A rare ‘Downton Abbey’ estate in 600 acres goes up for sale
PUBLISHED: 07:03 13 October 2020 | UPDATED: 07:57 14 October 2020
© chris rawlings 2019
A 16th century grand Norfolk manor house in parkland with a farm and seven cottages has gone up for sale.
Wood Hall, Hilgay, near Downham Market, is often referred to as the county’s ‘Downton Abbey’ after a best-seller written by the late author Mollie Moran about working as a scullery maid for the owners.
The main house, a Grade II star listed manor is situated in parkland designed by one of the most famous landscape gardeners, Sir Humphry Repton, who created Sheringham Park. The grand house sits in an estate which comes with seven farmhouses and cottages as well as stable blocks, arable land and farm buildings, sporting appeal and no public rights of way.
However, the sale may see the estate divided up as you can buy it as a whole or in 12 different lots and there’s planning permission for a sympathetic development of up to 12 new homes, some converted from existing buildings.
Charlie Paton, from agents Savills, said: “The opportunity to buy the Wood Hall estate is rare indeed with very few estates coming to the market in East Anglia.”
The house is believed to have been built in 1579 and belonged to the Abbots of Ramsey but was partly rebuilt after a fire in 1806. The estate passed into many different hands including author and inventor of one of the first forms of fire extinguishers, George William Manby. He left, however, in 1801 after a dramatic incident in which he was shot at by his wife’s lover.
It later became the home of the Stocks family in the 1930s, headed by Michael Stocks who was a Justice of the Peace, a widower and whose son had died in battle in 1914. Life working as a servant for the family was recounted in the best-selling book ‘Aprons and Silver Spoons’ in which Millie Moran wrote about how she worked for the Stocks family, both at Wood Hall and their London home. She described in the book how she was tasked with preparing meals for the estate’s gun-dogs. She said Mr Stocks, a sad character, lived for his shooting parties. She wrote how he would dress for dinner even when dining alone but had little appetite and would often return the food, barely touched – which he would then offer for the staff to eat.
The estate is for sale for a price on application.
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