Valley House: Substantial family home in Constable Country
- Credit: Archant
Property writer David Vincent visits a classic village house, close to the River Stour that has been a very happy family home.
The Constable Country village of Stratford St Mary, on the River Stour, is an attractive and quiet setting today.
It is difficult to remember the days when it was choked by heavy traffic as the A12 from London to East Anglia passed through it.
Since the A12 bypassed Stratford St Mary it has returned to being a pretty village with lots of attractive homes.
There are still three pubs too.
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Valley House is a substantial property originallty built around 1825.
The River Stour - and the border with Essex - is immediately opposite, as was the water mill.
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Owner Ian Young and his wife Elizabeth, and their two daughters, moved here in 1984.
Sadly his wife Elizabeth died at Christmas, and he is having a smaller house built in the area, in order to downsize.
He said: “The children and grandchildren love it here.
“It is a lovely, happy family house.
“We have always been involved in the village, and the church.
“This was the miller’s home. There was a six-storey mill opposite, on the river, but that was knocked down.”
Valley House has the look of a late Regency villa to it, with big windows, high ceilings and large rooms, though parts of it are actually more recent.
The well-known Kenyon familty lived here from the 1930s to 1980, Major General Kenyon and then his son Brigadier Kenyon.
Mr Young explained: “About 1935 the butler took the family silver and set fire to the house. It was very badly damaged and then was re-built, clearly using many specialist tradesmen.
“It now stands on 12 inches of re-inforced concrete, where it would have been wood.
“Below stairs was largely unaffected.”
The main living area of the house is at first floor level, giving great views across the gardens and the lush grounds and to the river.
The basement rooms, with lots of natural light, would have been the old servants’ quarters and utility rooms, including a second kitchen.
“They have the orginal paint coloured doors and flagstones. There are eight rooms down here.”
As a youngster Ian lived with his family at Spring Valley Mill, Ardleigh. His father, businessman Gordon Young had retired there in 1958.
“I remember it shaking when I turned the mill on. the whole building trembled. Then the wheel stopped... never to run again.”
Ian, who has been active in property development, has turned his skills and knowedge to this fine family home.
He has lavished care and attention on the house and gardens.
“The house was bought in 1980 by somebody who did it up. Everthing he did, in 1984, I un-did and made it a better home.
“I made substantial changes to the way it was set out. There are three external wrought staircases which have been restored.
“It works very well. You have to keep all the materials correct for the character of the house.”
The unusual central staircase well has a glass lantern at the top, which he has replaced, and all the lead flashings on the house have also been replaced.
“The whole ground floor is elevated so it looks out over the gardens.
“You are a custodian for a house like this.
“I love the property and I have always looked after it. It is time to move on now. It would make another family a great home, I am sure.”
In the 1980s he added the stylish garden room/orangery, a great room for entertainining with views over the rear garden, and with underfloor heating and a slate roof to match the house. “The glass roof made it too hot in here,” he explained.
Also on the ground floor is the attractive Aga kitchen, “the oven has been on 21 years,” he said. This room also has garden views.
There is reception hall, and a formal dining room - at the front - with a striking feature fireplace.
The drawing room is the length of the house, with two fireplaces, chandeliers and central columns, and would have probably been two separate rooms at one time.
On the first floor there is a master bedroom with en suite and a dressing room, two further bathrooms and six more bedrooms.
The delightful grounds include expanses of lawn and mature trees, hard tennis courts and a heated swimming pool with changing rooms. It is heated by an air source heat pump and can be used from April through to September/October. The gardens and grounds amount to approximately three acres. There is wisteria climbing the rear wall and a substantial crochet lawn at the rear, which is ideal for marquees for hosting those big family parties.