Accustomed as we are, to absolute discretion, we are more than capable of keeping a secret. But the intrigue surrounding the brief handed to us by David and Julia Bridger tested us to our limits. We were asked to find farm buildings and land in Sussex that would make a home and could also be converted for commercial use. We had a guide price to work with. And we knew that there was likely to be a change of use application. But we weren’t allowed to know the exact nature of that business. Curiouser and curiouser.
Two years on, the plan has come to full fruition. Keyneston Mill in Dorset, and its surrounding 50 acre estate, is the home of Parterre Fragrances, and is now the UK’s largest private botanic garden dedicated to scent.
Dorset? Mill? Weren’t we briefed to find a farm in Sussex? True, but we said to the Bridgers when we presented our credentials and initial search strategy, “We’ll deliver what you need. But it might be different to what you think you need.”
“Middleton found us a fantastic property by the River Stour,” says David Bridger. “And there is no way we would have found it, let alone bought it, without them. It wasn’t what we set out looking for – but despite the fact we were only able to share with Ben some very sketchy details about our business idea, he somehow managed to come up with a property that has proved to be absolutely perfect.”
At a launch in 18 November, Keyneston Mill was revealed as the creative and experimental base of Parterre Fragrances, with the 50-acre estate dedicated solely to aromatic and scented plants. Three luxury fragrances have been created by master perfumer Jacques Chabert and Parterre have launched exclusively at Fortnum and Mason. The estate is also home to perfume workshops, a distillery, crop fields, the Lost Orchard, River Meadow, a Dome and cocktail garden, a gallery and a café.
“Middleton have really helped us on our journey,” says David Bridger. “And the service that Ben Horne provided far exceeded search and acquisition, and that has been important to us as other things related to the property emerged in the months following the purchase.”
“This was a really fascinating commission,” says Ben Horne of Middleton Advisors. “We are not commercial property buyers or advisors, but on this occasion we were able to locate an off-market property with loads of potential to be developed in quite a flexible way and with change of use permissions. The Bridgers obviously knew, even more than we did, what a perfect location we’d found.”