Freehold of house in grounds of Hampton Court Palace offered up for first time in over 300 years
SITTING in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, nestled among the greenery of suburban Richmond, lies a mansion that was once home to Britain’s greatest architect.
For the first time in over 300 years, Sir Christopher Wren’s original freehold of The Old Court House – his residence in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace – goes on the market.
Keen Hilary Mantel fans will know King Henry VIII obtained the mansion from Cardinal Wolseley in 1526 and it has been part of the Crown Estate ever since.
The Old Court House didn’t fall into Wren’s hands until 1708 when Queen Anne granted him a 50-year-lease of the property to settle his salary arrears for building St Paul’s Cathedral.
In fact, Wren’s position as Appointed Royal Surveyor meant he was entitled to a home in the grounds of each palace in Britain.
Wren, who helped restore some of the capital’s most famous landmarks to their former glory after the Great Fire of London, held on to his post for 49 years.
The six-bedroom house is now Grade-II listed and it is also the only residence to have an English heritage blue plaque outside dedicated to Wren, awarded in 1996.
His grandson, Stephen Wren, sold the remainder of the lease in 1749 and distinguished members of the British aristocracy have passed the property around ever since, making it a rarity on the open market. The current owner is former Conservative MP for Twickenham Toby Jessel who bought the remaining lease of 89 years in 1970.
“Rarely could a house be termed as more historic than this,” says Matthew Thompson, head of Savills Richmond. “Wren carried out an almost complete overhaul of The Old Court House after complaining of ‘great decay’ in 1706.
“This is an extremely elegant home and the only period house on Hampton Court Green, other than Hampton Court Palace, with a garden stretching down to the River Thames.
“The magnificent first-floor drawing room is the standout room of the house.
“His dining room is now used as a study but the beautifully proportioned room, panelled in wood by Wren himself also includes a fine marble fireplace, the same he put in for King William III in his own dining room in Hampton Court Palace.
“The Old Court House is the only house dedicated to the man who designed some of London’s most famous landmarks – houses of this ilk are few and far between.”
Once you get beyond the Reception Hall, a flight of stone steps take you into the garden which leads right down to the Thames.
In Wren’s day, his most important visitors – normally royalty – would arrive by river, walk across the garden and up those steps to enter his house via the back door.
This meant the garden had to be just as magnificent as the house.
The greenery extends all the way to the river bank while York stone terraces lead to a pea shingle path which is flanked by lawn. This path then leads to a pond that was built by Wren and was actually listed before The Old Court House itself. Wren’s tool house is now a charming Garden Room to enjoy in the summer.
The building is also surrounded by seven different types of tree and copious bushes bursting with figs, walnuts, apples, crab apples, cherries, raspberries, mint and borage.
The large bay window in the master bedroom also looks over this idyllic rural view.
The guide price for The Old Court House is £3.95m. Viewings can be booked by calling estate agents Savills Richmond on
020 8614 9100.