06 Dec Luxury living at the Wentworth Estate: home to royalty, business tycoons and Sir Bruce Forsyth
As one of the country’s most exclusive addresses, the Wentworth Estate is home to Middle Eastern royalty, international business tycoons and, famously, Sir Bruce Forsyth, among others. Surrey Life’s Matthew Williams was given an exclusive tour among the multi-million pound mansions surrounding the world-famous golf course.
Over the years, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Ron Dennis and, somewhat notoriously, even the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet have called it home, and the Wentworth Estate continues to be regarded as one of the country’s most prestigious addresses.
Originally based around the family home of the Duke of Wellington’s brother-in-law (the house was called ‘Wentworths’ and is now the club house on the world-famous golf course), the estate was transformed in 1923 by WG Tarrant, a builder who was also responsible for the similar developments at St George’s Hill, Weybridge, and Hockering, Woking, plus a lot of West Byfleet.
“The original idea of Wentworth was ‘cottages’ for stressed out city gentlemen looking to escape to the countryside and a few rounds of golf,” says James Wyatt, whose grandfather bought the independent Barton Wyatt estate agency, which is based at one of the entrances to the Wentworth Estate, in the mid-1960s.
During that era, and into the 70s, the estate became popular with musicians – Elton John and the Bee Gees were among those living there – but, more recently, professional golfers have come and gone, and now it’s largely Russians, Kazakhstanis and Ukrainians who are buying up the properties, although there remain a few better known public figures in the area.
“Ron Dennis, the owner of McLaren, recently bought a house here for the best part of £30m, which is probably the most expensive property ever to be sold at Wentworth,” says James.
“Sir Brucie is still a resident, of course, but I don’t often spot him flying about in his golf cart. Samuel L Jackson came over for a Make-a-Wish foundation charity golf tournament recently and I saw him practising on the putting green in what looked like his dressing gown.
“There are more expensive properties than the Ron Dennis one but they just haven’t been put on the market. The average price of a house we sell on the estate is £2.7m. So you can have a house on the estate for £600,000, but I could also show you a place that, were it to ever go on the market, I’d expect to fetch around £80m.”
Plots on the estate are protected by covenants put in place when it was first created, so while the houses get bigger, they never sit on top of each other. Green Belt and a trust-controlled wood also pass through the estate – and that’s before you get to the golf course – so the area continues to breathe despite the huge demand for property there.
“Houses have got a lot bigger – massively increased in size – nearly three times the size in some cases,” says James. “And the buying public is a lot more affluent than even ten years ago. We’ve just seen our first Chinese buyer and I think that’s probably a sign of things to come. They tend to be huge golf fans as well, so with the European Tour based at Wentworth, I imagine we’ll be seeing an influx of people from that part of the world. Also, the Wentworth Club has become a brand in its own right, particularly since Richard Carey, owner of The Ivy and Caprice restaurants, bought it.”
Aside from the internationally-renowned golf course, residents also have the five-star Coworth Park Hotel and Spa, Guards Polo Club, Ascot, Windsor and Virginia Water (not to mention Heathrow) all on their doorstep, meaning that the allure of the estate is unlikely to fade any time soon.
And for those who go for a new-build, there’s the attraction of all the latest mod cons as well. During my visit, James takes me on a tour of one house, priced at a relatively modest £6.5m, which is set up so you can control everything from your iPhone (lights, heating etc at the touch of a button on arrival at the airport).
Then there’s the iPads built into the walls; the indoor swimming pools (and jacuzzi); the outdoor kitchens (fridges, sinks… the works); staff quarters (which would put most one-bedroom flats to shame); master suites (that are large apartments in their own right); and much, much more.
“For just about all our buyers these days, a property here will be their third or fourth house in the world, and so we have them fully kitted out by interior designers,” says James. “You still get people coming in and completely gutting and replacing what was already an £80,000 brand-new kitchen though, but you can’t cater for everyone’s taste.”
Wentworth is slightly unusual in that, unlike St George’s Hill and many other famous estates, it remains very open – there are no estate gates, but each home tends to have its own, coupled with all the latest in security. This is largely due to the scale of the estate: B roads and bridleways bisect it and, as quickly becomes evident as James takes me from boundary to boundary, it’s as big as a small town in its own right.
Stylistically, properties on the Wentworth Estate encompass every extreme of architecture from art deco to the grandest of Palladian via Mediterranean-esque villas (complete with palms) – there are even a few good old-fashioned country houses dotted about, if you know where to look.
“You get a real mix of people here,” says James. “For example, one property is home to a huge private art gallery – with sculptures all round the gardens, front and back – while golfer Ernie Els owns one of the few thatched properties. There’s a strong royal presence still, too. Fergie moved around a number of different properties here, while West Drive, which is considered to be the best road really, has some huge properties owned by Middle Eastern royal families. There’s also an English family who live in a place that Charlie Chaplin once stayed at – it’s got the biggest garden, at around 20 acres.”
As we go on, we see mansions belonging to the owner of Russia’s largest private bank, the old and current kings of Malaysia and Formula One tycoon Eddie Jordan, as well as the secluded location where Augusto Pinochet was kept under house arrest and a place once owned by the American embassy (“I’ve never had so much paperwork to fill out in my life!”). However, one name recently associated with the area remains conspicuous by its absence.
“Sir Cliff Richard has gone now – we sold his place last year as he spends most of his time at his vineyard in Portugal and Barbados,” says James. “In fact, when he moved from St George’s Hill, he took a big shift down in size as his place on the Wentworth Estate really was comparatively modest.”
So what’s next up for the Wentworth Estate? Well, you’ll see one of James’ client’s homes in the Margaret Thatcher bio The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep, this December, as scenes were shot there. By now though, the area is well used to such spotlight.
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine November 2011