Britain’s Oldest Continuously Inhabited House Is For Sale — and It’s As Beautiful Now As It Has Been For Centuries

One of the final houses to hit the market this year is also among the most exciting. Penny Churchill reports on Great Tangley Manor in Surrey.

This week witnessed the launch via Country Life of the last major country house sale of 2022 — that of the exquisite, Grade I-listed Great Tangley Manor at Wonersh, near Guildford, in the prestigious Surrey Hills AONB. The house comes to the market at a guide price of £11 million through the country departments of Savills and Strutt & Parker.

Thought to be Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited house, Great Tangley Manor represents a happy union of medieval and Arts-and-Crafts architecture that has been celebrated in Country Life many times over the years, notably in the issues of February 12, 1898; July 30, 1898; August 6, 1898; January 21, 1905; September 22, 1906; and June 10, 1999.

Great Tangley Manor is a delight within.

There has been a dwelling on the site of Great Tangley Manor for more than 1,000 years. Its first official mention was in the Domesday Book, where it was described as a royal hunting lodge, later much favoured by King John. In 1173, John granted the manor to John de Fay, after which it descended ‘from parent to child’ until 1572, when the manor was sold to John Caryl, who altered the manor house considerably, adding the handsome, half-timbered front in 1582.

Descendants of the Caryls held Great Tangley until the first half of the 19th century, when it was sold to Fletcher Norton, Speaker of the House of Commons. Following the death of a later Fletcher Norton, Lord Grantley, all the Grantley property in the area was sold off and Great Tangley Manor was acquired by Wickham Flower in 1884.

During the Grantley family’s ownership, the manor was used as the farmhouse to its surrounding 140-acre manor farm and, according to Country Life, ‘neglect and disorder were everywhere around, but through it all smiled John Caryl’s beautiful timber front, embowered, but not obscured, by a clambering grapevine.

It is this timbered front, and some portions of the house of earlier Tudor work, that comprise the oldest now remaining of the habitable parts of the building’.

Flower was a founder member of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) and an enthusiastic supporter of the Arts-and-Crafts Movement. He commissioned the eminent Arts-and-Crafts architect Philip Webb to renovate the manor house and design Great Tangley’s magnificent ornamental gardens, incorporating the original medieval moat, where, according to former Country Life Architectural Editor Jeremy Musson: ‘The laying out of varied walks was central to the realisation of the full picturesque potential of the revived manor house.’

The main structural alterations made by the new owner were the addition, in 1886, of a building at the west end and the quaint covered entrance way, plus, in 1897, of the library and the rooms above it. Furnishings were supplied by his good friend William Morris.

Following Flower’s death in 1904, the Conservative politician Col Hegan Kennard bought the manor and, in 1906, employed the architect and landscape designer Inigo Thomas to build the north wing. Royal visitors at that time included Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, George V, Queen Mary, the Duke of York and the Duke of Kent.

In May 1958, an advertisement in Country Life announced the sale of Great Tangley Manor with five cottages, farm buildings, 120 acres of land and a prime dairy herd. Thereafter, the farm was sold off and, in 1959, the manor house was divided into two separate entities, Great Tangley Manor and Great Tangley Manor West.

Great Tangley Manor

In 1998, the current owners, Anne and Glyn Powell-Evans, bought Great Tangley Manor and, nine years later, acquired Great Tangley Manor West on the death of its then owner, thereby restoring the property’s historic manor-house status.

During their tenure, they have sympathetically renovated and upgraded the entire house, which now offers 11,255sq ft of accommodation, the most notable change being the addition of a ‘glass-box’ extension that won the New Buildings category of the Waverley Design Awards in 2007. Equal consideration has been given to the preservation of the glorious gardens that surround the manor and are an intrinsic element of its picturesque, 10-acre setting.

Until recently, Great Tangley Manor West has been used primarily as an impressive holiday letting venue with its own independent entrance, three splendid reception spaces, a kitchen, study, five bedrooms and three bathrooms. Two ground-floor reception rooms, three bedrooms and two bathrooms occupy the Webb extension, whereas the remaining reception room, two bedrooms and a bathroom are housed in a ground-floor extension added in the 1960s.

Great Tangley Manor

From the outset, Great Tangley Manor itself has been the owners’ much-loved family home. This wing also boasts three grand reception rooms, with access to the 40ft indoor heated pool, sauna and office, and five bedrooms, two dressing rooms and three bath/shower rooms on the first floor.

Recommended videos for you Works executed throughout, with exemplary care, include exterior decoration, electrical upgrades, installation of a wood-pellet heating system and electrical car-charging points, drive resurfacing, dredging of the lake, rebuilding of the tennis hut and the addition of estate fencing. Ancillary buildings include a greenhouse, stables, a helicopter hangar and a Second World War air-raid shelter.

Great Tangley Manor is for sale via Strutt & Parker and Savills at £11m — see more details and pictures.