Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…
The first lines of Daphne du Maurier’s classic gothic novel “Rebecca” refers to the coastal estate in southern England owned by aristocrat Maxim de Winter. While Manderley was fictional, Glenthorne House, on the North Devon/Somerset coast, is certainly reminiscent of the romantic manor and boasts some literary cred of its own.
Dating from 1831, Glenthorne House is classically Georgian in places and a bit Gothic in others, with a distinct Tudor influence tossed in for spice. It was built by the Rev. Walter Stevenson Halliday, son of a Scottish naval surgeon and banker, who made a fortune during the Napoleonic Wars. Halliday was rich enough to choose the perfect spot for his home and then commission the perfect house to fit the extraordinary and secluded site. The three-mile-long drive that weaves through the undulating landscape to the house is thought to be the longest in England and took almost a year to build.
When Glenthorne House passed to Walter’s nephew, his wife, and their four daughters, it became known as the home of literature because of the couple’s lively interest in writing and scholarship. The last of the Hallidays lived there until 1968 and in 1983, an advert offered the estate for £250,000, along with acres of gardens, woods, and paddocks.
Despite its neglect and poor condition, the house was purchased by Sir Christopher Ondaatje, a businessman, philanthropist, adventurer, writer and Canadian bob-sledding Olympian. A team of 35 craftsmen and builders was drafted to renovate the 12,552-square-foot house in a military-style operation that took just seven months. A good portion of the renowned war-time novel “The English Patient” (later made into a nine-time Oscar-winning movie of the same name), and other novels, were penned at Glenthorne by Sir Christopher’s brother Michael Ondaatje.
Today, the house has been renovated by the current owners, who purchased the home from Ondaatje, and incorporates many up-to-date conveniences required of a modern (and somewhat remote) country house. Listing agent George Nares comments: “Looking like it belongs in a Daphne Du Maurier novel, Glenthorne is a truly magical coastal estate in one of the most spectacular and unspoiled locations in England, with dramatic views across the Bristol Channel and direct access to the beach. The home’s fabulous position enjoys extraordinary views over the Bristol Channel towards Wales.
“The grounds feature glorious deep combes with natural oak woods, while there is the sharp contrast of heather moors at the top of the cliffs – having this variety of landscape across 77 acres is really quite rare. It’s no wonder why Glenthorne has been such an inspirational setting for those who have lived there for many years, or even just visited for a few hours.” (A combe is a small valley on a coastline.)
The property includes a sprawling main house, and two cottages, the Home Farm and the Gardener’s Cottage, plus additional structures. The sturdy stone-built main house makes the most of its spectacular vantage point; all principal rooms face seaward. The ground floor includes a reception hall, a drawing room, a morning room, a library and a baronial dining room. An inner hall passes the gun room and a pantry as it leads to the kitchen, boot room and utility room.
The main house contains a whopping 11 bedrooms, which includes the second-floor primary bedroom that enjoys the same coastline views as the library, and five bathrooms, including one with an unusual Victorian canopy bath! Six more bedrooms and three bathrooms, as well as a study and a large studio, complete the second floor, while the uppermost floor contains four further bedrooms and a bathroom.
Also restored to a high standard, the Home Farm residence and Gardener’s Cottage together offer plenty of room for visitors and/or resident staff, while a stone barn that adjoins the main house is currently used as a gym but would work wonderfully as a party barn.
Ready for its next proprietor, Glenthorne House is available for about $8.2 million via George Nares and Chris Clifford of Savills. Just tell Mrs. Danvers, the mean old housekeeper in “Rebecca,” to stop ruining the vibe when residents and guests dance ’til dawn under a disco ball in the party barn.