Goldings Hall, Hertford, Hertfordshire

Winging it: all the benefits of a country pile at a fraction of the cost

If you're after the grandeur and atmosphere of a large country house but on a more manageable scale and at a fraction of the price, the answer might be to buy a wing conversion. There may be a host of other benefits, too, including  a secure ‘lock up and leave’ environment, good parking and beautifully managed grounds as well as neighbours ready to socialise.

For centuries, country houses were the preserve of the wealthy but during the Second World War many provided vital re-housing for evacuees, schools, government offices, hospitals and the armed forces.  In the aftermath of the war, owners faced Inheritance Tax bills as well as repair, labour and maintenance costs which in some cases proved simply too formidable.

Conversions into nursing homes, hotels and educational facilities were commonplace, but the location or arrangement of rooms meant this path wasn’t suitable for all. For some houses, splitting into private apartments seemed to be the best and most sustainable solution.  

Architectural designer and country house property developer Kit Martin CBE was a pioneer in the successful conversion of country houses, dividing them into smaller dwellings and apartments by taking a vertical rather than horizontal approach. A number of other specialists have also undertaken sympathetic conversions in recent decades.

If you’re thinking of winging it, here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Is the property offered leasehold or will you own a share of the freehold? If it’s a leasehold, check how much ground rent is payable.

  • How much are the maintenance/service charges? These will usually include buildings insurance.

  • Are any major works scheduled for the property and if so, what are they?  Will there be any cost to you?

  • Is the property listed? If so, make sure you understand what this entails.

  • Are there any covenants, such as a restriction on pets?

Here is a selection of the best wing conversions currently on the market.


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