There are some homes that can tick a lot of house-hunting boxes including three of the main ones that many people are hoping to find – location, space and potential. And Machen House can clearly tick all of those boxes plus add history, design and uniqueness to the list too.
This distinctive country house was built in 1831 in a late Georgian style with some eye-catching Gothic details by the Tredegar estate for the Reverend Morgan, vicar of the parish and the younger brother of the 1st Lord Tredegar, once a chaplain to Queen Victoria.
In the past this amazing house has also been home to Peter Thorneycroft, MP for Monmouth and later chairman of the Conservative party, so the history box is getting full. The house is located in the village of Lower Machen so local community, countryside and yet easy access to the cities of Newport, Cardiff and Bristol plus the coast nearby too, means the location box can boast a bit of the best of all worlds.
But arguably it’s the uniqueness of the house and also the garden that tick the biggest box of them all, so much so that the property and land is given special attention within its Grade II* listing from Cadw that it achieved n 1990, amended in 2003. The fact that the listing has that special little star supports this home’s unique design.
Cadw explain the celebrity added to a listing as only given to ‘particularly important buildings of more than special interest. These make up about seven per cent of the total number of listed buildings in Wales. Grade II* buildings are of special interest which justify every effort being made to preserve them’.
Machen Home achieved its higher level list for being ‘a late Georgian Gothic small country house with remarkable spiral openwork staircase. Group value with other listed items in the grounds of Machen House and with St Michael’s Parish Church’.
The listing also highlights some of the special features of the house, including the Georgian Gothic entrance hall with its ‘extraordinary winding stair’, and also its ‘picturesque garden setting with romantic Gothic features: bee-bole, range of outbuildings such as the Bothy, miniature lake with humped bridge, winding paths, and castellated corner functions to the estate walls’.
How many houses for sale in Wales, or even those off the market, can boast so many features in the garden that are Quality II listed too.
The first is a bothy that comes with a tower that was built at the same time as the main house and is currently an one-bedroom home according to the estate agent, therefore there’ll be fighting in the family who gets to call this amazing little abode their home.
The bothy is actually at the centre of a range of the servants’ accommodation plus service rooms that were built onto the churchyard walls. The asymmetric setting from the bothy’s entrance tower appears intentionally related to the medieval tower of the church behind.
The servants’ quarters backyard building has huge potential to become a very unusual house for family members or holiday lets, if planning allows, and can offer any lucky occupant an unique place to reside, ‘as a picturesque Gothic range of servants’ accommodation, part of the Gothic setting of Machen House’. And yes, they are listed too.
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And at the end of this long range of single-storey accommodation is a cottage, again extraccommodation for extra people. This attractive single-storey cottage comprises the kitchen with a Rayburn stove, a living room, dining room and one bedroom with a barrelled ceiling. It even has its own pretty garden.
Even after you’ve explored the extra buildings and before you step into the main house the garden is a truly fascinating place, from the landscape to the added features, both old and new. It is so special that the garden curtilage plus woodland at Machen House is registered with Cadw as a ‘Historic Park and Garden’ under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act. Pretty impressive.
This beautiful, tranquil, listed garden has layer after layer of unusual features and one is the Grade II listed bee – bole – lucky bees in this part of Wales might get the chance to live in their very own outlined Gothic home.
The distinctive, freestanding triple arched, picturesque garden feature has shelves for bee-skeps, is apparently built of a white quartz stone, and intended as part of the Gothic setting of the house. It gets its Grade II listing for being ‘an uncommon Gothic garden feature, and as a rare example of a bee-bole.
The listed footbridge over the lake is a classic country estate addition, although it does not lend itself to the overall Gothic style that sweeps through the house and garden, it appears to be based more on a Chinese willow-pattern bridge. It is very pretty nonetheless and accomplished its Grade II listing for being ‘an attractive stone bridge designed as a picturesque landscape feature in a remarkable small landscaped garden’.
