Historical house Remenham Place goes on the market
From the back of the house, looking out to the horizon over the treetops to the Hambleden Valley a few hundred feet below, you can just glimpse the river threading its way through the countryside.
On this blissful morning in early autumn it’s a landscape that’s hardly changed since the house was built in 1870 for the father of an honorary colonel of the 4th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.
A hundred and thirty years on, when the estate was bought in 1999 by a former president of Universal Pictures and ex-chairman of the UK Film Council, the big house had until then been a nursing home for 45 years. Not surprisingly with a history going back one-and-a half centuries the house has had its ups and downs.
During one spell in the late 1800s it was let to a Reverend RBC Everard who turned it into a private school for boys. Fifty years later when the Everard family’s lease ended, the house was split up into flats and it stayed that way until it became ‘a home for elderly gentlefolk’, officially opened by the Duchess of Kent in February 1956.
In the course of the first 70 years of its life it was owned three times by families who used it as their family seat and when the Stewart Myles Till and his interior designer wife Jayne became the most recent incumbents 12 years ago it was their ambition to restore it to the same level level of opulence which greeted the King and Queen of England when they visited friends who bought Remenham Place in 1920.
By far the most notable owners in the first half of the last century were Sir Douglas and Lady Dawson. He had been Controller of the Lord Chamberlain's office but by 1920 when they bought the country estate on Remenham Hill he was State Chamberlain. His wife had worked for Queen Mary’s Guild during the First World War and both were close friends of the royals, so much so that in one remarkable year –1923 – their blue-blooded chums transformed the garden for them.
The working party was led by the monarch and his consort. George V planted an oak in the field at the back of the house and Queen Mary planted a cedar at the front of the field. Near the Queen’s cedar is an ash planted by the Duke of Windsor and, keen to do their bit, the then Princess Royal, Lord Harewood and the King’s sister Princess Victoria each planted a tree in a circular enclosure in the field at the end of the drive nearest the house not far from a laurel hedge.
Yet another tree was planted by the Marquise d’Hautpou on behalf of the Duke of Kent who had a prior engagement when his relatives were engaged in the gardening project. The Marquise didn’t have as far to come as the King and Queen. He lived in Turville and was a good friend of both the Dawsons and the royals.
The Tills had often passed the entrance to Remenham Place before they bought it. They’ve lived in the Henley area for 25 years. “We never knew who lived here,” Lynda remembers. “We had a house on the river at Wargrave but I’d been looking for a mini stately home to do up and when this came up for auction I bid for it but lost out to a developer.
“I stuck to the developer like Velcro, trying to persuade him to sell the house to me. He wanted to turn it into flats and I did everything I could to stop him. I wanted it to turn it back into a family home. Eventually he agreed to sell it to me.”
It took them two years to do the remedial work and remodel the interior. “The house was in a bad state. We virtually rebuilt it inside, restoring the period features. When we took it over there were 25 bedrooms and five bathrooms. Now there are ten bedrooms and ten bathrooms. The galleried landings and stairways are flooded with natural light from the over-sized central atrium installed when they put on the new roof.
The imposing 18th-century wrought iron gates at the entrance to the forecourt in front of the house look as though they have been there forever but they are one of Lynda’s finds from a reclamation yard. Another pair of wrought iron gates in the grounds came from much further afield in Vietnam.
The tradition for entertaining at Remenham Place was reinstated by the present owners.
“The house was always full,” says Lynda. “My parents moved into the three-bedroom bungalow adjoining the house and the children had friends here and there were constant parties. It was how it should be.”
But in January last year they decided to spend more time in London. “My parents had died. The children had grown up. Our son Oscar is 25 and our daughter is 22 – actually Livvy is furious with us. She doesn’t want us to sell the house. She wanted to get married from here and sweep down the staircase in her wedding dress but we just don’t need ten bedrooms anymore.” She adds: “I have to say living in a three-bedroom flat in Sloane Street after this is a bit limiting. We’re looking for something smaller out here but we won’t have a swimming pool next time. You only need a pool when you have children living with you.”
Remenham Place is for sale through Ballards in Henley.