Period Property of the Month - December 2008
Glyn and Anne Powell-Evans were delighted to acquire the other half of their ancient Grade I listed manor and bring the property back into sole ownership after nearly 50 years.
This ancient moated manor house, situated deep in the countryside, has direct access to local walking in the Surrey Hills, and is still within easy reach of the historic county town of Guildford with its excellent shopping facilities.
Great Tangley Manor had been divided into two since 1959 and Glyn and Anne Powell-Evans purchased the west wing 12 years ago. They loved it so much that when the owner of the other wing died in 2005, they decided they could not bear the thought of someone else buying it. So, at a stage when most people think of downsizing, they embarked on acquiring and doing up a Grade I listed building. Ultimately, the aim is to reinstate the manor as a single dwelling, but in the meantime, the only way ownership was financially viable was to share it with others by turning the newly-acquired half into a luxury retreat.
One of the attractions of this house for the Powell-Evans was its history, which even at a cursory glance is fascinating. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086, where it is described as a royal hunting lodge. It was inhabited throughout the 13th and 14th Centuries as a medieval hall house, and then in 1582 some of the alterations which now characterise the main part of the property were carried out.
The Tudor fašade was created and timbers reputed to come from the Spanish Armada fleet were incorporated into the dining room in the form of panelling. Fast-forwarding 300 years, the house was purchased by one Wycham Flower, a man wealthy enough to make some quite extravagant changes, including the restoration of the moat and gardens which today still form a magical setting for this historic residence. In the late 1880s, the extensions and covered walkway, which are outstanding examples of Arts & Crafts architecture, were created by Phillip Webb. The owners of the manor over the centuries have obviously been well-connected and there are records of several notable visitors, including royalty. A lasting souvenir of a royal visit in the early 20th Century is to be found on one of the window panes of the dining room, signed with a diamond ring by King George V and Queen Mary. In the master suite, on the dressing room window, are the signatures of Edward VII and George VI. However, as anyone who has ever owned a listed property knows, all this history comes at a price - the changes one can make are limited and, of course, subject to listed building consent.
How did the Powell-Evans cope with this? "As long as one respects the history and works with English Heritage, it is not a problem, although of course it does usually mean that things take a bit longer to get done," says Nicho, the Powell-Evans' son-in-law. He and Rosalie held their summer wedding reception at the house last year and he is now very much part of this family-run business. As he showed me around the house and grounds it was clear that he was enjoying his role as one of the custodians of a place which had been in existence for nearly 1000 years and could be here in another 1000.
Nicho was also keen to show off the addition the Powell-Evans themselves had made to the house. At first sight, the box glass extension to the kitchen seems out of keeping. Did the planners really allow this here? Should they have done so? Then, the initial reaction is replaced by admiration that the Grade I listing did not prevent a contemporary addition to a building which its occupants have been changing and adding to for an entire millennium. Bravo!
The next thought that strikes is what a shame that our modern preoccupation with glass as a building material almost certainly guarantees that it will not be here at the start of the next millennium. Strange to think that there will be traces of many centuries past, but not our current one. However, for now one can enjoy this 'almost outdoor' room and, snugly protected from our English weather, sit with a 360░ view of the courtyard (itself a late 20th Century addition creating two extra bedrooms and a drawing room) absolutely unencumbered by the usual structural elements of traditional conservatories. "We were so lucky to have an enlightened listed buildings officer and an architect (Stedman Blower) who was prepared to be bold. It took months to be approved, and was truthfully a bit of a nightmare to construct. One of the logistical problems was caused by the moat - getting the glass panels across a 2'9" bridge was no easy task," says Nicho.
The construction and restoration specialists Simon James, a company owned by the Powell-Evans' other son-in-law, did a fantastic job in blending the alterations with the old fabric of the building. The Glass Box extension has won two awards - The Waverley Design Award and one from the Surrey History society.
After the shock of the new, we move back in time to the drawing room, added in 1976, but decorated in Art Deco style. "We just thought that would be fun," says Nicho, as we breeze through and further back in time. "It provides a welcome contrast to the panelled dining room and the older parts of the house, like the library, which has lots of wood and beams."
Next I was shown the extraordinary Harrods bathroom with gold Fleur-de-Lys on maroon plastic added in the 1970s and now therefore part of the Grade I listing. "Yes," says Nicho smiling, "one does have to concede it is part of the colourful history of the house." It does have a certain je ne sais quoi and as a reminder of changing taste, it should be saved. However, I'm not sure it will survive the centuries as well as the panelling.