Just a couple of miles from Lymington is Efford Park, a magnificent house with an extraordinarily chequered history that stretches back centuries. Today, it's seeking a new owner.
‘There could hardly be a more idyllic setting for a country house than that of Efford Park,’ say selling agents Knight Frank of the imposing, Grade II*-listed Georgian country house, which stands on high ground at the heart of the 127-acre estate on the edge of the New Forest, two miles from Lymington, and has views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.
A guide price of £10.5m is quoted for the 19,172sq ft former headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Horticultural Research Station, set in parkland that has changed little since the house was built by Col Shedden in 1838.
While the parkland may not have changed, however, the same cannot be said of the rest of the building, which has served all manner of purposes in the last millennium. Today, it has accommodation on three floors including three large reception rooms, a study, billiard room and an open-plan kitchen/breakfast room, along with a spa, gym, party room, 14 bedrooms, five main bathrooms and a self-contained staff annexe.
Efford Park was a manor in the 11th century, but lost its manorial status in the 17th century, when it reverted to use as a farm. However, its standing was reinstated when the colonel’s heirs sold the estate to Admiral Reginald Hastings and his wife, Barbara, Marchioness of Hastings, in 1846.
Known for her beauty, exuberance and love of travel and gambling, the marchioness was a collector of rare vertebrate fossils, which were exhibited in a specially constructed room, now the gym. She also laid out the easterly avenue and other parts of the ornamental grounds.
In 1853, the estate was sold to Warren William Richard Peacocke, who added the conservatory, built the ice house, laid out the orchard, developed the kitchen garden and installed greenhouses.
In 1907, Sir James Beethom Whitehead acquired the estate, extending it in 1925 and 1928, and adding a cricket pitch and tennis courts.
In 1951, the Ministry of Agriculture bought it, retaining part for the Research Station, whereas the northern half, comprising the house and park, was sold in 1999 to the current owners.
They carried out a complete refurbishment of the house, restoring original features, modernising systems and returning Efford Park to its original use as a gracious and substantial family home.
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