Stouts Hill has been everything from a prep school to a timeshare, but is back at its very best as a country house — and it’s on the market. Penny Churchill takes a look.
It’s exactly four years since Grade II*-listed Stouts Hill at Uley, near Dursley, Gloucestershire, was last sold on the open market. Since then, the handsome, Cotswold-stone country house, a rare example of very early Georgian Gothic architecture, which sits in a picturesque hidden valley on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment, has been impressively converted back to its original status as a grand family home, having been a prep school from 1935–79 — when it counted Stephen Fry and Rik Mayall among its pupils — and a country-house timeshare from 1983–2019.
The house is now for sale through Savills in Cirencester at a guide price of £6 million — almost £4m more than its final sale price in 2019, which says a huge amount for both the amount of work done and the movements in the market over these past few extraordinary years.
Stouts Hill stands in 20 acres of gardens and grounds, which include a lake and a tennis court, and offers more than 13,700sq ft of elegant accommodation on two main floors, including an impressive entrance hall, three formal reception rooms, a sitting room, study, library, kitchen/breakfast room and eight bedroom suites.
It comes with five two-bedroom cottages that provide a rental income of some £70,000 a year, as well as a large party barn.
Writing in Country Life (on July 5, 1973), country-house expert James Lees-Milne, who worked for the National Trust from 1936–73, traces the early history of Stouts Hill.
Although the architect is not officially recorded, the date it was built is confirmed on a hopper head as 1743, with the initials ‘T. G.’ indicating Timothy Gyde as the man who built it, having inherited the property and ‘a comfortable fortune’ from his father, also Thomas Gyde, that same year.
The Gydes were prosperous clothiers who, for several generations, had married into well-to-do, but not patrician, local families. Two generations of Gyde daughters married Clutterbucks of nearby Frampton in the first half of the 18th century and the close resemblance of Stouts Hill to the neo-Gothic garden house built for Richard Clutterbuck at Frampton Court suggests that both houses were almost certainly designed by William Halfpenny.
A former carpenter and author of several pattern books, Halfpenny took over the practice of the Bristol architect John Strahan, the builder of Frampton Court, on the latter’s death in 1740, and is known to have designed in both the Classical and the Gothic styles.
According to family records compiled in 1830 by Mary Ann Heaven, a collateral descendant of the Gydes, Timothy Gyde was ‘a rip’, who set out to raise himself above his social station: ‘He kept the best society in the county such as the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort, Berkeleys, Ducies, etc. This man wrote to London for a mistress! His friends (not very particular in their morals) sent him down one who died — he then applied in the same quarter for another, and another was sent down, from whom descend the Gydes now to be found in the County in different inferior walks of life.’
In the end, ‘women, architecture and keeping up with the Beauforts brought about Gyde’s undoing. Even his tidy little fortune could not stand up to their demands. When, in 1780, he died intestate and insolvent, his heir at law, who was his sister’s son, William Gyde Adey, was forced to sell everything that remained,’ Lees-Milne reveals, adding: ‘Stouts Hill was already on the market when, one fine morning in 1776, the Rev and Mrs William Lloyd Baker were posting to Bath in their carriage and pair.
Having presumably climbed Frocester hill they were soon spanking along the flat stretch of road on the ridge of the Cotswolds close to Nympsfield village. On their right was the Berkeley Vale and that still incomparable view of the Severn estuary.
‘They were suddenly struck by the sun flashing upon the window panes of a modern house in a combe below them. To their delight they found it was for sale, and promptly set about purchasing it. The transaction, owing to mortgages and the extremely embarrassed finances of its owner, proved long drawn out, and it was not until the mid 1780s that the Lloyd Bakers were able to move in.’
The Revd William Lloyd Baker lived at Stouts Hill until his death, aged 79, in 1830. Thereafter, the house was let to a daughter and her husband, Col Benjamin Chapman Browne, whose family remained until the early part of the 20th century.
Recommended videos for you It was then let by Olive Lloyd Baker to the Hardinge Preparatory School, which transferred there in 1935. Renamed Stouts Hill School, it later ranked not just the actors Stephen Fry and Rik Mayall, but also Capt Mark Phillips among its pupils, before closing its doors in 1979.
Stouts Hill is for sale via Savills at £6m — see more details and pictures.
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