There are some houses for sale in Wales that are surely guaranteed to render most people speechless when they first see it, either online or in reality, and Orielton House is definitely one of them – it’s a beast.
It’s hard to know where to start, there is so much to see and comprehend, but how about with up to 23 bedrooms, 118 acres of land and the three detached cottages in the grounds that can be found at this Grade II* listed mansion?
Then there’s the wealth of history at the site that is thought to start around 1656 with the building of the Owen’s family home, whose vision of a great county house was then rebuilt in 1734 and again remodelled in 1810 for Sir John Owen.
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There are so many listed properties at the site, it might be easier to consider what isn’t listed. This slice of Pembrokeshire has such an important and impressive standing in the county, and within Welsh property history, that even the garden sundial is Grade II listed.
According to the website British Listed Buildings, this grand, breath-taking building has had a long and eventful history.
In 1842, heavily in debt, the then owner Baronet John Owen sold the estate’s furniture in 1842 and then the estate itself in around 1856. Since the Owen sale, this dream home and country estate has been owned by various families, and also used as a base for Australian airmen during World War II.
Currently owned by the charity the Field Studies Council (FSC) and run as an activity and educational centre, the main house achieved its higher level Grade II* listing from Cadw in 1970, updated in 1993.
The Field Studies Council on their website describes Orielton as being a secluded site teeming with diverse habitats including woodland, grassland, meadows and freshwater, located near the village of Hundleton.
Further afield and off-site, the south Pembrokeshire location means that the mansion is only 20 minutes from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, to which it has a very strong and personal connection.
According to the FSC in 1950 the estate, which at that time covered about 260 acres, was bought by the author and naturalist Ronald Lockley.
He used the mansion as a base for research and studies of nature, and he was instrumental in the establishment of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
Another claim to fame based at the estate is that Ronald’s most notable work, The Private Life of the Rabbit, was the result of his research into rabbits during this period that had inspired him.
This book then went on to inspire his friend, Richard Adams, to write the classic and well-loved novel, Watership Down.
The FSC then bought the estate in 1963 as a base for their research and fieldwork, and exploration and enjoyment of the countryside and coast for a variety of individuals and groups.
Over the decades the incredible location has provided access to the coastal geology and marine life of the county’s glorious coast, as well as wildlife habitats within the substantial grounds to study and explore for so many people.
It would be easy to get totally lost for the day wandering along the estate’s scenic trails through dappled woodland, having picnics in the parkland, musing about life as you stroll through the meadows and gardens.
But for people passionate about property the sprawling mansion is the main event here, but there are plenty of other listed gems to seek out and admire before you even knock on the front door of this beast of a building.
Firstly, all estates worth any admiration should be offering you a stroll around a classic and historic walled garden, and Orielton House can certainly deliver that.
And as you might expect considering the vast proportions of almost every aspect of this house and estate, Orielton’s walled garden is a substantial one so it might take some time to ‘take a turn’ around it in Jane Austen style.
Then of course, a mansion with so much grandeur and land requires support from servants and services, at least in the past.
So Orielton has a characterful stable block and courtyard that includes a fancy, ornamental entrance – even the horses deserve an impressive welcome home.
The stable block courtyard is lined with additional buildings that over time have been converted into an accommodation block with six ensuite bedrooms, a two-bed first floor apartment and twelve rooms of varying sizes.
Of course, these buildings ooze even more potential as extra dwellings, subject to planning and also keeping in mind the stable block also has a Grade II listing.
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But this block of stable buildings is just the start of the additional buildings tour, there’s more to discover as you wander around the site.
The main house and estate was so vast back in the day that a utility room was just not an appropriate option, so Orielton has its own house dedicated to the laundry of the manor; that’s a lot of washing.
Now this Grade II listed property, aptly named Laundry Cottage, is a home providing a living room, kitchen, four bedrooms and a bathroom but ironically no utility room.
If you’re planning to bring the whole family and every generation with you on a move to pretty Pembrokeshire, there’s plenty of space and options at Orielton, so much in fact you might not see some members of your family for weeks such is the size of the estate.
The site offers a family separation within different dwellings as well as the opportunities to be together too.
The furthest dwelling away from the main hub of buildings is Hitchcock cottage, a Grade II listed property just beyond the eastern edge of the walled garden.
This home is a delightful four-bed Georgian style detached house nestled within the estate that you just happen upon amongst the trees and shrubs.
