Emma Wells

Is this Britain’s most historic house?

The story of Great Tangley Manor goes back more than 1,000 years

  • From Spectator Life
The Grade I-listed Great Tangley Manor has foundations dating from 1016 [Savills/Strutt and Parker]

Hyperbole in estate agents’ brochures isn’t unusual – but when it comes to a write-up for Great Tangley Manor, which has gone on the market for £8.95 million, overkill is almost impossible. Believed to be the UK’s oldest continuously inhabited property – its Saxon foundations date from 1016 – the Grade I-listed moated manor house, in the village of Wonersh in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, comes with an extraordinary roll call of associated famous names.

From the spheres of royalty, art, literature, garden design and even America’s Gilded Age, all have played their part in shaping secluded Great Tangley into a country house with a compelling story. 

The tale of the now ten-bedroom house, set in more than ten acres of grounds and namechecked by Pevsner as Surrey’s most impressive half-timbered building, begins more than a millennium ago. A homestead founded on the site was believed to be owned by Alnod Cilt, thought by some historians to be King Harold’s younger brother. Later, according to the Domesday Book, Odo the Bishop of Bayeux, a half-brother of William the Conqueror, became its owner.  

Great Tangley Manor is set in more than ten acres of grounds in Wonersh, Surrey [Savills/Strutt and Parker]

The royal references continue, with the house reputedly next used as a hunting lodge by Prince John, before much of it was burnt down at the end of the 12th century. Fast-forward to the 15th century and a medieval hall house was created on the site, with a Tudor facade and panelling later added. All aesthetically pleasing enough, then, for Wickham Flower, a wealthy patron of the Arts and Crafts movement, to commission starchitect of his day Philip Webb to restore and extend the house in 1884.  

Interiors and furniture by William Morris made it a radically fashionable Victorian home, but it was Flower’s gardens that were considered truly progressive, with the integration of indoors and outdoors – almost a cliché in property trends today – at the centre of his designs.

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