Thursday, 16 September 2021

Fabulous rectory as sure as Easter eggs are eggs

TO celebrate the Easter issue, Standard property correspondent Lucy Boon found a place that’s ideal for an egg hunt.

TO celebrate the Easter issue, Standard property correspondent Lucy Boon found a place that’s ideal for an egg hunt

SET in three acres of glorious gardens and grounds on the edge of the pretty village of Checkendon, The Old Rectory is a Grade II-listed eight-bedroom, four-bathroom, four-reception stunner of a country home.

The former clergy residence comes with several outbuildings as well as wine cellars, a study, a heated swimming pool and wonderful paddocks.

“There is beautiful Tudor architecture at one end of the house, with early, mid- and late-Georgian additions creating the house that stands today,” said Penny Venters, who has owned the property with husband Euan for the past nine years.

“When the Church owned the house, its original use was for ecclesiastical sabbaticals for senior churchmen of the Oxford Diocese. In the early Eighties the house was sold to the family we subsequently bought it from.”

These occupants split the rectory in two, to accommodate an elderly relative, but had done little more than that when the Venters family bought it.

“This is what really appealed to us about the house,” said Penny. “It was in need of total renovation and the chance to restore this beautiful building to a modern family home was very exciting.

“We opened up corridors, removed a staircase, re-jigged rooms and created spaces that flow beautifully.

“All the major services have been completely renewed. We also spent a great deal on getting the house in a good decorative order, as that was important to me.

“Nothing has been lost, all the old features abound, but it’s not over-embellished. It’s a fabulous co-existence of historical architecture with contemporary interiors.”

The wow factor of the property is now the kitchen. If you’re getting ready for Easter, this would certainly be ideal for baking hot-cross buns and cooking Sunday lunch. With 50sq ft of space, the kitchen boasts beautiful built-in cupboards made of walnut, a large island unit, luxury granite worktops, stone flooring and an array of quality integrated appliances including a warming drawer and a coffee machine.

“This is my favourite room because it’s so practical,” said Penny. “We created the space out of three smaller rooms and it now gives easy access through to the downstairs study area, the playroom and the dining room.

“What I also love are the two sets of double doors – one opening on to the back lawn and the other to a Tudor courtyard and kitchen garden. The kitchen cupboards were built for us by a local cabinet maker.”

While you’re preparing your Easter feast, you may wish to take a short coffee break in the adjoining breakfast room. This is only separated from the kitchen by the wood-burner wall, which has been knocked through on either side, to create a lovely open-plan feel.

And when your meal is ready, simply walk one room over into the dining room. This has an attractive stone fireplace and windows that look out over the garden, as well as a ‘butler’s pantry’ just inside the room – a wonderful relic from the house’s Georgian days, for serving and clearing.

“The butler’s pantry is a great bonus,” said Penny. “Historically the dining room is one of the most important rooms in the house, with original 18th-century ‘Spitalfields’ panelling on the walls and original working shutters at the windows.”

Apart from its obvious charms, the size of the house appealed to Penny and Euan as a good choice for raising their four children, who are now grown up – hence the move.

“The Old Rectory has proved a great family home,” said Penny. “It’s so spacious, plus I love the garden and will fondly remember all the Easter egg hunts we’ve had there. It affords multiple possibilities for hiding eggs and our children have spent many happy times searching for chocolate.

“The copper beech hedges provide good cover for hidden treats, as do the branches of the mulberry tree. The garden has various distinct areas and they all need to be inspected!

“Anybody doing gardening throughout the following week would be sure to discover a little unclaimed bounty.”

The garden is a mixture of formal areas, paddocks and sprawling lawns which overlook farmland on the edge of the village.

“At this time of year it’s covered with daffodils, snowdrops and bluebells,” said Penny. “There is also a magnificent wellingtonia tree to one side.”

But it doesn’t have to be spring for the grounds to be bursting with life, thanks to the south-facing garden. Towards the centre there’s also a spacious terrace, which is great if the sun is warm enough to take your Easter tea outside.

Another treat, hiding in the garden to the side of a large barn, is the swimming pool. There is a spacious seating area and the pool is surrounded on three sides by walls, which is welcome when it’s a little windy. The remaining side looks out on to the back garden and surrounding fields.

The lower floor of the barn serves as garaging, while the upper has not yet been developed. Other outbuildings provide various storage options, including a log store and a games room. And if riding is your passion, there is the aforementioned paddock (stable your horse at Checkendon Equestrian Centre – a hop, skip and a trot down the road).

If you’re looking for a spot of culture, Reading is not far away and Henley is only three miles to the west. Checkendon has a village shop and post office, along with a primary school and the old Norman church of Saints Peter and Paul, where the original rector would have delivered his sermons. Numerous pubs and restaurants will also keep you entertained.

When you need to go further afield, there’s a direct train to London Paddington from Henley (a 10-minute drive away) and Reading (15 minutes away). To drive to West London will take you 40 minutes via the M4.

“Sadly we are not staying in the area as Euan’s job takes us to Scotland,” said Penny. “I will definitely miss Checkendon village. It’s a great place to bring up children and I have absolutely loved being part of village life.

“The Old Rectory is a spacious but practical home in a fabulous location.”

Happy Easter.

• For sale with Savills at a guide price of £3,375,000. For information please call (01491) 843001.

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