Berkshire’s prettiest homes: Georgian Chauntry House in Bray
PUBLISHED: 11:05 25 August 2020
Jonathan Little Photography
In the Thameside village of Bray, David took us on a tour of his gorgeous Georgian property, full of character and charm | Words: Sarah Rodi - Photos: Jonathan Little Photography
You don’t come across too many houses in Berkshire that are home to a spa, a wine cellar and a cinema to boot, but Chauntry House in the Thameside village of Bray has all of those things and more. Much, much more…
Built in 1754, it still has 18th century features despite being converted from a house to a hotel and back to a house again. It has also been used as a filming location in the past.
As the electric wrought-iron gates slowly open onto a sweeping driveway, the impressive residence appears before you and you know this place is something special.
“My grandparents owned the house in the 1960s and lived here happily for many years,” says current owner David.
“It then passed to my uncle, who ran it as a restaurant and hotel with 10 bedrooms, called Chauntry House Hotel. When I bought it, it had been converted back into a house, but it was very run-down. I decided to make it a home for my family to live in and so I set about restoring it to its square Georgian proportions.”
David, a chartered surveyor, now lives here with his wife and three children, aged 11, 10 and eight.
“It took two years (and given that it’s a Grade-II listed building, some planning battles) to return the property to its former glory. We put in a large master suite and a dressing room, five more bedrooms plus four bathrooms, a drawing room on the first floor and a library,” he explains.
“We opened up the whole of the basement to create a spa with a sauna, steam room and a hot tub, a wine cellar, laundry room and a large cinema room too.
“But there are many things we kept, to maintain the character of the place, such as the 1840s reception hall and original staircase, and the high ceilings, which make the house light and airy, with ornate cornicing and celling roses. We also love the deep bay windows at the front.”
Gold velvet curtains and fittings feature heavily throughout the house, as do glittering chandeliers and original grand fireplaces.
David, who was trained as a fine arts surveyor, says a lot of the paintings on the walls were sourced at auction. “I am a fan of the artist Trevor Chamberlain’s work,” he says.
A lot of their ornaments also come from auction houses, such as Christie’s and Lots Road in London: “Finding something special at an auction makes for a great day out,” adds David.
Chauntry House is an impressive residence. Its location is also picture-postcard perfect. It’s set in delightful landscaped grounds of almost one acre, which wrap around the house.
There’s a magnificent mature redwood and a cedar, plus the walled courtyard garden with paved pathways and formal planting in raised beds is a lovely spot to sit out and enjoy the views of the adjoining historic St Michael’s Church. The house also overlooks the cricket ground.
“One of my favourite features is the view out onto the cricket pitch, allegedly the oldest cricket pitch in the country,” says David.
“We know we have been very lucky to live here. We are spoilt for pubs and restaurants, as Bray is home to Michelin-starred restaurants The Fat Duck and The Waterside Inn, plus there’s also Heston Blumenthal’s The Hind’s Head and The Crown Inn.
“It’s wonderful to live near to the River Thames, Maidenhead is up-and-coming and, of course, Windsor is also nearby.”
Now that David has restored Chauntry House he is keen to start work on a new project. “We have never lived somewhere this long before – we have lived in Bray since 2006 and we love this house, but we are hoping to restore another property or build something new.
“There’s nothing left for us to do here and we like a challenge, so we have put Chauntry House on the market and I can’t wait to see what happens to it next.”
I too will be interested to watch the next chapter in this fascinating property’s life.