Country houses for sale

A graceful riverside house in a perfect Thames-side village that was painted by Sir Stanley Spencer

Riverdene, in Cookham, not only appears in some of the Royal Academician's works but was also home to racing daredevil Sir Algernon Guinness.

The buyers of Riverdene, in Cookham, Berkshire, will wake up every morning to the views that moved Royal Academician Sir Stanley Spencer. This whitewashed house with a Parisian feel, which is for sale through Hamptons at a guide price of £4.5 million, stands on the banks of the Thames, next to the 12th-century village church.

Spencer was so enamoured of Cookham, where he had been born in 1891, that it called it ‘a village in heaven’ and spent the years before and after the First World War painting landscapes and biblical scenes set – somewhat incongruously but beautifully –against the backdrop of the local churchyard and the surrounding countryside.

Riverdene in Cookham

Riverdene itself appears in some of the artist’s works, such as the 1936 View from Cookham Bridge, which captures the peaceful beauty of a summer day by the river. (After all, this is also the village that inspired Kenneth Grahame to write Wind in the Willows).

Surprisingly, however, Spencer isn’t Riverdene’s only claim to fame. The house once belonged to racing driver Sir Algernon Guinness—a daredevil with a passion for straight-line speed trials, who set a world Land Speed Record in 1908 with a V8 Darracq.

Story has it that he was the first man in Cookham to have a TV set in the house but, once the new organ was installed in the nearby church, the blower motor created an interference that prevented Sir Algernon from watching TV in the evening. So he paid for a suppressor to be installed.

Today, the property spans 6,115 sq ft of elegant space. The ground floor houses several reception rooms, including a vaulted sitting room and graceful drawing room decorated with wooden panelling that came from the Upper Berkeley Street home of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. Both open onto the gardens (the drawing room via a verandah) making them ideal for entertaining.

Riverdene House

Upstairs are eight bedrooms, arranged across two floors. The master suite on the first floor, with its large bathroom, dressing room and fine views of the river and Cookham bridge is especially beautiful.

The exquisite interiors are matched by panoramic gardens overlooking the Thames, Cookham Bridge and the Church.

Riverdene is for sale at £4.5 million via Hamptons — see more pictures or contact the agent

Cookham: What you need to know

  • Location:The village stands about four miles from both Maidenhead and Marlow
  • Atmosphere: A settlement well before the Romans reached Britain, Cookham oozes history, with a church of Norman origins and an inn that dates from the 15th-century, thought to be one of the oldest in England. Spencer’s memory is kept alive in the Stanley Spencer Gallery. This is also one of the Thames villages where the Swan Upping Ceremony takes place.
  • Things to do: You’ll be spoiled for choice: given the Winds in the Willows connection, a walk on the Thames path is a must. Cliveden is round the corner, as is the nature reserve at Cock Marsh and, a little farther away, the woods at Burnham Beeches. There are several golf courses nearby and of course there’s boating on the Thames
  • Schools: Several local primaries are rated outstanding, including the Holy Trinity Church of England School, and, among the privates, Caldicott is four and a half miles away. At secondary level, Marlow has Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School (also rated outstanding) and both Eton and Wycombe Abbey are within easy reach.Find more properties in the area.

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