Country Houses Association
The Country Houses Association (CHA) was a British charity (a friendly society with charitable status) that converted country houses into retirement flats and maintained them from 1955 until its liquidation in 2004.
The Country Houses Association Ltd was an Industrial and Provident Society formed in 1955 by Rear Admiral Greathed, originally called the Mutual Households Association (MHA). Its stated aim was to preserve historic buildings for the benefit of the nation. During its lifetime, the Association acquired nine large country houses, and restored and preserved these until their sale in 2002-4. During their ownership by the Association, all the houses were converted into retirement apartments, with communal dining and drawing rooms, with the rental income helping to pay for the house's extensive renovations and repairs (residents also paid deposits of up to £140,000). The houses were open to members of the Association and also members of the public. Sir John Adye was the chair of the CHA from 1996 until 2002.
The Association finally went into liquidation in December 2003 with the liquidators being Deloitte & Touche. The Association stated it went into liquidation because of falling demand for its apartments, the increasing age-profile of residents and the increased regulation surrounding the business. The trustees were told they could not use charity funds to support loss-making businesses with no future prospects.
- Albury Park, Albury, Surrey - purchased in 1969, sold in 2004 for £4.5m to Jennifer & Nigel Whalley (slowly being converted and sold as apartments when residents leave).
- Aynhoe Park, Aynhoe, Northamptonshire - purchased in 1959 (CHA's 2nd house), sold in 2004 to James Perkins (previously restored Dowdeswell Court in Gloucestershire) and now a single private home.
- Danny House, Hassocks, West Sussex - purchased in 1956 (CHA's 1st house), sold in 2004 for £3m to Rachael & Richard Burrows, who maintained it as serviced apartments for retired people and as a family business.
- Flete House, Holbeton, Devon - leased/purchased in 1961, sold in April 2004 to Raven Audley Court (Audley Retirement).
- Gosfield Hall, Braintree, Essex - purchased in December 1959 (CHA's 4th house), sold in early 2004 to investors and then again in December 2004 to Country House Weddings Ltd.
- Great Maytham Hall, Rolvenden, Kent - purchased in 1965, sold in 2004 to Sunley Heritage, now private apartments.
- Pythouse, Tisbury, Wiltshire - purchased in about 1959, sold in 2004 for £7m and remains a residential home.
- Swallowfield Park, Swallowfield, Berkshire - purchased about 1975, sold in 2004 to Sunley Heritage, now private apartments.
A 9th house, Greathed Manor near Dormansland in Surrey (originally called Ford Manor when designed by Robert Kerr, but changed in 1960 to Greathed Manor by the CHA in memory of its founder) had its long lease (commencing in 1959 from the Nichols family, descendants of the Spender-Clay family) sold in about 2002, at the beginning of the Association's financial troubles. In 2008 it was adapted into a nursing home. There was apparently also a 10th house run by the CHA. This may have been Otterden Place, Otterden, Faversham, Kent.
About 6 of the 8 houses were sold as "going concerns", so that most of the 180 residents could remain in their apartments. Out of the original 9 houses, 7 are still in use as retirement or nursing homes, with Aynhoe converted back into a single home in 200?.
Country Houses Foundation
Following the sale of all the houses and the restructuring of the CHA in 2004, the Country Houses Foundation (CHF) was set up in 2005, and endowed with the surplus funds from the sale of the properties, which came to approximately £15 million. It is a charitable grant-giving foundation which supports the preservation of historic houses and gardens, with its Chairman currently being Norman Hudson.
- BBC News article "Residents are saved from eviction" on 19 April 2004
- BBC News article "Historic houses to close" on 15 December 2003
- The Telegraph, "Eight historic houses for sale in charity cash crisis", by John Eifion Jones and Pippa Dunlop, 15 December 2003
- The Telegraph, "Stately homes fetch £20m", by Mark Palmer 26 March 2004
- Country Houses Foundation "What is CHF" web page