Walk along the Thames towpath in Berkshire and Oxfordshire and you might see some of the most sought-after homes in the country, many owned by A-liste
Walk along the Thames towpath in Berkshire and Oxfordshire and you might see some of the most sought-after homes in the country, many owned by A-listers.
George and Amal Clooney live on an island near Sonning; Russell Brand (for all his wild-child posturing) lives in a £3 million quintessentially English cottage on the banks at Henley; while George Michael ended his days in 2016 in his riverside home in Goring.
Now the house that has a place in the hearts of all heavy rock music aficionados has come onto the market — the boathouse overlooking the Thames at Pangbourne, where guitarist Jimmy Page lived between 1967 and 1973.
Rock ’n’ stroll: Jimmy Page’s former boathouse overlooking the Thames at Pangbourne is on sale for £1.65m
Page bought this house, which seems to float above the river, for £6,000 — money he had made from his years with The Yardbirds. According to rock music legend, on July 20, 1968, he travelled to see Robert Plant, 19, performing at a training college in Walsall.
Page, then 24, was so impressed he invited him back to Pangbourne. And so Led Zeppelin was formed.
Plant, who was living in the spare room above a pub at the time, must have been in awe. The house was a three-storey boathouse complete with a dry dock on the ground floor.
Inside, a big stained-glass window overlooked the river and the interior was decorated with art-deco artefacts, paintings, books and model trains.
Now 50 years on, the home’s owner is the Oscar-winning film producer Gareth Ellis-Unwin, 51, best known for The King’s Speech.
‘When I bought the house, the owners had tastelessly divided it into two halves,’ he says leading the way into the airy kitchen-living room with its floor-to-ceiling windows which open on to a balcony. ‘I wanted to bring the building together again, focusing on the river view that attracted Jimmy.’
Gareth and his artist wife, Rosie, have added considerably to the property in the eight years since they moved in.
They have installed double glazing, put in a steam room and a hot tub and refurbished the swimming pool, which replaces the dry dock.
Rosie has her own studio, but the most impressive feature is the miniature cinema. It has ten leather seats, film posters on the walls and a professional cinema projector. It cost over £55,000 and is the ideal place for Gareth and his friends to enjoy one of his collection of 10,000 films.
‘When I told my careers teacher I wanted to work in film he said I wasn’t intelligent enough,’ he says wryly.
‘The next time I met him I was giving a speech at the school after I’d won an Oscar and seven Baftas.’ The house is on sale for £1.65 million (singletonanddaughter.co.uk).
Homes with an outlook over the river do not come cheap. ‘A water view adds about 20 per cent to the price,’ says Nick Wooldridge, of Stacks property finders.
‘Henley and Shiplake are particularly expensive. You find smaller houses at The Warren, west of Reading but they don’t often come on the market.’
L ocation, as ever is important. Some buyers favour being on a bend in the river to enjoy views up and downstream. Others prefer being slightly back from the bank, to avoid the prying eyes of day-trippers.
Connections from this section of the Thames are excellent. The train into London takes only 55 minutes and Heathrow is 35 minutes away by road.
However, flooding can be a problem. Only a few years ago there were pictures of the gardens owned by Russell Brand, Debbie McGee and Ricky Gervais under water. Wooldridge says: ‘Vendors have a duty of care to inform you if the house has flooded and insurance companies check.’
What makes a riverbank home so precious? ‘It’s that view,’ says Gareth, pointing out across the river to the beautiful meadow opposite his home.
‘No one can build on that land because it is flood plain. You can guarantee you have that view for life.’