HALL OF FAME

Lost in rural Northamptonshire, Zoe Dare Hall finds Weston Hall

HALL OF FAME

Lost in rural Northamptonshire, Zoe Dare Hall finds Weston Hall

The small Northamptonshire village of Weston is set amidst countryside known for its enigmatic ‘lost villages’ – abandoned, buried medieval settlements whose contours are still visible beneath the verdant fields that now carpet them. Yet Weston’s grandest property, Weston Hall, has ensured that this particular village remains far from lost, as home to the celebrated, high-society and literary Sitwell family for more than 300 years.

The handsome Grade II-listed country house, set in 49 acres of gardens, including a tennis court and swimming pool, woodland and pastureland, has been the Sitwell’s family seat since 1714. But it was in the 1920s and 30s that the property really made its name, when the writer and art critic Sir Sacheverell Sitwell and his Canadian wife, Georgia, moved in.

The couple regularly hosted an eclectic circle of friends, including Cecil Beaton, Noël Coward, and Evelyn Waugh, who was a friend of all three literary Sitwells, Osbert, Edith and “Sachie”. It is here that Sir Sacheverell wrote many of his 130 books, and a young William Walton composed much of Belshazzar’s Feast while living at Weston Hall.

The manor house was Sir Sacheverell’s home for 55 years until his death in 1988. Most recently, Weston Hall has been the family home of his grandson, the food writer and MasterChef critic William Sitwell, who made the house available on an exclusive basis for weddings, and was known, on occasion, to cook for the event. Now, due to other family commitments, the Sitwells are selling to move to the West Country and Weston House is coming to the market for the first time in three centuries.

Weston House – which has nearly 13,000 square feet of living space, including 12 bedrooms, five reception rooms and attic rooms – has naturally seen some adjustments over time. It was enlarged in the 1770s and saw some Tudor remodelling in the early 19th century. Lady Sitwell insisted that the Great Parlour – which had been turned into a gun room by its previous incumbent – be restored as a dining room for her and Sachie’s famous soirées, and William Sitwell’s mother has added some more recent touches, painting the dining room red and the grand entrance hall pink.

But one of the great beauties of Weston Hall is how little it has changed fundamentally over the centuries, with many of its rooms – including the 19th-century Justice Room, 18th-century library and Victorian orangery – time capsules of British history.

“It has real provenance in its history of ownership and in its character and nature. It’s a house you are immediately drawn to and it’s very true to its origins,” says Peter Edwards, a partner in Knight Frank’s Country Department. “The house is grand and of significant size but it’s not massive or cavernous. It has a mix of formal and informal rooms, from the drawing room with its very tall ceilings and sash windows, to the cosy dining room that seats 16 easily but has a certain intimacy to it.”

Crucially, too, the house may be the grandest in Weston, but it is integral to the local community, located on the edge of the village, moments from the popular local pub, The Crown. “This is a proper, lived-in rural village, typical of many of the beautiful Northamptonshire villages. Then it dawns on you that there’s something a bit special right on the edge,” says Edwards. He describes how, as you pass Weston Hall’s lodge cottage along the meandering driveway, “this wonderful, symmetrical stone house – which is almost Cotswolds-style with its entrance, portico and steps – suddenly appears.”

The house is well known in Weston “because of its literary connections”, says Edwards, “but it’s totally immersed in that village. It’s sad when a dynasty with continuous ownership comes to a natural conclusion, but that’s simply what has happened here.”

This is a proper, lived-in rural village, typical of many of the beautiful Northamptonshire villages. Then it dawns on you that there’s something a bit special right on the edge.

As lockdowns have driven many people to seek a more spacious and bucolic alternative to city life, Weston Hall is unlikely to be short of interest from families wishing to start their own long history here. It combines the grandeur of a country mansion, with the conviviality of a rural village location, and Weston is also within easy commuting time of London, by train from nearby Banbury or Milton Keynes, or by car via the M40. Indeed, William Sitwell reports that he can easily leave the house early in the morning for a day’s work in central London, then “be back home in the swimming pool, looking at the sky, by 7.30 in the evening”.

And while its façade may be reminiscent of Cotswold architecture, property values in rural Northamptonshire remain considerably lower than their West Country equivalents. “You get an awful lot more for your money here, possibly 25-30% more, as Northamptonshire as a region is still slightly undervalued,” says Edwards. Lost, it isn’t, but there is still so much waiting to be discovered.

For more information, contact Rupert Sweeting rupert.sweeting@knightfrank.com +44 20 3944 9786

Jamie Robson jamie.robson@knightfrank.com +44 20 3504 8531


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Life in the slow lane