Period Property of the Month - October 2010
A trip to the country to look for a cottage ended with Anne and Ian Miles buying a magnificent historic manor
Children's television programme makers Anne and Ian Miles were looking for a cottage in the country, but ended up buying a magnificent former royal manor house dating back to the 1100s.
"We wanted somewhere rural to escape to each weekend from our hectic lives running our own business in London," Anne remembers, laughing. "We were looking for a cottage, not a house, but when the agents rang and said a house in a lovely village had come on the market, we thought we'd take a look. When we got here, we saw this wonderful old manor house in mellow Cotswold stone and just fell in love with it."
The couple made an offer, which was accepted, and moved in with their daughter, Francesca, who was 14. That was twenty five years ago, and now the house echoes to the sounds of their grandchildren, Sam and Olivia, who love exploring such an ancient home.
William the Conqueror granted the manor to a Norman family as reward for faithful service, and throughout its history courtiers have vied for ownership of its rich lands, now reduced to six acres.
During Edward III's reign the manor reverted to royal ownership, and over the next two hundred and fifty years the estate provided an income for widowed queens. Among those who were granted its revenues were King Henry IV's widow, Queen Joanna, and King Henry VIII's widow, Queen Katherine Parr, who lived at Sudeley Castle.
Elizabeth I brought the royal ownership to an end in 1564 when she granted the manor to the Bishop of Salisbury in exchange for his house, Salisbury Place, in London, which she wanted for some friends.
Now the Virginia creeper clad house is home not just to the Miles family, but also to two donkeys who Anne cares for on behalf of a donkey sanctuary in Devon.
"They are the most spoilt donkeys," she laughs.
When the Miles' moved in, most of the house had been restored, and they set to work to redecorate over the years to their taste. The drawing room, sitting room and hall all have the original stone flagged flooring, while the kitchen has an original red brick floor.
"We were very fortunate, as the house was sound structurally and had been carefully modernised by the previous owners," Anne explains. "But we loved creating a comfortable, welcoming home, which is not at all grand considering the imposing exterior.
"Obviously the house looks wonderful furnished with antiques, and we've loved collecting pieces over the years. We bought the four-poster bed however with the house, in fact you can't get it out. It is 17th century oak and it would have had to be cut up which would have been dreadful.
We have also created a lavender walk, and installed a water wheel with a pond which is a lovely shady spot in summer. It is very much a country garden."
The house, which has three floors, has five bedrooms and a playroom, three bathrooms, one en suite to the master bedroom, and a downstairs cloakroom. An imposing solid oak carved staircase leads from the large entrance hall, which doubles as an informal sitting room.
"My favourite room is our little drawing room as it has fantastic views of the garden," Anne says. "After a busy week running our media company in London making children's television programmes, we love to escape here and relax. The house has six acres of garden - much less than it had hundreds of years ago as a royal manor - but that is more than enough. It is a sanctuary, and not just for the donkeys!"