With a makeover, this house could be the perfect dream family home of a more manageable size than its beast of a neighbouring building, providing owners’ accommodation while the mansion is used for business.
For any member of the family packing up to join the Pembrokeshire moving party who prefers a more modern home, Woodside Cottage is definitely a renovation project but is more Mid-Century than the last two centuries.
There are useful outbuildings to stumble across as you wander the land, but at some point the private lane that turns into the sweeping driveway calls you to approach the perfectly pleasing symmetrical facade of the mansion, made all the more impressive by the meadow and huge ornamental pond stretching out in front of it.
The mansion’s floor plan is bewildering, covering four floors and eight sets of windows in the main section of the house, but the only place to start is the grand four columned porchway.
The central hall is home to a remarkable staircase that instantly grasps and holds your attention with its decorative wrought iron and stone carved steps.
The listing details for the mansion recommends you notice the ‘exceptional full-height stair hall with open-well cantilevered stone staircase in French Empire style, iron balusters and reeded rail and the moulded cornices to landing soffits and top ceiling, with centre rose’.
The principal reception rooms include a former dining room, situated adjacent to a commercial kitchen which is not a surprise considering this has been most recently a field centre that needed to feed many guests.
But this impressive room could have easily been a ballroom at some point, boasting huge sash windows flanked by shutters, a marble fireplace and wooden floor and the perfect place to party.
But look up and the fine and fancy plasterwork on the ceiling and cornicing are the most breath-taking features in this huge room.
The main living room can also boast visually engaging cornicing and a statement period fireplace too, as well as a high ceiling and huge windows – a combination of classic and elegant Georgian features that can be found in numerous rooms.
On this ground floor is also a secondary sitting room, an office, two additional smaller kitchens, a pantry, and a toilet block with three cubicles, reminding you that this house is currently a commercial as well as a residential site.
There’s a hidden layer under your feet that can’t be seen from outside but offers fabulous extra space – a basement level that currently includes service rooms such as a cellar, furnace room, laundry room and workshop, but also a playroom and a study.
This lower floor could become an incredible party space – home cinema, indoor pool with spa and bar, games room – only planning and listed building consent, budget and importantly structural issues and the architecture of the house, can limit your imagination.
But don’t worry if some or all of these become roadblocks, there’s plenty of room over the three floors above for socialising space and there’s a garden that is so enormous it can easily accommodate an added pool and spa, again, as long as you can get planning permission.
Up the elegant staircase to the first floor and the mansion’s current use becomes completely evident, a central landing giving access to 12 bedrooms, some with an ensuite, plus an extra bathroom and two toilet blocks.
Up to the top floor and layout is fairly similar with about the same number of bedrooms available, although some are joined to other rooms and not separate.
There’s no extra bathroom on this level but there are more blocks of toilets to facilitate the large number of guest bedrooms.
Of course the layout is almost certainly going to change to some degree, subject to planning and subject to the desire of the new owner.
Creating some spectacular bedroom suites with a dressing room, walk-in wardrobe and a luxury bathroom, is surely one of the tempting possibilities.
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The Field Studies Council has a large diverse portfolio of properties and although Orielton has served the charity well over the years, they are now looking to find new owners to take it forward into the future and explore its many possible uses.
The house and estate is being sold with Savills, and development expert Caroline Jones is excited by the potential.
She says: “The sheer scale of the property in terms of its buildings and the extensive grounds means it has superb potential – subject to planning consent – for conversion across a whole host of uses from residential to commercial, leisure, education and healthcare.
“The main house could be converted into apartments, while the stable complex could become mews housing. Or, the amount of accommodation alongside the grounds might lend itself to the creation of a bespoke wedding venue. Equally it could become a hotel or continue its recent history of educational use.”
The romance of the site has obviously captivated Daniel Rees, head of residential sales too. He says: “A lot of people are looking for a lifestyle change and this is a property which offers beautiful and historic surroundings within which to live, alongside considerable opportunity to generate income.”
According to the FSC there has been a dwelling on the site since about 1200 when it was a fortified manor built by the Wyriott family, but now it’s 2022 and maybe you could be the next chapter in this estate’s exciting and colourful journey?
Orielton House and estate is on the market for £2.6m with Savills, give their Cardiff branch a call on 029 2036 8900 for more information.
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