Property Talk: How Wentworth, St George’s Hill and their like are still ‘the pinnacle of prime country real estate’ a century on from their creation

Surrey’s private estates are over 100 years old but are still popular with UK and international buyers. James Fisher is watching.

There is a certain irony in St. George’s Hill, a 964-acre strip of land in Weybridge, in northern Surrey. Roughly 100 years after Walter George Tarrant turned it into one of the country’s first private estates in 1911, this is arguably one of the country’s most exclusive addresses. I wonder if Tarrant knew that back in April 1649 there was a colony of “diggers” here, now recognized as one of the first small experiments of socialism in the world.

What Tarrant knew for sure was that the growing middle class of Edwardian England would soon be drawn to this picturesque part of the home counties, taking advantage of its beauty and technological advances in transportation to be among the first suburbanites to enjoy the pleasures. rural living with easy access to central London.

It’s a rich tradition that continues to this day, notes Stuart Cole, Knight Frank Regional Partner. “The area is great,” he says. “You’re close to airports, close to an amazing array of private schools, and London is just down the road – on the right day you can drive to Harrods in 45 minutes.” These private estates, to which Wentworth, Burwood Park and Ashley Park could be added among others, were created for “the upper middle classes who needed to work every day and get to London, but who also wanted to have a large country house “. adds Simon Ashwell, Regional Director for Savills in Surrey and East Berkshire.

Beautiful old map of the Wentworth estate.

After the purchase and construction of St. George’s Hill, Tarrant was not finished, acquiring the Wentworth development rights in 1922. Like St. George’s Hill, Wentworth at Virginia Water was to be private and centered around a golf course designed and built by Harry. Colt. Tarrant was not only an entrepreneur catering to the new national elite, but also a builder, and many of the arts and crafts houses he built on both estates still stand (and are, indeed, highly desirable) for that purpose. day.

At the same time, land was and remains the key to the possessions of Surrey. “On both estates, the land is more valuable than the bricks and mortar themselves,” says Tom Shuttleworth, Strutt & Parker’s Senior Associate Director of the Country Homes Department. “Buyers generally prefer modern design and technology, so it’s not unusual for a 10-year-old home to be demolished and rebuilt.

“The surviving original houses are in great demand. They are typically located on large lots of 10 acres or so—compared to newer homes that are often an acre or two—and so they offer a lot of potential for the buyer.”

“Carioca” is located in a popular area called “Main Island”, which is in the middle of the Wentworth estate. Selling for £18 million.

Mr. Shuttleworth’s comments are echoed by Mr. Cole, who says that “there are now a large number of people who have not found exactly the house they want, so they buy plots and build what they want.” While building a “dream home” is a lure for potential buyers, any construction must be done with care, as many estates have strict regulations regarding lot sizes and home sizes. St. George’s Hill is a prime example.

“This is the only private estate in the UK where the government has adopted a formal planning terms document, meaning any potential buyer knows exactly what they can and cannot build on the land,” comments Tim Firth, Director of Jackson- Stops Weybridge. “Under this covenant, the minimum amount of land that can be bought is one acre; however, buyers can only build on 20% of the land to maintain the feeling of spaciousness and serenity of the estate.”

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“It’s really about protecting the environment,” adds Mr. Ashwell. “The agreement means you can’t build an apartment building, so the environment is preserved and your site is protected.”

These estates are “private” so of course privacy is also a big benefit to potential residents – the list of celebrities who own or have owned property on these estates is too long to list here. But it would be wrong not to mention at least a few names of current and former residents, not least for the pleasure of writing a proposal that includes Ringo Starr, Sultan of Brunei, Bruce Forsyth and Augusto Pinochet.

Ringo Starr’s then-new home at St. George’s Hill Manor in Weybridge, July 12, 1965. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

There is no longer a middle class among today’s buyers: it is now the prerogative of the wealthy both in the UK and around the world, and privacy is more important than ever.

“It’s a place where they can safely have their family and children, it’s safe, there are amenities, and when you travel you don’t have to worry about your family,” says Mr. Cole. “It’s a global thing – you get different nationalities at different times, but right now it’s Chinese, people from the Middle East, British and Americans. It’s a really good mix.”

Mr. Shuttleworth notes that “if you don’t have bodyguards, you’re not likely to find a ‘safer’ place to buy a house.” The UK’s exceptional private schools are also a driving force for overseas buyers – “recently there has been an increase in demand from Chinese buyers looking to educate their children in England and we have a wide range of top private school options nearby as well as several international schools,” says Martin Barrow, Associate Director of Top Country Sales in the Hamptons.

This stunning mansion in St. George’s Hill shows why this type of home has so many options. It is being sold for £6.95 million.

The security is no less appealing than the lifestyle offered on the Surrey estates. Golf is extremely popular and at St. George’s Hill and Wentworth you’ll find two of the best courses in the country.

“In Wentworth, if you live on the main island, you can leave the house with your golf clubs and be on the course in seconds,” says Mr. Shuttleworth.

“The clubhouse is the heart of the estate and as a resident you are likely to spend a lot of time there – dining and drinking, socializing, exercising or hitting the spa. The estates are incredibly quiet, which is becoming rarer – no traffic, no train noise, no school noise when they finish their work day.

As Mr. Shuttleworth suggests, life on these estates depends not only on the company you live with, but also on the house you live in. And Mr. Cole adds that “it is a community of people who are accustomed to international mixing.”

“Private estates aren’t anything out of the ordinary, they’re just a slightly more controlled style of housing,” Ashwell concludes. “They’re quiet, you can control what you can and can’t build, and they’re more sustainable.”

Are there any disadvantages to living in a private house? “There used to be more empty houses as people bought and then didn’t occupy,” Mr. Cole says. “There was concern about whether they would become ghost towns, but that is no longer the case as covid has made more people aware that they enjoy spending time in these estates.”

With privacy, security, nature and all, it’s no surprise that living on an estate is more expensive (“about 40-50% compared to the local area,” according to Mr. Shuttleworth). But, says Mr. Firth, “life here is the pinnacle of first-class suburban real estate, and the true rarity when a property comes up for sale means it will always find a buyer quickly.”

The world’s super-rich are shrugging off the uncertainty that pervades the world and heading to Wentworth Manor. Penny Churchill

Gorgeous homes for sale from Surrey to Staffordshire and Scotland.

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