Country houses for sale

A magnificent estate in Devon that offers the chance to own over 120 acres of Dartmoor National Nature Reserve

With previous owners including bishops, earls and Queen Elizabeth I, Yarner House has had a colourful past. The sprawling property, most recently run as a holiday retreat and wedding venue is now on the market — and there's a lot on offer, as Penny Churchill discovers.

Just launched onto the market via Country Life is the historic, 247-acre Yarner House estate on the north-eastern slopes of Haytor Down, three miles west of Bovey Tracey on the eastern edge of the Dartmoor National Park.

Edward Clarkson of Knight Frank’s Exeter office quotes a guide price of £5.5 million for the Devon estate as a whole, or £5m for Grade II-listed Yarner House with its land, buildings and one cottage; the Lodge Cottage is available separately for £500,000.

Yarner House and the adjoining Yarner Wood, a 365-acre block of ancient woodland managed by Natural England as part of the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve, were both once part of the manor of Bovey Tracey granted by William the Conqueror to Geoffrey de Mowbray, Bishop of Coutances.

On de Mowbray’s death in 1093, his nephew, Robert Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, inherited, but later defied the king, which led to the seizure of his estates in 1095.

Over time, ownership of the Bovey Tracey estates reverted to the Crown as favourites came and went, until, in the 16th century, a succession of costly wars left Tudor monarchs strapped for cash.

Elizabeth I began to sell off Crown properties and, in 1578, the Yarner estate was bought by Gregory Sprint, a canny lawyer with good Court connections, who swiftly resold it at a profit.

Little is known of the early history of Yarner House itself, although its 1986 listing describes it as a ‘large house, 17th century or earlier, remodelled and considerably enlarged in the 19th-century.

L-shaped, with slated roofs mostly concealed behind high crenellated parapets, it occupies a prominent site nearly 800ft above sea-level, the old house being contained in a square block at the south-east end’.

According to Devon records, this ‘old house’ was built, probably on the site of an old hunting lodge, by Moses Stoneham, the son of a Norfolk rector, who came to Devon in about 1650 and died at Yarner in 1678.

Research carried out by Devon historian Frances Billinge shows that, during the 18th century, the Yarner estate was mortgaged, leased or used as collateral for loans by 28 different groups of owners.

In the 19th century, more than 30 groups of owners became involved as mineral rights were separated from the estate and shafts were dug to mine for copper. However, the mining venture proved unsuccessful and, when the mine closed in 1864, Yarner went back to being a sporting country estate.

In 1878, the estate was acquired by Oxford graduate Henry Chadwick, who greatly improved the property and when, in 1902, he offered it for sale, it was described as ‘a mansion with three lodges and over 435 acres, and a sporting estate’.

The new owner was Chadwick’s neighbour, Harry Trelawney Eve, an important figure in the area and a Liberal MP, who was knighted in 1907.

Eve’s son, William, was killed in action in 1917 and, in 1919, Yarner was sold to the sitting tenant, Richard Lee, for £10,000. Upon Lee’s death in 1923, the estate passed to his wife, daughter and son-in-law Capt John Catterall Leach RN, who was killed in action in 1941.

Yarner was put up for sale again in 1950 and, in 1952, was divided into two when Yarner Wood was sold to the Nature Conservancy to become one of the first of six national nature reserves.

In 1964, present owners the Holman family bought the Yarner House estate, comprising the impressive main house in its glorious hillside setting surrounded by magnificent terraced gardens, a farm with a farmhouse, farm buildings and 71 acres of pasture, some 30 acres of mixed woodland and 138 acres of moorland within the Dartmoor National Park.

In recent years, the house has been run as a successful holiday retreat and wedding venue.

Romantic Yarner House stands at the end of a long drive that meanders through the land before arriving at the entrance where a wide lawned terrace reveals the compelling beauty of the Wray Valley below.

The house offers 6,206sq ft of accommodation on three floors, including an inner hall that doubles as a dining room, a light-filled Scandinavian hall ideal for entertaining, a study, sitting room and kitchen/breakfast room, with a spacious master suite plus six further bedrooms and bathrooms on the floors above.

Outside in the grounds, the Victorian tennis court needs updating, but surely boasts the finest site of any court anywhere in the South-West.

Yarner House is currently for sale via Knight Frank for £5.5 million — see more pictures, or enquire with the agent for further details.

Bovey Tracey: What you need to know

Location: Bovey Tracey is a small, historic market town located approximately 7 miles from Newton Abbot and approximately 15 miles south west of Exeter. There are main line rail services at both Newton Abbot and Exeter St Davis which provide links to London and the north and the A38 which connects to the A303 and M5.

Atmosphere: Bovey Tracey is known as one of the main gateways to Dartmoor and is set on the River Bovey. It is popular with visitors and enjoys a bustling town with local shops, primary schools and a historic church.

Things to do: Bovey Tracey is wonderfully situated for those wishing to escape to the moors and enjoy the many walks and hikes on offer. Likewise, in town, The House of Marbles — a museum/ glassworks/cafe/shop is a popular family attraction.

Schools: The local primary schools are Bovey Tracey Primary School and Little Acons Montessori, with more options for both primary and  secondary near Newton Abbot and the surrounding area — notably, Newton Abbot College and Stover School.

See more property for sale in the area.