Buying and Preserving an English Manor House Takes a Princely Sum

manor house front doorNot everyone is born in a manor house, but it’s possible to live in one now. Such a home was once the centre of a manor, the lowest unit of territorial organisation in Europe’s feudal system. It’s the residence of the lord of the manor. It also refers to country houses which belonged to powerful families, even if the building was not the administrative centre of a manor.

With a storied past, manor houses are grand and imposing, occupying many acres of land and sporting fine architecture. Many would love to call it home, but those who do now put their grandiose abodes up for sale.

The Fall of Manor Houses

The rise and fall of the manor houses coincide with the power and popularity of the British aristocracy. Many of these stately homes were built in the 17th and 18th centuries, in the middle of an agricultural estate. The noble and titled families who lived there owned vast lands and made money from leasing them to farmers.

The 19th century saw the decline of manor houses. An agricultural depression reduced farming rents, while politicians turned against the landlords. The government introduced death duties on landed wealth in 1894, followed by several legislations that turned the tide against families who owned manor houses.

Unable to pay tax bills, some owners had to sell parts of their estate. Bit by bit, the acres dwindled. As the land grew smaller, the manor house at the centre became less viable.

Deconstruction of Homes

In the 1900s, a wave of demolition washed over the manor houses. It peaked in the 1950s, when more than 400 houses were destroyed.

Senior Couple Hugging in Front of Sold Real Estate Sign and HouseDuring the Second World War, the military used country homes, which sustained considerable damage. When they were returned, their family-owners didn’t have the money to repair them. They had no choice but to tear them down.

In the heyday of the British peerage, there were almost 5,000 mansions. Today, only about 3,000 still stand. And many of them are in the market.

Buying a Manor House

It is difficult to part with something as grand as a manor house, along with its treasures and stories. But its grandeur requires a princely sum to maintain.

If you’re determined to live like a countess in Downton Abbey (but with better plumbing and heating), you’ll need a determined agent and reliable lawyers in London. A buying agent does the searching on your behalf and works discreetly to find a home that meets everything on your checklist. They also have the advantage of a network of agents and sellers. Believe it or not, some people who sell their manor houses want maximum discretion.

Meanwhile, a property solicitor safeguards your interests when you’re buying the property. A home costs a fortune; a manor house, even more so. A lawyer provides important foresight to avoid any technical issue.

Once you’ve found an ideal stately home, keep in mind that not everything is gilded in gold and silver. Some areas might have fallen in disrepair, while others need a renovation. But if you’re determined to buy, fix, and preserve it, give yourself a pat in the back. You can guard the home, and its narrative, for the future generations to see.