of 2.7 million to include 13 acres. The six bedroom house comes with five reception rooms, five bathrooms, stabling, storage, coach house with two guest annexes, moat, swimming pool, boathouse and drawbridge.

Details from Knight Frank, 01789 297735.

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