Welcome back to Period Dramas, a weekly column that alternates between roundups of historic homes on the market and answering questions we’ve always had about older structures.
One week ago today, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The historic decision precipitated an onslaught of stories detailing its political and economic ramifications—not least of which being its effect on the value of the British Pound.
Within a day, the value of the British Pound plunged to its lowest level in over 30 years, falling from $1.50 before the votes were counted to $1.35 as the results came in. The Pound has continued to waver in place: Today its value is around $1.32.
While some people have talked about how, suddenly, the United Kingdom is more affordable than ever for visiting Americans, we at Period Dramas can’t help but turn our eyes toward British country houses. How much cheaper are these historic estates? We decided to put the numbers to the test and examine how Brexit has affected their value.
Trafalgar Park (8 bedrooms, 33 acres of land)
Price before Brexit (with £1 = $1.50): £12,000,000 or $18,000,000
Price now: $15,840,000
Set in the town of Downton (really—we kid you not), Trafalgar Park is arguably the most architecturally significant house we’ll take a look at today. If its immense curb appeal (is it appropriate to use the phrase "curb appeal" to describe a 35,000-square-foot historic house?) didn’t tip you off, its official Grade I listing will.
Similar to being registered with the National Historic Landmarks program in the states, being listed with a certain grade in the U.K. denotes how special—and protected—a certain building is. Grade I buildings are the highest grade possible.
Built in the mid-1700s (between 1733 and 1766 or later) for aristocrat Sir Peter Vanderput, the mansion is a Neoclassical dream out of Regency England: The floorplan is symmetrically organized with absurdly grandiose rooms in both scale and appointment.
While all of its rooms are worth writing about, we have to highlight the music room with its mural, designed by G.B. Cipriani, and its impressive two-story central hall with an inlaid floor, vaulted ceiling, and intricately carved decorations over the doors and mantlepiece. Even the areas of the house that need work (one of the wings is in disrepair) are perfectly lovely, with romantically shabby plasterwork and Doric columns.
Tower of Lethendy (8 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, 39 acres of land)
Price before Brexit (with £1 = $1.50): £4,600,000 or $6,900,000
Price now: $6,072,000
Located in Scotland (one of the areas of the United Kingdom that voted to remain in the EU) about an hour and a half north of Edinburgh, the Tower of Lethendy wins for having the coolest name. Its name befits its form: This is as close to a true castle as we’ll see today. But, thankfully, the interiors are not as dark or cold as one may immediately associate with a castle.
Instead, the reception rooms are almost airy, with large windows, tall ceilings (get a load of the vaulted ceiling in the master bedroom!), and stately woodwork. And what we especially love is how the kitchen, which was probably banished to the basement or off to a side wing in its original design, has been renovated and placed just off the main hall to accommodate the needs of a modern family.
But the interiors are just half the story here. The grounds aren’t just parklike; This place is akin to a country club. Not only is there an in-ground pool and a tennis court, but there’s also an 18-hole golf course. What else would you expect from Scotland, right?
The Grange (6 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 3.1 acres of land)
Price before Brexit (with £1 = $1.50): £599,950 or $899,925
Price now: $791,934
Don’t think that all country houses cost millions of dollars. In fact, this Grade-II listed Georgian home in the Lincolnshire Wolds (just inland from England's eastern seaboard) might be our favorite of the group.
While the house may not be as grand as the previous two, it’s loaded with charm. The symmetrical facade, with its matching bay windows, twin chimneys, and six-over-six windows, gives way to reception rooms that have fireplaces and woodwork painted in soft hues.
And what we love is that you feel like you can relax in this house: The den has a fireplace topped with a rough wooden beam, and the kitchen has cheery yellow walls, hand-hewn beams, and an Aga stove that will undoubtedly keep the room toasty in winter.
Ampney Crucis (3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms)
Price before Brexit (with £1 = $1.50): £370,000 or $555,000
Price now: $488,400
If you’re not afraid of rolling your sleeves up and doing some work, this stone house about 75 mins away from London is loaded with potential. Not only is it incredibly picturesque (the Grade-II-listed property is built in the traditional Cotswold style with a stone roof) but the pictures hint at what the house might be hiding.
Case in point: That horrible carpet. What we would give to be able to rip it up and see what lies underneath. Carpet aside, the house has some pretty fantastic details. Check out the exposed beams, period fireplaces, and leaded windows. And while it may not have the 18-hole golf course boasted by the Tower of Lethendy, there’s no denying its garden is pretty darn cute.
Higher Wraxall (8 bedrooms, 7 acres of land)
Price before Brexit (with £1 = $1.50): £2,000,000 or $3,000,000
Price now: $2,640,000
The oldest house in this roundup, Higher Wraxall was built mainly in the 17th century, around 1630, although—according to the listing—parts of the house are considerably older.
Looking at the house, it’s almost impossible to not wonder how this place didn’t drop right out of a storybook. The house is set back from the main road, amongst the rolling fields of its 7 acres of land. A stone-and-iron gate lead into the front yard and to the front door set in a carved stone archway.
While the reception rooms aren’t decked out in ornately carved woodwork or delicate plater details, the spaces rather impress in their size. You get a sense that this house was made to entertain in, whether in a banquet-sized dining room or in the 26-foot-long drawing room.