Hertfordshire home: 16th century farmhouse near Tring
PUBLISHED: 10:42 08 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:42 08 October 2018
A 16th century farmhouse gave a father and daughter the chance to both fulfil childhood dreams
The equestrian centre at Manor Farm in the Anglo Saxon village of Marsworth has been training riders for top competitions for over 20 years.
In 1994 the 120-acre holding with 16th century farmhouse was bought by David Tschaikowsky, a chartered accountant in the City. It was part of a 500-acre tenanted farm on the Herts-Bucks border two miles north of Tring that had come on the market.
David and his daughter Bella had spent eight years looking for a property with enough land so that he could realise his childhood dream of owning a home where he could keep a flock of sheep and Bella could have a livery stables with all the amenities to help her progress to the top level in eventing.
Bella and her three siblings were raised at the family home in Berkhamsted. ‘As a young boy dad spent a lot of time at a relative’s farm in Norfolk. That’s what ignited his passion for farming – he always wanted to have sheep,’ she explains.
It took David two years to transform what had been farmland into a first-class livery yard. It has 25 stables, outdoor and indoor arenas, five furlongs of rubber track gallops with a 60 metre turning circle at the bottom, a menage with a wax-coated surface, and more than 25,000 sq ft of outbuildings. For added serenity, the Grand Union Canal cuts through the land.
Bella moved into the property in 1995 to fine tune the course layout and the building work on the house. Her parents joined her in 1996. They named the livery stables the Cossack yard on account of the family’s Russian ancestry. ‘My father’s great-grandfather is in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He was the last White President of Russia before the Reds came in, at which point he fled.
‘My ancestors lived in the same village as Tschaikovsky the composer. Apparently he used to spell his name like we spell ours. The name is not that uncommon in Russia but we could be related.’
She was 26 when her father bought Manor Farm. She still remembers her mother’s horrified reaction when they went to view the property for the first time.
‘I spotted a tiny little ad at the back of a magazine about the farm being for sale,’ Bella remembers. ‘I took mum along – dad couldn’t come. Mum hated the house.’
At this point, her 81-year-old mother Rosemary chips in: ‘The rooms were small and dark. There was so much exposed brickwork. Fortunately my husband had foresight.’
The new owners tripled the size of the house, which was built when Henry VIII was on the throne. But more about that later.
Unlike her daughter, Rosemary didn’t yearn for a pony as a child, nor a flock of sheep.
‘Her parents gave her a riding lesson as a reward for getting a good school report but that was that,’ Bella says. ‘She didn’t get on a horse again until she and dad were in their 30s away on holiday and thought it would be fun to hire a horse, as you do. Dad enjoyed it so much he bought a hunter when they got home. Mum eventually got one too. My brother, who is seven years older than me, shared it with her. He’d ride up to the bottom of the garden where unbeknown to my parents, I would hop up behind, wrap my arms round his waist, hang on tight and off we’d go. I was eight at the time. When my parents found out they booked me in for lessons at Ashridge Farm Riding School. After that I joined the Herts Hunt Pony Club.’
By the time she reached 18, the upper age limit for pony club membership, she was a high enough standard to be taken on by Gill Watson, the equestrian equivalent of a Premier League coach in football.
Bella has ridden countless horses in her career, but three have a special place in her affections. The first was a pony called Valentino. Bella was recovering from a serious injury when he was sent to the yard to be sold in 2001. It was Bella who kept him. ‘I’d been training some ponies, fell off and broke my pelvis. The doctors warned me I might not be able to ride again. I was out of action for some time and I used to watch Valentino through the kitchen window. He was the horse who got me back to top level. We had a special bond. He only died a month ago.’
The second horse she will always love is Our Mission, a dark bay thoroughbred. ‘Under Gill’s supervision I had two top horses. Mission was one. I had him four years. With Mission I competed in the Blair Castle international in 2004. He finished in the top six, well enough for me to take two horses forward for training with the British team.’
Back home at Manor Farm, yanking at the bit to compete at top level with Bella, was Tuscany Jack. ‘Jack was loopy’, his rider says cheerfully, ‘definitely loopy. Nevertheless, he had the experience of competing at four star events that Mission lacked, sufficient experience to qualify for Badminton.’
Thanks to Jack, Bella’s entry was accepted. Coming 41st out of 80 starters at the famous horse trials in 2005 was a highspot of her career. ‘The cross-country course included the fearsome Vicarage Vee jump – it’s every rider’s dream to jump that,’ Bella says. Unfortunately her father wasn’t well enough to join the crowd at Badminton. Her parents watched her complete her round on TV at Manor Farm. Sadly, David died later that year.
Four years ago Bella’s career as a top rider came a cropper for a second time after she sustained a serious back injury in a fall, but she still passes on her expertise to aspiring international competitors. Cossacks continues to attract the best in the sport. Members of the GB Paralympics team used the facilities to train in the run-up to the games in Rio in 2016. Soon after that Bella,
her mother and older brother John decided to discontinue the livery side but still train riders, aided by top people in eventing. All the amenities at Cossacks are now available for outsiders to hire.
As for the farmhouse, the oldest part was built in the 16th century. Today, following the extensions added when the Tschaikowskys took over, there are six bedrooms and three bathrooms. One of the bedrooms still has wig cupboards by the fireplace where the yeoman farmer and his wife would have stowed their headgear before putting on nightcaps and hopping into bed. There are three reception rooms. The sitting room in the oldest part of the house is the heart of the home, Rosemary says. Originally it was the kitchen. At the side of the inglenook fireplace, along with a bread oven and ancient meat hook, is the ‘wages window’ where the farm labourers queued to collect their pay. Rosemary says the kitchen is ‘warm and inviting during the winter months and the perfect spot to take advantage of sunnier days when the French doors are open.’ There are now two kitchens, ‘both double as breakfast rooms.’ The stone wall by the back staircase is believed to be 500 years old.
As well as the main house there are three further bedrooms, two bathrooms, two sitting rooms and two kitchens in the granary, which the Tschaikowskys converted into staff accommodation.
After 24 years, Manor Farm is now waiting for new owners to move in and build on the present family’s achievements. The property along with the equestrian business is on the market through Hamptons International in Great Missenden. The agents are inviting offers over £4m.