A stunning country estate steeped in history having once been bought by an 18th century merchant after he acquired and sold a 140-carat diamond which later featured in Napoleon’s sword has gone on the market for a staggering £18.5million.
The 970-acre West Woodyates Manor estate sits just 11 miles south of the cathedral city of Salisbury, Wiltshire, and boasts a grand stately home as well as beautiful formal gardens, parkland and a portfolio of cottages.
Throughout the 18th century it belonged to the Pitt family, after Thomas ‘Diamond’ Pitt purchased the property thanks to his acquisition and sale of a 410 carat uncut stone, now known as the Regent Diamond.
At a guide price of ‘excess £18.5 million’ through Knight Frank, it is the first time since 1929 that the impressive diverse estate is on sale, with the grounds covering residential, farming, sporting and conservation uses.
Grade II-listed West Woodyates sits in a wonderful private position at the heart of the estate surrounded by formal gardens, parkland and ranges of traditional buildings and cottages.
The main house boasts a series of reception rooms including a drawing room, sitting room, library and dining hall. It also offers a family kitchen and pantry as well as boot room, offices, utility rooms and extensive cellars, with the ground floor lending itself to both formal entertaining and family life.
The master bedroom with adjacent dressing room takes full advantage of the spectacular views over the estate, while the house also comes complete with a further four bedrooms and three bathrooms.
A short walk from the main house is Manor Cottage which has been converted for either family, guest or staff accommodation.
It has a large sitting room with a dining area, kitchen/breakfast room along with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The estate also offers the Well House with ancient well and apple store and the Office with garaging below, plus a traditional storage barn that was previously a stable.
The ground around West Woodyates has been occupied and farmed since the Neolithic Age – with Neolithic long barrows and Iron-age round barrows in the vicinity showing that people have been settled here for the past 5000 years.
There are also strong signs that West Woodyates was a farming settlement in Roman times, with coins from the reign of Constantine I (272-337 AD) having been found on the farm, along with a deep water well also thought to be from that period.
An underground tunnel connects the Manor House and the Manor Cottage, and dates from the 1930s. It is thought it was built so servants could get between the houses without guest seeing them.
A major feature of the estate and close to the hearts of the current owners has been enhancing the biodiversity and wildlife on the estate, with an abundance of deer and partridge providing the means for a wild-game shoot.
The farm is rated as a site of National Importance for rare arable plants including Night-flowering Catchfly and Rough Poppy, while a 30 acre block of ancient woodland, Denbose Wood, and Hill Copse, are designated sites of Nature Conservation Interest.
Thomas Pitt, grandfather of former Prime Minister Pitt the Elder, raised the money required to purchase the home in the early 18th century by selling the ‘Pitt Diamond’ (later known as the Regent Diamond) – a large jewel he acquired in India in 1701.
In 1717, the cut stone was sold to Regent Philippe d’Orléans was later set in the hilt of Napoleon Bonaparte’s sword before subsequently being put on display in the Louvre museum in Paris.
Pitt’s great-grandson was Pitt the Younger, another former Prime Minister. Thomas bought a number of West Country estates, such as West Woodyates, with the diamond.
According to the diamond’s description on the Louvre’s website, the gem is still considered the ‘finest in the world; its color is “of the first water”, that is perfectly white and practically flawless.’
After the Regency, the gem remained one of the most precious of the Crown’s treasures and adorned all the crowned heads of France.