And remarkable is definitely the word out here in this idyllic backyard of about 28 acres, because even the walls, gate plus gateposts are Grade II listed, including the curved screen wall that has a castellated top that surrounds the immediate garden next to the mansion.
Of the 28 acres, about 19 acres are property, 4. 5 acres is ancient woodland with tree protection orders, and the remaining acreage is the tranquil, historic and very special listed garden.
There is a stream that meanders through the peaceful setting into the two ornamental lakes — the current owners have fond childhood memories of fishing for trout on the lake from a little fishing boat. The particular lake is no longer stocked along with trout but could be again if desired.
The more modern extras in the garden are pretty special too, with a revolving summer home next to the tennis court probably the most surprising one. The swimming pool and the tennis court are in need of renovation , but the potential is there to add value as well as create the perfect sociable garden set within its unique background and design setting.
Is the house as special as its shown garden? Definitely, and it is from the moment you step inside and see a very unexpected spiral staircase where most Georgian homes would offer you a beautiful, but standard, sweeping and elegant stairs from the era. This truly incredible staircase has a central column thought to have been a ship’s mast.
And this staircase sums up this house – it does its own thing and includes some very special and historical features to find in almost very room, it is the epitome of unique.
The hall is more than just the staircase though, it is a grand entrance, and it can also boast distinctive cast iron piers carrying three Tudor arches with quatrefoils. There are Gothic-style transom windows above the inner doorways, robust panelled internal doors and a myriad of finer functions to spot including deep skirtings and fancy cornicing that continue into the main reception rooms.
A door from the impressive hall leads you in to the light and inviting morning room that features an 18th century Adam-style mantelpiece removed from Ruperra Castle after the fire of 1941. Either side of the fireplace are Medieval bookcases with details matching the staircase, and don’t forget to look up and see fancy cornicing and to look out of the large French doors to admire the stunning garden.
Next comes the dining room which also showcases a fireplace believed to have come from Ruperra Castle. The Adam-style frieze, restored cornice and a floral roof border detailing continues, as does the connection to the garden vianother set of French doors open to the garden that will perfectly frames a view of an ancient magnolia woods.
The drawing room is a very opulent space, and it’s easy to see every visitor being impressed with this fine room. The central, eighteenth century mantelpiece is considered to have been bought by the past tenant, Lord Thorneycroft from his home in Staffordshire.
This room can offer waves of light flooding in from three huge bay windows at one end that help to showcase the spectacular diamond and square designed ceiling which is framed by a very detailed cornice. But the view is definitely a two way delight with these substantial windows framing views of the garden and the beautiful river.
The kitchen is centrally positioned so literally making it the particular hub of the home and can offer space for dining as well as a blue Aga nestled to the chimney breast. The kitchen flows into a sunroom which was additional in around 2005 and includes Mandarin stone tiles below you and amazing backyard vistas around you.
Up that amazing spiral staircase towards the first floor are five bedrooms, two bathrooms, the laundry room and a nursery. There are steps on the landing that the estate agent estimates would likely have led to the servants’ quarters.
This connection between the two buildings was demolished many years ago but there could be an opportunity to reinstate it, subject to gaining the necessary planning plus listed buildings consents. The steps now lead to a beautiful window seat overlooking the side aspect.
The master bedroom has a dressing room that will then leads into an ensuite, plus mesmerising views of the garden through 3 floor-to-ceiling windows. The house will be described as in need of modernisation and what an amazing opportunity to bring your own interior design style and creative ideas to the house to optimise its current potential.
But any work would of course need planning and listed buildings consent – both inside and out : to protect and preserve with regard to future generations the truly incredible features that make Tätigen House one of the most important historic homes in the county, if not in Wales.
Machen house is for sale with a guide price of £1. 95m with estate agent Powells, call their Monmouth branch on to find out more. And don’t miss the best dream homes inside Wales, renovation stories plus interiors, join the Amazing Welsh Homes newsletter , sent to your inbox twice a week.