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Why Britons keep paying a premium for ‘long century’ homes

matthew cox
Antique dealer Matthew Cox lives with his partner, Camilla McLean, in a six-bedroom Georgian house in Stamford - David Rose

The top 20 Georgian towns and neighbourhoods in England and Scotland command an average house price premium of 27pc compared to their county and city averages, according to research from estate agency Savills carried out for Telegraph Money.

Analysis of second-hand transactions in the two years to July 2023, using figures from the Land Registry, reveals that the neoclassical New Town and West End areas of Edinburgh command the highest premium for a Georgian town or neighbourhood, with the average property price at £594,000, 83pc above the wider Edinburgh average.

After Edinburgh come the towns of Easingwold in Yorkshire, Stamford in Lincolnshire, Southwell in Nottinghamshire as well as the city of Bath. Properties in each of these locations cost over 50pc more than their county averages.

The poet John Betjeman hailed Stamford in Lincolnshire as England’s most attractive town (a year before he then called for “friendly bombs” to fall on Slough).

Standing on the limestone ridge that extends from Bath, the town flourished during the Middle Ages thanks to the wool trade, and was a major staging post in the 18th century for travellers heading north or south.

As the impact of industrialisation swept over the country, the Cecil family, who owned much of the land from their seat at nearby Burghley House, resisted plans to expand the town and the largely Georgian streetscapes were preserved.

Stamford, Lincolnshire
Stamford’s predominantly Georgian streetscapes are some of Britain’s best preserved - Andrew Fox

Later, Stamford suffered only slightly during the bombing raids of the Second World War. Local lore states that Hermann Göring, the head of the Luftwaffe, had earmarked Burghley as his future residence and ordered it and the surrounding area to be left undamaged. In 1967 it was designated as the first conservation area in England.

Matthew Cox is the third generation of his family to live and work as an antique dealer in Stamford.

After a few years of running a shop on London’s Lillie Road, he headed back to his hometown in the early 2000s and, with the help of the best digital camera available at the time (it boasted 5 megapixels), established what was one of the first online antiques businesses.

Two decades on, he’s now a highly respected furniture designer and maker with a team of over 20 and is based in a large Georgian house in the centre of Stamford that he shares with his partner, Camilla McLean, and their dog, Oggy.

Last week, the company won Walpole’s Luxury in the Making award in recognition of artisanal making, craft skills and their investment in safeguarding these time-honoured skills.

Matthew Cox house
Mr Cox invites clients to his house so they can view the antiques in situ before buying - David Rose

The couple rent their six-bedroom house from the Burghley Estate; it’s the perfect backdrop for the pieces that they make and sell. As the design studio is on site and the house is furnished with their pieces, it acts as a living showroom.

“The architecture of the house is ideal for our designs,” says Cox. “There’s nothing new here, nothing is contrived – it’s all part of a 300-year evolution of design.”

Clients are invited to come and see pieces in situ and meet the team. “It’s all very relaxed and feels real,” adds McLean who left her job in advertising to help grow the business. She was Stamford’s poet laureate in 2016-17.

“Stamford ticks all our boxes,” adds Cox. “It’s easy to get to London and is one of the most unspoilt historic towns in England. It’s also not stuck in aspic – for a small market town, there’s a lively creative community and a progressive attitude. It doesn’t sleep.”

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One of the reasons property prices are so high in the town is down to the scarcity of houses, points out James Abbott, of Savills. “The majority of professional families, particularly if they are looking to be near one of the schools in Stamford, will be wanting to buy a classic Georgian townhouse.”

He cites a budget of between £1.5m and £2m for a town centre house with a garden and parking. “We always have a waiting list; the Burghley Estate owns a large number.”

The Georgian era – sometimes known as the “long century” as it lasted for 120-plus years (1714 to 1837) – was a period of relative peace and prosperity which led to a building boom. Almost all new middle-class houses by the end of the century were built in the style that used simple ratios to work out the height of a window in relation to its width.

According to Crispin Holborow, of Savills Private Office, it’s the classic proportions, symmetry, light-filled rooms and delicate finishes which continue to attract “generation after generation of buyers”.

Surveys have often underpinned this strong preference for Georgian architecture. Last month, the online estate agency Yopa published research revealing that Georgian properties command a premium of 47pc compared to properties from different architectural periods with the same number of bedrooms in England.

Nick Leeming, chairman of Jackson-Stops, an estate agency, adds: “England has the oldest housing stock in Europe. Our heritage is inextricably linked to our love affair with period properties, a nostalgia that is reflected in their value and demand. It’s a classic period romance, one that buyers are spellbound by.”

It’s the juxtaposition of Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town that led to the Georgian New Town’s inscription on Unesco’s World Heritage list in 1995.

Edwina De Klee of Strutt & Parker’s office in the city believes that Edinburgh offers relatively good value for money for those who are set on buying a Georgian property. “A 700 sq ft flat in central Bath might cost £550,000 while you would likely get more than double the space for the same price in the New Town of Edinburgh,” she says.

The only other city in the UK whose entire central area is Unesco protected is Bath. The city is home to the Royal Crescent and The Circus, some of the most emblematic buildings of the Georgian era.

Royal Crescent, Bath
Since 2010, the Royal Crescent in Bath has achieved an average of £863 per sq ft – a premium of 88pc over the city’s average - George Clerk/iStockphoto

On a price per square foot basis, adjusted to today’s prices, for transactions since 2010, the Royal Crescent has achieved an average of £863 per sq ft, representing a premium of 88pc over the Bath overall average of £458 per sq ft.

Meanwhile, The Circus has achieved an average value of £907 per sq ft, adjusted to today’s prices, representing a premium of 98pc over the Bath average.

Clifton in Bristol is also known for its Georgian terraces and squares including the Royal York Crescent where houses have dramatic views over much of the city and its docks. It comes in sixth place with a premium of 51pc over the average for the rest of Bristol.

Houses coming to the market in these streets will often generate competing bids, said Robin Engley, of Knight Frank. He added that a Georgian townhouse with a private garden, potential for self-contained accommodation and overlooking a communal garden will “guarantee interest”. One such house was recently fought over by bidders based in Hong Kong and London.

The research even shows that so-called “neo-Geo” architecture has an impact on house prices. Properties in Poundbury, the classically inspired Dorset new town of nearly 6,000 and brainchild of King Charles, come with a 5pc premium over the average for the county.

poundbury dorset
The ‘neo-Geo’ architecture of Poundbury in Dorset has pushed up house prices in the area - John Lawrence

Poundbury also has the highest proportion of properties with at least EPC band C (94pc), a key metric for sustainability. This is over double the UK average of 44pc.

For contrast, Clifton has the lowest concentration of properties with an EPC band of at least C at 34pc.

Buying a neo-Geo house not only comes with the bonus of low maintenance costs and modern fittings, but it should also make a budget stretch further.

Andrew Harwood, of Strutt & Parker in Sevenoaks, has recently sold a new-build house in the Georgian style outside of Tunbridge Wells. “Had it dated back to the 18th or early 19th century, it would’ve been 15pc more expensive,” he estimates.

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