Norfolk home where Home Guard trained during WWII for sale for £3.5m

Eight-bedroom house on Norfolk country estate where members of the Home Guard trained during Second World War goes on the market for £3.5m

  • Members of the Home Guard trained in the grounds of South Walsham Hall, in South Walsham, Norfolk
  • The home boasts a grand staircase that was made from the timbers of a 17th century Royal Navy ship
  • The home also served as a home for wounded veterans in WWII before it was bought in 1947 

A country estate which served as a training ground for a Home Guard unit during the Second World War has gone on the market for £3.5m.

Members of the ‘Dad’s Army’ group in South Walsham, Norfolk, were put through their paces in the 25-acre grounds of South Walsham Hall, which is around 500 years old.

Although a property is thought to have occupied the site since the 13th century, the existing eight-bedroom house was built in the Elizabethan era.

One standout feature is its grand staircase that was made from the timbers of a 17th century Royal Navy ship.

During the Second World War, the house also served as a home for wounded veterans before it was bought in 1947 by Major Henry Broughton, later Lord Fairhaven.

Country estate South Walsham Hall, which served as a training ground for a Home Guard unit during the Second World War, has gone on the market for £3.5m

Members of the ‘Dad’s Army’ group in South Walsham, Norfolk, were put through their paces in the 25-acre grounds of South Walsham Hall, which is around 500 years old. Above: The Home Guard unit in nearby North Walsham

He carried out extensive work to the property, including installing the impressive staircase.

It was made from the timbers of HMS Britannia, the flagship of Admiral Edward Russell, who led the British fleet to victory at the Battle of La Hogue in 1692.

The staircase was originally the chief feature of the Admiral’s house in Covent Garden in London’s West End, but was eventually taken down and later installed at South Walsham Hall in 1962.

Who were the Home Guard?  

The Home Guard was a unit formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in August 1940 to protect against any foreign invasion.

It was created out of a group established at the outbreak of war, the Local Defence Volunteers, with 750,000 people recruited in its first month.

By summer 1940 membership had hit 1million, with 40 per cent former World War One veterans experienced in combat and well-drilled.

The average age of male recruits was 35 and many were youngsters awaiting a call-up to the Armed Forces.

Others were skilled labourers needed at home, but all underwent detailed training in combat, learning how to defend themselves with rifles and their own hands.

Although they never actually faced an invasion force, the Home Guard were well-regarded at home and abroad, with US sympathy so strong an organisation was formed to ship weapons to the UK to defend British homes.

Around 1,200 recruits died during the war due to enemy bombing and training accidents.

Lord Fairhaven was a very keen gardener and he also created the renowned water gardens.

The Fairhaven family sold the hall in 1975 and the property then became a country club from 1977 until 2001, when it was bought by the current owners.

They carried out a major program of restoration and refurbishment including rewiring, new plumbing and heating installations, new bathrooms and a custom-built kitchen.

Re-moulded plasterwork was installed and a beautiful library created with superb quality hand-built joinery from oak on the estate.

The house has 11,548 sq ft of accommodation with a drawing room, dining room, kitchen/breakfast room, sitting room, orangery, library and billiard room on the ground floor, a wine cellar, and on the first floor an impressive second drawing room, eight bedrooms and four bathrooms.

Unusually, despite its history, the house is not listed so buyers could change the internal layout to suit their needs.

Outside, the gardens include a lake, walled garden, tennis court, a heated swimming pool and pool house and a charming thatched summer house.

There are also two cottages in the grounds and a range of outbuildings totalling 6,500 sq ft.

Ben Rivett, from estate agents Savills, said: ‘The history is very important to the house but it’s also the setting and quality of it.

‘It’s very rare to get a house of this size and scale and everything is in such pristine condition.

‘The gardens, designed by Verity Hanson Smith are superb. It’s got everything one would need for this idyllic rural lifestyle.

‘The owners have been there about 20 years. They love the area and have got something smaller to move to locally, but are at the stage in life where they need to pass this on to another family.

‘One of the owners is a furniture restorer and they have painstakingly reinstated the rooms. Everything has been done with a priority to the period of the house.

Although a property is thought to have occupied the site since the 13th century, the existing eight-bedroom house was built in the Elizabethan era. One standout feature is its grand staircase that was made from the timbers of a 17th century Royal Navy ship

The staircase was made from the timbers of HMS Britannia (above), the flagship of Admiral Edward Russell, who led the British fleet to victory at the Battle of La Hogue in 1692

During the Second World War, the house also served as a home for wounded veterans before it was bought in 1947 by Major Henry Broughton, later Lord Fairhaven

The Fairhaven family sold the hall in 1975 and the property then became a country club from 1977 until 2001, when it was bought by the current owners

‘It’s a real destination home and just a really smashing house.’

The Home Guard was a unit formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in August 1940 to protect against any foreign invasion.

It was created out of a group established at the outbreak of war, the Local Defence Volunteers, with 750,000 people recruited in its first month.

By summer 1940 membership had hit 1million, with 40 per cent former World War One veterans experienced in combat and well-drilled.

Outside, the gardens include a lake, walled garden, tennis court, a heated swimming pool and pool house and a charming thatched summer house 

Ben Rivett, from estate agents Savills, said: ‘The history is very important to the house but it’s also the setting and quality of it. ‘It’s very rare to get a house of this size and scale and everything is in such pristine condition’

Mr Rivett added: ‘The gardens, designed by Verity Hanson Smith are superb. It’s got everything one would need for this idyllic rural lifestyle’

The current owners have lived in the property for around 20 years. Whilst they love the area, they have bought a smaller property to move into and now want to pass South Walsham Hall onto another family, Mr Rivett said

The home’s new owner will be able to enjoy tennis matches in the garden, as well as a swim when they feel like it 

The garden also boasts a lake, which is seen above in front of the plush property. Mr Rivett added: ‘It’s a real destination home and just a really smashing house’ 

The average age of male recruits was 35 and many were youngsters awaiting a call-up to the Armed Forces.

Others were skilled labourers needed at home, but all underwent detailed training in combat, learning how to defend themselves with rifles and their own hands.

Although they never actually faced an invasion force, the Home Guard were well-regarded at home and abroad, with US sympathy so strong an organisation was formed to ship weapons to the UK to defend British homes.

Around 1,200 recruits died during the war due to enemy bombing and training accidents.

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