Fancy living in a windmill? Well, you now have a unique opportunity to own a piece of history in Cholesbury
Head to Rays Hill in Cholesbury and you will come across this stunning landmark Grade II listed windmill. A Windmill was first located on or near the site during the 17th and 18th centuries according to contemporary maps, and today it is combined with an attached cottage to provide an adaptable layout, with a wealth of character features and a delightful village location.
As it comes on to the market, we caught up with Nick Pounce, Head of Residential Sales for Savills Amersham, to discuss famous residents from the past, and what it offers to the 21st century dweller.
There is such a wonderful history attached to Rays Hill. Do you enjoy recounting the many stories linked to it when showing round potential buyers?
It’s always nice to be able to embellish on the history of a property – it can provide an interesting conversation starter and help potential buyers feel more engaged. However, I think this property really speaks for itself. It’s clearly a place that people enjoyed inviting friends and family to, and it was obviously an inspirational space that fired the imagination of many creative people, from authors and artists to actors and broadcasters.
It was just over a century ago that it was converted into a private residence. How different was the accommodation back then?
It’s difficult to say – but the accommodation would most likely have been very basic. The mill was obviously fully operational so there wouldn’t have been any living quarters – those would be contained within the miller’s cottage. There would have been a lot of working parts and I’d have thought potentially quite noisy. That’s very different to how it is today. The accommodation has changed completely.
Is it rare to be selling a property that has had so many illustrious names linked to its past?
We’re fortunate that we often have the privilege of selling homes that have a unique history or well-known former owners. However, what’s so unique about this property is just how many creative people were attracted to it. The first resident Gilbert Cannan and his wife Mary – who had previously been married to Peter Pan author JM Barrie – invited many friends who had links to the arts. Reputed visitors included DH Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield and Mark Gertler – the latter painting a famous picture of the mill, which is now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. That relationship has endured. When the Cannans left it was rented by American actress Doris Keane, who used it as a weekend retreat whilst appearing in London theatre productions, and in the 1930s it was used as a studio by artist Bernard Adams. In more recent years it was the home of Sir David Hatch – director of BBC radio and a former member of the Cambridge Footlights alongside John Cleese, Tim Brook-Taylor and Graham Chapman. It is obviously a very special place that gets the creative juices flowing.
When did the current incarnation of the residence really take shape?
Great care and attention to detail has gone into refurbishing the property. Each of the previous owners has carried out some work or other – gradually improving and updating as the years have gone by. This has culminated with the current owners who have restored the windmill to its former glory, using materials and a design that copied the Victorian originals to replace the cap, sails and fantail so that they are now in full working order.
I love the doorway at the base of the tower. A wonderful entrance point?
It certainly is. You go straight into the heart of the tower and the circular base offers a fabulous welcome – providing a great idea of just how distinct the property is.
What is the first thing you encounter inside?
As soon as you walk through the front door you get a real sense of the true character of the property. The entrance hall makes a wonderful first impression.
How would you say the space has been utilised?
The living spaces have been designed very cleverly. It can sometimes be difficult to furnish a circular room, but the majority of the accommodation is in the more conventional cottage – so there’s plenty of opportunity to make the property your own. The reception hall leads into the inner hall of the cottage, with the two more formal, bright and spacious, reception rooms each side. A spiral staircase leads to the lower ground floor and the dining room where the original flywheel is on display, and the family sized kitchen/breakfast room opens on to the front terrace. On the first floor there are three conventional bedrooms and two bathrooms, one en-suite to the main bedroom plus a beautiful circular fourth bedroom with an en-suite shower room, ideal for when guests visit. Another staircase leads to a fifth bedroom.
How special is the fifth bedroom and its views?
It’s very special. There are lovely far reaching vistas over the gardens, neighbouring fields andcountryside. It would be ideal as an extra bedroom or make the perfect place for a study for those who want to work from home.
Do you have a favourite element of the residence?
It’s very hard to say. Everything about the property is unique and I think what stands out for me is its character. It’s not every day that a windmill comes up for sale – so this is a very rare opportunity. There’s a real sense of history, complemented by several modern touches such as the kitchen and bathrooms.
Who do you think this is perfect for?
It’s not necessarily for everyone. But in that sense it’s no different to any other Grade II listed home. Whoever buys it will likely have an interest in historic buildings and will enjoy being a custodian of a landmark property. It can be a very rewarding experience and I think it would suit anyone who wants a unique home in a fabulous location – something they can be proud to own, and which will provide a real talking point among family and friends. It’s a very picturesque and rural setting, yet larger towns such as Chesham, Amersham and Berkhamsted – with their links into London and range of amenities – are within easy reach.
Rays Hill, Braziers End, Cholesbury, Buckinghamshire is on the market for £1,650,000. For more information, contact Savills Amersham on 01494 725 636 or visit savills.co.uk