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An Inspirational Home

An Inspirational Home
The Grade-II listed Longhills Hall in Lincolnshire is not just a stunning example of a Palladian-style country mansion. The home, which dates back to the mid-17th century, was also the inspiration behind the brave, intelligent band of rabbits who grace the pages of Richard Adams’ Watership Down after his experiences during WWII. Now, the majestic property which inspired the US all-time bestselling book is now on the market for offers in excess of £1.5 million, presenting a rare opportunity for literature lovers.

Longhills Hall combines elegant country living with period charm and a wealth of character. The property sits in an idyllic rural location just a mile from the charming village of Branston. Surrounded by captivating vistas, its four-acre, parkland-style grounds include majestic beech trees, enchanting woodlands and picturesque open countryside, and is regularly dotted with rabbits at dawn and dusk. 

The graceful restoration of the seven-bedroom Longhills Hall has highlighted the property’s original features while creating a welcoming elegance and distinctive ambience. Stepping inside, visitors cannot help but be awed by the arched ceilings, half-columns and splendid, early 19th-century, cantilevered stone staircase with iron railings in the inner reception hall. The ground floor is home to three opulent reception rooms with soaring ceilings. Large windows with functional shutters fill the rooms with light, showcasing carefully restored ornate plasterwork features including intricate ceiling roses, cornices, door pediments and exquisite 18th-century fireplaces.

Adam Lascelles, Managing Director for Central Lincolnshire & Grantham, at By Design, through which Longhills Hall is for sale, comments: “Longhills Hall was already a magnificent property. Now, the restoration work undertaken this year has elevated it to an exceptional and unique home, blending period charm with contemporary considerations. This is an extraordinary opportunity to own more than a sophisticated and stylish home in the heart of rural England, you would be preserving a true slice of literary history.”

The ground floor also includes a spacious kitchen breakfast room, while below the property an extensive, four-room cellar provides a wood store, wine cellar, workshop and storage room. 
On the first floor are four generously proportioned bedrooms, three with en-suite bathroom facilities and one with an elegant sitting room. The second floor provides three additional bedrooms and two bathrooms, along with a cinema room, a gym, an office and a kitchenette. 
Elaine Penhaul at Lemon and Lime Interiors, the design firm behind the renovation and preparation for sale at Longhills Hall, comments: “I see a lot of beautiful houses in my line of work. Longhills Hall is special; I fell in love with it the very first time I saw it. The space and light in all the rooms are remarkable with spectacular views of the parkland from almost every window. It has been a privilege to oversee its restoration so that it is now ready for its new custodian to move in and enjoy its splendour.”

“The mansion possesses such grandeur with its majestic entrance, sweeping staircase, high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows. We felt it was important to choose a colour palette that would acknowledge this opulence and tie in the glorious parkland setting. We have opted for green and earth tones that perfectly blend the inside with the out and give the rooms a calming warmth that will envelop this family home.”

The most historic part of Longhills Hall – its cellars – date back to an earlier Elizabethan residence. The property in its most recent form took shape in 1836 when George Basevi, a protégé of Sir John Soane and a prominent figure in the Regency era, altered the existing house to enhance its grandeur. 

The Longhills Hall estate was owned for more than two centuries by the Curtois family, who were succeeded by the Abel Smiths, prominent bankers whose legacy still graces the façade of Lincoln’s NatWest Bank. It was during World War II that Richard Adams became connected with the property when serving with the 1st Airborne Division, who lodged at the hall during the second world war. Two commemorative plaques at the entrance to the property pay tribute to those brave soldiers of the 250th Light Company R.A.S.C. (Airborne), who were valiant participants in the Arnhem invasion. 

Adams’ service, as well as his time at Longhills Hall with his fellow officers, provided him with the inspiration for the characters who became legendary through Watership Down. Adams was stationed at Longhills Hall with Nos 1, 2 and 3 Parachute Platoons, who packed the hall, its stables and barn on their return from Africa in February 1944 and remained there until they were redeployed in August 1944. The many rabbits that also lived in the grounds at Longhills Hall would have given Adams both comfort and inspiration for his story telling.

Adams originally came up with the story to entertain his daughters on a car journey; it was later at their insistence pushed the then-civil servant to document it on paper. The original print run was for 2,500 copies but demand quickly surpassed that, with Adams going on to sell over 50 million copies. Watership Down became Penguin’s all-time bestseller in the US at the time and Adams picked up multiple literary awards, including Britain’s most prestigious children’s book awards: the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. 

For many of the Watership Down characters and scenes, Adams drew on real-life experiences, particularly from World War II. While most children’s tales avoid violence and gore, Watership Down features rabbits that are fierce and powerful, and there isn’t a happy ending. The horrors of the war, including the nine-day Battle of Arnhem, in which Adams’ company fought in September 1944 and in which almost 2,000 Allied soldiers were killed, flow into the author’s writing. 

Adams revealed after writing Watership Down that some of those he fought alongside were the basis of characters in the book. The organised, brave, self-effacing Major John Gifford – Adams’ commanding officer – can be seen in the rabbits’ leader, Hazel, who (like Gifford) survives the horrors he endures. The larger-than-life, fearless Bigwig, meanwhile, was inspired by Adams’ friend, parachute officer Captain Desmond “Paddy” Kavanagh, who was killed in action outside Oosterbeek on the third day of the Battle of Arnhem while providing covering fire for his platoon, aged just 25. In Watership Down, though gravely wounded in the final battle, Bigwig survives and goes on to become the leader of the warren, with Adams’ perhaps imagining the future his friend might have had. 

Longhills Hall is on the market with offers in excess of £1.5 million. The property is ideally located for family life, with Ofsted-rated Outstanding infant, junior and secondary schools in nearby Branston, just over a mile away, while the renowned Lincoln Minster, encompassing both Prep and Senior schools, is just five miles away. The village is also home to a beautiful 11th century church – All Saints Church Branston – with an active and welcoming community, along with shops, restaurants and a medical centre. The village hall serves as a local social hub, with regular events, while a recreation ground, tennis club and fitness centre with pool support an active lifestyle. The local area is also home to several well-respected golf courses, with the nearest being Pottergate Golf Club (two miles away).

For commuters, nearby Newark train station (20 miles away) provides direct trains to London Kings Cross in as little as 71 minutes, making it an ideal choice for families wishing to access London for work or leisure before returning home to the restorative serenity of the English countryside.