Monday, 08 August 2022

Have your Christmas cake (and eat it) here

Have your Christmas cake (and eat it) here

Ho, ho, ho! Santa’s house is a
four-bedroom period gem in Wallingford, discovers property reporter LUCY BOON

SANTA Claus, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santy, or simply Santa is a legendary figure who lives at the North Pole. Or does he?

When he’s not busy finding out who’s been good or bad, and sleighing across the Oxfordshire sky, you may well find him nibbling a mince pie around the kitchen Aga of this gorgeous Grade II-listed Wallingford townhouse.

Don’t be fooled by the photograph above — St Nicholas House is actually just off the High Street of this busy market town, which makes it ideal for Santa’s last-minute dash to the shops for forgotten gifts.

Yes, he’s far from isolated, living here. However, the house is in a rather special position in that, once the front door is closed, it’s as if you’ve stepped into a secluded country estate. Albeit, one that incorporates the ruins of medieval Wallingford Castle.

These 11th century ruins are a striking backdrop to more than an acre of garden, with expansive public river meadows beyond. (You can access the castle ruins from the back garden).

Divided up into sections of lawn and interesting hedged-off areas, the gardens are scattered with quintessential English yew trees, topiary, shrubs and perennial plants, and are an ideal place to get lost in.

Snaking through the gardens are also pieces of old castle walls, some of which still contain windows, while off to one side is what appears to be the original castle well (now covered over and used as a planting feature).

Seriously impressive, this is a large amount of ground for any house, but especially one in the centre of a bustling town. And with so much historical importance.

Car access (or should that be sleigh access) to an expansive drive is via an electric gated entrance off one of the town’s oldest and quietest lanes.

The garden also contains a double garage to park it in, as well as a separate one-bedroom apartment for any guest elves. Oh, and did we mention there’s also a hard tennis court? (With such a stressful job, Santa needs to keep fit, you know.)

But what of the Georgian property that takes Father Christmas’s name?

Built for the local gentry of the 1800s, the charming, butter-mellow stone frontage is reminiscent of The Circus in Bath.

And like a Circus townhouse, this one, too, is an elegant family home, the Grade II-listed railings, pretty front garden and impressive porch with panelled front door setting the mood of what lies within. But it wasn’t always so.

By the Seventies the building was in need of some TLC, and was eventually rescued in 2000 by period property expert Chris Taylor, on the lookout for a project.

He renovated it beautifully, making the most of all its best features — including wrought-iron fireplaces, marble surrounds, stone porticos, and working wooden shutters.

Each reception room contains plaster mouldings unique to that room — a lovely detail giving each space its own personality. Most of these rooms have working fires and beautiful wooden floors too.

Right at the heart of the house, the airy hall is also a feature, with its wide, original treads, framed by a glossy mahogany hand rail. It’s certainly a staircase for making a grand entrance. On the practical side, the house has seen a full rewire, re-plumb and rework.

When Father Christmas — aka the present owners — moved in back in 2002, local architect David Birkett helped them put their own stamp on the property and make it work for a busy family. This resulted in, for instance, combining three of the bedrooms to create one large master suite with a separate dressing room and en suite bathroom.

It also means the lower-ground floor accommodation is self-contained and could easily be used as ancillary accommodation (a side door gives access).

Now decorated in a Christmassy palette of opulent reds and lavish golds, with glittering chandeliers and polished wood, the house provides spacious accommodation over three floors, with well-proportioned rooms that let in plenty of natural light through the wooden sash windows (they are all original). The generous kitchen could easily accommodate a few Georgian elves cooking gingerbread or painting toys at the kitchen table. But this is a modern kitchen with a central island, granite work surfaces and a second oven. The elves would have it easy.

It’s worth noting that the owners managed to obtain planning permission to extend the kitchen to incorporate the walled back-garden terrace. Although this permission has now lapsed, Standard Property thinks it would be straightforward to reapply.

This would certainly be worth your while, since extending the kitchen/boot room into the back garden would make more of the large raised space here, which is also overlooked by the adjacent drawing room.

The kitchen and drawing room are the ideal rooms from which to enjoy the view over the beautiful gardens and grounds with the backdrop of Wallingford Castle beyond.

The drawing room is the largest room in the house and has a fireplace that’s simply crying out for a few Christmas stockings.

The semi-circular portico bay with full-height windows has a unique feature in its middle sash. This slots vertically into a hidden opening in the ceiling so that it can slide entirely away, opening up the whole side of the room — a sort of Georgian folding door, if you will.

Yet innovations don’t always need to be intricate, and the simple decision to remove a few of the reception room doors has resulted in creating more of a flow to the downstairs space, working well for modern living.

(Potential buyers will be happy to know that these original doors have been kept, and are part of the sale.)

Now the owners of this Georgian beauty are moving abroad, it’s time for St Nicholas House to find its next family of little helpers. Whoever they are, they’ll be able to have their Christmas cake and eat it.

Stephen Christie-Miller of Savills in Henley, who is handling the sale, says: “Ask most purchasers what they want from a home and they will answer excellent transport links, close proximity to good schools, the ability to put their own stamp on a property, and superb access to local amenities. St Nicholas House has all these in abundance.”

Indeed, it’s the address to make for a very Merry Christmas.

At a glance...


l Reception rooms: three, plus a kitchen-breakfast room

l Bedrooms: four (master bedroom suite and three further bedrooms)

l Bathrooms: two (one being the en suite to the master bedroom)

l Other: reception hall, utility/boot room, wine cellar and boiler room (both in lower-ground floor accommodation), detached double garage, tennis court, historically interesting gardens

l Separate accommodation:
i) Lower-ground accommodation with its own front door entrance (off the side entrance hall), comprising a bathroom and four other rooms, plus wine cellar
ii) Detached studio annexe, comprising one bedroom, one sitting room, one bathroom and one kitchen

l Size: 5,169 sq ft / 480.22 sq m

l Land: 1.3 acres approx

Guide price: £2,500,000

Agency: Savills on (01491) 843001


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