Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Goodbye to All That; It's Already the Contents Sale of the Summer, Says Katrina Burroughs. but, for Another [Pounds Sterling]23 Million, You Can Buy the House, Too

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Goodbye to All That; It's Already the Contents Sale of the Summer, Says Katrina Burroughs. but, for Another [Pounds Sterling]23 Million, You Can Buy the House, Too

Article excerpt

Byline: KATRINA BURROUGHS

DRIVE up to Suffolk for a few days to enjoy the open skies and unspoilt coast - and take in the sale of the summer while you are there. The country house contents auction is at Shrubland Hall, just north of Ipswich, the seat of the de Saumarez family since 1887. But, if you fall in love with the silver, paintings, furniture, porcelain, glassware and textiles, there is always the option of buying the house as well.

The entire 1,330-acre estate is being sold separately with [pounds sterling]23 million netting you the land, a 31-bedroom Grade II* mansion, with lodges and a stable block, plus three large houses and 32 cottages, a brace of quarries, a home farm, a pheasant shoot and a deer park.

The present Lord de Saumarez was born at Shrubland Hall and lived there until he was six, when he and his parents moved to another property on the estate to make way for a family-run health spa, which opened in the hall in 1964. The spa closed in April this year, and Lord and Lady de Saumarez moved back, temporarily, into into what had been his rambling, warren-like home of early childhood. "It brought back all sorts of lovely memories," he says.

"I remember tricycling to breakfast." He also recalls the thrill of small acts of defiance: "A farm labourer's family lived at the other end of the house, when I was a child, and he had ITV. My dad had banned ITV, so I used to tricycle over to watch Popeye." He laughs: "As a kid, you don't realise that that isn't how everyone lives."

Lord de Saumarez describes the decision to sell up as extremely difficult - but necessary - and, he believes, timely. The family has been hit hard by inheritance tax, after the death of his mother. The upkeep of the fabric of the hall, the estate, and responsibility for tenants and staff are all elements of ownership that, approaching 50, he feels ready to pass on. He says: "These places need a breath of fresh air every so often. Shrubland Hall has changed ownership every three generations in the past, and the moment has come for another change." He and his wife intend to move to a smaller house, outside Suffolk, as: "It would be too hard to keep driving past the old place."

"The place" was built in the 1770s, commissioned by a wealthy local clergyman, John Bacon, as the elegant centrepiece to an estate that had existed since the 14th century. By all accounts, it was a classic Georgian mansion, with spacious rooms and elaborate plasterwork ceilings. When William Middleton bought the house, in 1798, he was satisfied with the architecture and decor of the hall, but employed Humphrey Repton, the celebrated landscaper, to improve its gardens and grounds; Repton's work at Shrubland is now Grade I listed. William's son, who inherited in 1829, was not so enamoured of his Georgian gem and promptly began the transformation of the house into a much grander, Continental style. …

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