Country house with 18th-century character

Country house with 18th-century character

Her parents, Hans-Eugen and Renate Will of Germany, bought the Queen Anne-style country house, built of sand-coloured Cotswold stone and brick, after falling in love with its early 18th-century character and secluded setting.

Over the years they renovated the eight-bedroom home, which has a surface area of 10,000 square feet, or 930 square meters. It stands on four acres, or 1.6 hectares, of land, part of the country’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a designation conferred by a government agency. They also added a self-contained two-bedroom annex in similar soft yellow stone.

Today Ms Gorton, her husband and children live in part of the house and let rooms to guests (160 pounds and 190 pounds, or $264 to $314, a night). Ms Gorton cannot remember how much her parents paid for the property, which is adjacent to a 12th-century water mill and incorporates stone pieces believed to have come from a nearby 16th-century monastery. But, she said: “Over the years they must have spent thousands of pounds on the building – 10 or 15 times what they originally paid for it.”
It took almost two years of work for the house to become habitable.

“The ceilings were so unstable that on one occasion, someone fitting a shower upstairs came through into the hall below, still standing on the tray,” she said.

Continual care

As the years passed, the family realised the house would need continual care.
(The English Heritage organisation lists the house as a Grade II property, the most common designation, which indicates the house is of special interest.) So in the early 1990s, Ms Gorton, who was just 5 when her parents bought Mill Stream Manor, decided to live there full time. She and her family later opened parts of the house to guests.

“I did not want it to feel like a hotel,” she said. “Lots of English guests come to stay, as well as Americans. At the moment, because of the exchange rate, we are also seeing visitors from European countries.”

Victorian touch

On arrival, visitors enter through the great oak front door into the 200-square-foot, flag-stoned reception hall. This leads through into an oak-paneled sitting room, where open fires blaze at either end for much of the year.

The room features mullioned windows and is believed to have been refurbished during the Victorian period, so Ms Gorton furnished it in that style. Also on the ground floor is the 350-square-foot dining room, with a large, light stone fireplace.

“We think this room was probably added to the house about 100 or 150 years ago,” she said. The 420-square-foot drawing room, which usually is used only by family members, opens onto the garden. She has decorated it in light colours with a splash of red in the silk drapes and other accent pieces.

“There is evidence here of changes made during the Arts & Crafts period, in the bird-patterned frieze that runs around the edge of the ceiling,” she said, referring to a plasterwork design overhead.

“Stonework above the fireplace looks like it might have been reclaimed from the medieval monastery and brought in at the same time.”

Overlooking rose gardens

Upstairs, bedrooms include the Rose Room, which overlooks the old rose gardens, and the Butterfly Room, which has a balcony with views toward the Cotswold Hills.  The 432-square-foot Mill Stream Suite has a four-poster bed and a large, ensuite bathroom. “We have tried to give each of the bedrooms a very different feel,” Ms Gorton said.

The various renovations at Mill Stream Manor and the general increase in average property prices means the house undoubtedly has risen in value over the years.

Charlie Comber, a partner at the Hayman-Joyce real estate agency in the Cotswolds, said the prices of unusual homes in the region do vary greatly, but “a property like this would certainly have a value of no less than 2.5 million pounds.” Gorton, however, says the family has no intention of moving.

“This is our family home and we love being here,” she said. “I would like to do a bit more with the garden in the future, perhaps install a water feature near the mill pond.

“It would be wonderful to be able to sit out there, to hear its sound as you smell the roses and enjoy the wonderful scenery.”