The East Wing
PUBLISHED: 10:18 16 September 2007 | UPDATED: 14:51 20 February 2013
Rod and Denise Leefe have transformed the east wing of a Hampshire mansion into a light and airy family home. Jill Belcher visited
The cellars are now used for storage although, because they are so extensive, they could easily become more living space, and would be ideal as hobbies rooms or for sports facilities.
When the couple bought their home, the entrance hall was very different from the spacious and welcoming area it is today. It was, Rod says, "A little rabbit warren of corridors with flock wallpaper like an Indian restaurant. We decided we needed more light."
They opened it up, put in an RSJ, but still kept a visual and physical barrier to the drawing room with a glass and wooden dividing wall, so that as soon as you enter the house you can see through to the beautiful formal gardens at the rear.
A sense of space
The large kitchen/breakfast room, which has an Aga and faces the front of the house, is the room where they had to do least, according to Rod, although they did fit a new kitchen as well as choosing attractive ceramic tiles for the floor.
There is plenty of space for family dining in this open room, which is more than 28 feet long, and the high ceiling adds to the feeling of airiness.
This impression of openness is continued throughout the house. There is a partly oak-panelled family room on two levels, with an attractive oak parquet floor and a second door to the drawing room, which has a high 'wow!' factor.
Its gorgeous Victorian bay window has three double doors onto the terrace. This wonderfully light and restful room has oak flooring, an open fireplace with a wood burner and the couple have deliberately chosen light furniture to complement the décor. "Our furniture has tended to be light because dark wood can be so heavy," Rod explains.
From the drawing room there is another door to the flagstone-floored library. Formerly Rod's study, it has more double doors to the terrace and a door to the family's study, with another set of double doors to the terrace. There is a utility and shower room next door.
"Originally there was a swimming pool here when we moved in," Rod explains. "But we found we didn't use it so we used to have a playroom here for the children."
Outside, the extensive flagstone terrace includes a stone loggia. There are considerable areas of lawn and the formal garden leads through an arch to more lawns and the hard tennis court, beyond which is a small copse.
Upstairs the East Wing has four substantial bedrooms. The master bedroom, with a capacious dressing room, also has an adjoining bathroom.
The house is in a conservation area, but it is not listed, although it is a very impressive property.
This has given the Leefes the freedom to adapt it to their way of life and taste and they have designed both this bathroom and the family bathroom to be very light and open, with skylights.
At the front of East Wing, to the north of the house, the property also owns a 3.3-acre area of woodland, planted with deciduous and evergreen trees. Here there is still evidence of the house's role in the first world war.
"It was used by Canadians as a hospital," Rod explains. "The garage was the generator house and in our woodland you can see the foundations of the Nissen huts."
Bentworth Hall's position in the attractive village of Bentworth, close to Alton and with easy road and rail links to London, has made it ideal for Rod.
"I own a recruitment business in London," he says. "I have commuted by motorbike, car and then train."
He and Denise, a writer, also have a home in France and now that children Tassia (13) and 12-year-old Max are about to become pupils at Sherborne School, they feel it is time for a lifestyle change.
"We come from London originally and we like to be able to walk out to restaurants and theatres," says Rod. "Now that the children will be going away to school we will have more freedom to do this, so we have decided to move into the centre of Winchester."
Leaving Bentworth Hall will be a wrench, but whoever purchases this stunning and welcoming family home will be buying themselves a unique piece of Hampshire.