04 Sep Surrey Estates
St George’s Hill and Wentworth are the cream of the crop when it comes to gated communities in Surrey, and, just over 20 miles from London, they’re a perfect compromise between city and country. Conceived as a private residential estate on a 964-acre plot near Weybridge by W. G. Tarrant in 1911, St George’s Hill was an immediate success.
The first properties were built with handmade bricks and tiles, and distinctive features included tall chimneys, dormer windows, gables and leaded lights. The golf club and tennis club quickly became popular institutions -both are celebrating their centenary this year. The original houses sold for between £5,000 and £7,000 to captains of industry and stockbrokers; these days, the clientele is more international and the house prices have rather more zeroes at the end.
The golf club remains a bastion of English traditions but ownership of a property on the estate by no means guarantees membership. Old Avenue is the most exclusive address, but, ‘there may be larger, or more private plots available for the same price as the ones a single agent will show you. We know these estates inside out and we don’t have any vested interest in selling one particular road or property,’ explains Tim Hubbard of Property Vision , as we drive past a fascinating mix of architecture that varies from unexpected Huf houses to Art Deco mansions. The Wentworth estate was begun by Tarrant a few years later, in the early 1920s, on a larger area of 1,750 acres near Virginia Water with a now world-famous golf course. Houses on Wentworth were built with the same distinctive style as those on St George’s Hill, and although the Depression and the Second World War got in the way, by 1960, most of the available land had been used.
Wentworth has always had a slightly different character from St George’s Hill, according to Mr Hubbard. It’s built on green-belt land and seems flatter, which gives more of a feeling of open space. Plots can also be larger. The estate is split into two parts: the ‘island’, which is centred around the golf course and has the 350 most exclusive houses-the best streets are West Drive and those around the links-and the secondary bit of the estate, made up of some 350 slightly smaller properties. It doesn’t feel as self-contained as St George’s Hill: because there aren’t official gates.
Now, another phase of building is already under way in these leafy avenues. Just as many of the original red-brick properties were flattened to make way for the large neo-Georgian mansions that have become the estates’ visual trademark, a new wave of building work is now demolishing these properties to create houses with gargantuan basement spaces, reminiscent of those along The Bishops Avenue in north London. With 8,000sq ft or 10,000sq ft above ground, the new houses currently under construction will offer just as much space below ground, if not more, depending on how liberal the planners can be persuaded to be.
‘Developers have been buying plots for £5 million, then spending another £5 million building these vast, London- style properties, which they’re planning to sell with much larger price tags than have yet been achieved on either estate,’ Mr Hubbard observes. ‘A few properties on Wentworth have broken the £15 million barrier, but we anticipate these new houses coming on at anything up to £30 million in the next two years, which will be a fascinating test of the market.’