After a major renovation of both house and garden, a Palladian mansion and surrounding estate in County Durham is on the market for £6 million

SIXTEEN years ago, Londoner Paul Townley and his wife Gaynor were looking to buy a large house in the North of England, when an agent insisted they should take a look at Thorpe Hall, a grade II* listed house in Wycliffe, near Barnard Castle, County Durham. And despite the fact they hadn’t been looking for such a substantial renovation project, they were smitten.

“Frankly, it was love at first sight – the minute the house came into view, we knew it was for us,” says Gaynor. “We spent a lot of time and money creating our perfect home, but it has been a labour of love.”

“We are proud of every corner of our home. Our interior designer, Mark Gillette, did a fabulous job,” adds Paul, a former High Sheriff of County Durham “The house comes alive when it’s full of friends, and we love having people to stay, so I suppose the entertaining rooms give us particular pleasure.”

The interiors have been completely remodelled by the Townleys. The inner hall has been transformed into an impressive reception room with a lantern light, neoclassical Adam-esque plasterwork, a delicate wrought-iron balustrade and a fireplace framed in marble with a carved mantel, while the principal rooms were returned to their original purpose, namely the drawing room, dining room and library. In addition, there is a smaller family dining room and pretty sitting room, with exceptional original features including fine Georgian cornicing and panelling.

The 18th Century kitchen has been brought back to its original role, but with a keen eye on modern family life, with a large dining table to one side. The work was mainly carried out by local craftsmen – decorative plasterwork by Steads of Bradford, joinery by Houghtons of York and wrought ironwork by artist blacksmith Brian Russell, of Little Newsham Forge.

Rooms had changed shape and been divided over the years, so partitions were taken down to restore the original classical proportions.

The bedrooms are all individually decorated, the impressive master suite overlooking the gardens onto traditional farmland. There is a dressing room that leads to the en-suite bathroom and a gentleman’s dressing room beautifully fitted with mahogany cupboards and shelves.

“Thorpe Hall has to be one of the finest country homes in the North of England,” says Ben Pridden, head of residential sales at Savills York. “Restored and beautifully decorated under the direct supervision of the current owners, with the assistance of their interior designer, the result is a comfortable, modern and sophisticated country house where 21st Century craftsmanship is a match for the original 18th Century work.”

The hall is surrounded by park and arable land, with grounds that extend to 85 acres and dates from the 13th Century, when a peel tower was built by the Wycliffe family; its Georgian front, an example of Palladian architecture, was added in 1740.

The beautiful gardens have been laid out by the world-renowned designer Arne Maynard, who has created a series of “rooms” to give interest throughout the year. Terracing around the house has created excellent spaces for summer entertaining and the kitchen garden offers an abundance of produce throughout the year.

“Thorpe works beautifully for those keen on entertaining, and offers endless fun for family life,” says Gaynor. “In addition to the house, there are several cottages that would make a very good holiday letting business, and there is an office to manage it from. Those keen on country life are spoilt with all the local opportunities. There is even a steam engine for children to ride on by the river.”

There is planning permission for ten eco lodges on the old Whorlton Lido field and to convert the existing “former engine shed” to a residential holiday let. And as befits an estate of this standard, there are numerous outbuildings, cottages and garaging, plus two properties, Corner Cottage and Greystones Cottage, set a little distance away from the main house.

Now that the Townleys have given Thorpe Hall a new lease of life – and won accolades from both the Historic Houses Association and The Georgian Group in the process – they have decided to put the estate on the market.

“We have loved living in Thorpe, but it is time to move on,” says Paul. “We spend a lot of time travelling and think it’s time to simplify our lives. There will be no negative feeling when we go. We will be proud to pass it on to the next generation of custodians.”

  • Thorpe Hall is on the market with Savills at a guide price of £6m.