For a family with young children and £4.25 million to spare, Poston House is the perfect bolthole. It lies in the heart of Herefordshire’s Golden Valley, and looks southwest across a perfect English patchwork of fields, hedges and small woods to the Black Mountains of South Wales, west to the grand silhouette of Hay Bluff and north up the verdant Wye Valley.
This Grade II* listed Palladian house, which has three bedrooms and 4,271 sq ft, is in Vowchurch, 11 miles from Hereford. The owner, Stefan Ludwig, chairman of the autioneers Dreweatts, says that the drive to London takes up to 3½ hours — “but it’s three if you drive to Swindon and hop on the train”. The house looks enormous from the valley below “but in fact it’s very cosy, all built to two-thirds scale”, he adds.
Poston dates from the 1760s and was designed by George III’s favourite architect, Sir William Chambers, with a domed rotunda and a four-column portico. In the 1980s the house was brilliantly transformed by Philip Jebb. He designed it so his clients could relax in luxury without live-in staff, with a guesthouse across the lawn for family and friends.
Jebb added twin pavilions at the ends with bow windows and graceful half domes. In the tiny hall and staircase, it has to be said, you feel a little like an overgrown Alice in the rabbit’s house, but the door ahead opens into one of the most perfect dining rooms in England: a perfect circle painted lime green set off by painted classical reliefs. One portrays Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit trees, celebrating Herefordshire cider. “By candlelight it’s utterly magical,” Ludwig says.
Light floods in through the sash windows of the large drawing room at the south end. This has one of Jebb’s prize inventions: a sash window that operates as a garden door, made robust by transforming the sash box into the door frame. At the other end is a large country kitchen with windows on three sides. Ascending the stone steps of the ingeniously compact curving stair, you arrive in an octagonal lobby fitted with glazed cupboards and arches leading off to the bedrooms. Two of these have coved ceilings and look out through Jebb’s tall arch-headed sash windows. The master suite also has a delightful clothes closet, complete with a dog bed, set like a throne at the end.
Jebb’s additions include a lovely indoor pool disguised as an orangery and a Queen Anne doll’s house pavilion now serving as a gym. Ludwig has added his own conceit: an outdoor sauna in the shape of a giant barrel from which you look out in winter through a glass door to the snow.
On three sides your land extends for a mile, while to the north you are protected by dense woodland. Here Ludwig grazes his Tamworth pigs, minded by a woodsman who worked on the Duchy of Cornwall estates.
The lawns around the house are studded with fine trees, including two magnificent Cedars of Lebanon. The mobile phone mast, which has a 20-year lease to run, may be less welcome, but as Ludwig says, “it pays to heat the pool the year round”. Now he is moving to London to run Dreweatts, the chain of fine arts auctioneers that he has assiduously built up over the past few years.
Andrew Grant, who is selling Poston and its 270 glorious acres, says the house has rarity value and is likely to go to a “trophy” buyer. “When it comes to a bidding war, Birmingham can always see off London. They just pull out the cheque book,” he says.