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Looking for a gigantic house laden with history? Chanters House, in the U.K.’s beautiful county of Devon, just may be the one for you. The enormous mansion of more than 22,000 square feet offers wonderful memories from its 700 years of existence, boasting links to both Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector during the English Civil War, and the Coleridge family, of which poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, “Kubla Khan”) is most widely known.
The property, which includes the ten-bedroom, eleven-bath main house, comprises just over 21 acres of gardens, parkland and woodland. Outdoor features include a large lake, a swimming pool, a tennis court and stabling for horses. There’s also an indoor pool housed in a modern structure, and the estate’s numerous residential outbuildings include a cottage, a lodge, and a coach house, and even a party room with a bar and DJ booth. Asking $8.2 million, the fabled residence is listed with Pilkington Estates.
The current owners have done much to upgrade the estate for the 21st century, adding high-tech features such as solar panels and a biomass energy system. At the same time, they maintained fascinating original features such as the cavernous 70-foot-long library that houses an important collection of over 22,000 historic books assembled by Lord Coleridge, one the UK’s greatest legal minds. There is also a chapel, a Victorian conservatory, a billiard room, and a conservatory specifically for growing palm trees.
The second Lord Coleridge wrote in his 1905 book, “The Story of a Devonshire House,” that in the town, “Round the great Church before the dissolution of the College in 1545 stood the houses inhabited by the various members of the Collegiate Body. There were houses belonging to the Warden, the Minister, the Sacrist, and the Chanter.” So what exactly is a chanter’s house? A chanter was the person who led the singing in worship; a cognate today would be a cantor in a synagogue.
By the time of the English Civil War, the owner of the Chanters House was Robert Collins, a strong supporter of the Parliament against the King, and in 1645 he invited Sir Thomas Fairfax Commander-in-Chief of the New Model Army to take up residence in Chanters House. In the dining room, Fairfax met with second-in-command Cromwell, and together declared civil war. (Cromwell later succeeded Fairfax, signing King Charles I’s death warrant in 1649.) With painted, honeycomb-pattern carved wood ceiling and original elm panelling, the dining room is now named after both Cromwell and Fairfax.
A little more than a century later, the estate became home to another illustrious family, the Coleridges. The family’s eldest son James, a soldier, married a local heiress and bought Chanters House in 1796, eventually turning it into the family home. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was James’s youngest brother, and the Coleridge clan owned the property for more than 200 years. That era finally ended in 2006 when ever-increasing maintenance costs caused the current Baron Coleridge to sell the estate and many of its contents.
Fortunately, the current owners have a passion for history. They not only purchased and restored the house, but also kept the impressively enormous library of books. Now this historic, beautiful home is ready for a new century and a new owner. Please keep the books where they are, though!
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