An exceptionally interesting and historic riverside home, set in an exquisite garden and with a superb suite of formal reception rooms, generous bedrooms and family living spaces.
Entrance hall, 6 Reception rooms and studio
7 bedrooms (2 en-suite) and 2 further bathrooms
Gardens, greenhouse and 2 garden stores
Lot 2 - The Water Meadows (available in addition to Lot 1)
LOT 1 - Watergate House
Watergate House, listed Grade II* on account of its historical and architectural significance, was originally the manor house of Fordwich. The importance of the manor, which belonged to St Augustine’s Abbey from Saxon times until 1535, was its control of the port of Fordwich, and the present day garden is the site of St Augustine’s Wharf. The most notable cargo that passed through the port was the Caen stone imported from Normandy to rebuild Canterbury Cathedral after the Norman Conquest.
The house was rebuilt in brick around 1560, and a grotesque-work mural added about 1610. It was held successively by the families of Johnson, Paramore, Finch, Crispe, Darrell, Short and Blaxland. John and Gregory Blaxland were born and raised in the house before becoming, in 1806, the first non-convict settlers of Australia. Gregory is honoured in Australia for finding the route over the Blue Mountains which allowed the colony to expand into the interior; he is also credited with making the first Australian wine.
In 1852 the house became the Rectory of Fordwich. In 1943 it featured in the classic Powell & Pressburger film A Canterbury Tale. It was returned to private ownership in 1947, and renamed Watergate House. Since 1999 it has been comprehensively restored and modernised by the current owners, one of whom is an award-winning interior and garden designer.
The accommodation is arranged over three floors, centred around four large square rooms on the ground and first floors. The owners have sensitively refurbished the period interiors, while adding high quality improvements to both house and garden where required. The result is sensational, both inside and out.
The house is formally approached from the gothic eastern door, which leads to a long central hallway, with 16th century quarry tiles, giving access to the main rooms.
The drawing and dining rooms are elegant and generously proportioned, the drawing room having delightful views of the church. Both have fine period features: the dining room has a pair of deep cupboards on either side of its large 15th century fireplace and the drawing room elegant bookcases beside the main window. A study and the large kitchen/breakfast room - which opens into the centre of the gardens - are found on the other side of the main hallway. A cloakroom completes the accommodation here in the eastern part of the house.
From the kitchen a door leads to the utility room in the older west wing, which is also
home to the boot room, a snug or second home office, and a beautifully panelled sitting room. From the latter a stunning modern oak staircase, designed by the owner, rises to the first floor, while a concealed doorway allows access to the dining room.
The first floor houses the main bedrooms, four of which are found in the eastern part of the house. The panelled master bedroom also boasts a charming wall painting restored by an expert from Canterbury Cathedral. There is also a dual aspect library, providing a very elegant and private space at the heart of the home.
Adjacent is the guest bedroom suite which has original Jacobean wall paintings, carefully protected and adding a great charm to this generous room, which also has a large en suite
The second floor is accessed from the eastern staircase, and provides not only two more guest bedrooms (bedrooms 6 and 7) but also a further bathroom and the studio, a large bright space with high ceilings. Beyond is a generous attic store room.
** LOT 2 - THE WATER MEADOWS IS AVAILABLE IN ADDITION TO LOT 1 **
LOT 2 The Water Meadows
Across the river are two meadows acquired separately by the current owners, and sensitively landscaped.
On the larger one of about 0.6 acres, the owners have had plans approved for the construction of a large building, intended to provide a working artist’s studio. Plans of the proposed structure are available from the agents and this area appears to have enormous potential, not only for the building of the studio, but as a garden extension or a paddock; it has been extensively planted with specimen trees, bulbs and meadow flowers.
** PLEASE NOTE THAT LOT 2 WILL NOT BE SOLD BEFORE LOT 1 **
The gardens that surround the house are romantic and atmospheric, with year round interest. Enclosed completely by ancient walls, they were designed by the present owner, and form a hortus conclusus, not to be guessed at from the village street. They amount to a country house garden in miniature: defined areas of formal, spring, woodland, vegetable and secret garden reveal themselves in a naturally harmonious flow, each with its own colour combinations.
The walls provide the garden’s basic structure, while the green oak pergola echoes a monastic cloister. Two water-gates open onto the river.
The present owner, a medal winner at RHS Chelsea, opens the garden regularly for the National Garden Scheme, attracting visitors from across the southeast and overseas.
Beside the river is a terrace, and from here the current owners launch canoes and rowing boats. Canterbury is 2 miles by river, and to the east one can travel towards Sandwich, tracing the journey by which the Caen stone found its way to Canterbury from Northern France.