Historic country house, with an iconic mural by artist Sir James Thornhill behind the dome at St Paul’s Cathedral, launches on the residential market for the first time in 80 years...

One of the finest Georgian mansions in the south west, which includes a Baroque mural by renowned artist Sir James Thornhill, is now on the market in Sherborne, Dorset.

This Grade I-listed Sherborne House, which once played host to a personal reading by Charles Dickens, is available at a guide price of £2 million.

The unique property, which offers over 13,000 square feet of living space, is entered through an impressive hallway decorated with a mural depicting a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphoses – the Calydonian Hunt.

Extending 360 degrees around the winding oak stair case, the mural is a rare feature for a house of this size, with Thornhill best known for his works in great palaces such as Hampton Court, Blenheim and Chatsworth. Most famously, Thornhill is responsible for the interior mural of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, one of the UK’s most iconic sights. The current custodians funded a restoration of the mural in 2012, which featured in the BBC Four programme Restoring England’s Heritage in 2013.

The property has an illustrious history dating back to 1570 when a Tudor manor house originally occupied the site. In 1720, the site was bought by politician Henry Seymour Portman, who demolished the original Tudor building, excepting the west wing which still stands, and employed Dorset based architect Benjamin Bastard to design the Georgian house.

Following Portman’s residency, Sherborne House was later home to English actor William Charles Macready, for which the property bears a commemorative exterior plaque. Macready was a contemporary of Charles Dickens and invited him to the property in 1854, at which time he performed a private reading of his works in the drawing room.

In more recent years Sherborne House was home to the Lord Digby Grammar School for Girls and in the 1990s became an arts centre run by the local council.

Sherborne House is set within 1.8 acres of private grounds in the centre of the popular market town of Sherborne and is an impressive example of early Georgian architecture. Built in limestone native to the region, the property has Baroque influences evident in its Palladian façade, with its elegant windows, grand architraves and quoined brick detailing. At seven window bays wide and three storeys tall, this imposing house overlooks Sherborne and is the largest home in the town.

Inside, the property retains a wealth of original period features including Georgian panelling, fireplaces and tall sash windows which flood the interior with natural light. Arranged over three storeys, the ground floor comprises three principle reception rooms, in addition to another two spacious rooms which could work as additional entertaining space.

The first floor comprises five large reception rooms and the second floor offers another five rooms, ideal for renovation to bedroom suites. A separate ground floor room within the Tudor west wing of the building and an attached original two-storey coach house offer the potential for conversion into two self-contained annexes or holiday lets.

With parts of the property licensed for business use, the house also offers an excellent opportunity for a buyer looking to launch a boutique hotel, private members' club or similar business, or for a business seeking a new or larger office headquarters. The property would also be commercially suitable as an antiques, art or furniture showroom.

Sherborne House is set back from the road behind a border wall and is approached via a gated entrance onto a gravelled driveway. There is a large walled garden to the rear that is laid to lawn and generous parking space to the front and side of the property.

The property is situated a few minutes’ walk from the centre of Sherborne, which is well known for its two castles and the renowned Sherborne School. There is a range of other excellent public schools in the area and the town centre offers a good selection of independent shops, a Waitrose supermarket and a train station with a direct line to London Waterloo in just over two hours. The regional centre of Yeovil is five miles to the east which provides more extensive shopping and business facilities, and the larger cities of Bath, Bristol and Exeter are all within an hour’s drive.

David Foot, Director at Chesters Commercial, who is managing the sale, says: "This is an extremely rare opportunity to purchase a unique building with a fascinating heritage that represents one of the most iconic properties in the south west of England.

"It is rare to find a country house of such stately proportions within walking distance of a town centre, and, being ripe for renovation, this is an exciting project for someone looking for a blank canvas to create their dream period home. Surrounded by some of the UK’s most visited countryside, the property similarly offers an excellent opportunity for a hotelier looking for a new project."

Having latterly been an art exhibition space and a girls’ school for many years before, the house has been empty for a number of years and requires extensive renovation work to restore it to its former residential glory. With many of its original period features intact, including Georgian sash windows and panelling, Tudor beams in the west wing, an oak staircase and Thornhill's mural, Sherborne House offers a buyer an exciting restoration project and unique opportunity to create their dream period country home.

Sherborne House is available through Chesters Commercial at a guide price of £2 million. Expressions of interest are sought on a freehold or leasehold basis and the property is also available to let.

Chesters Commercial

Guide price: £2,000,000

T: 01935 415454

E: info@chesterscommercial.com