Manors and towers, mills and boathouses, ex-churches and… cubes?! Discover our pick of 20 of Hertfordshire’s unique and unusual homes


Abbey Orchard House, St Albans

When design guru Kevin McCloud featured this single-storey one-off home on his Channel 4 series Grand Designs, he described it as breathtaking, saying ‘the organically inspired, geometric craftsmanship hits you between the eyes’. He continued, ‘Surrounded by majestic giant trees this extraordinary, shaped house is almost lost in the green. Inside it is breathtaking, the light is so soft you can almost touch it.’ Designed by architect Rogan Gale Brown, Abbey Orchard House was built on land once owned by St Albans Abbey and sits between the River Ver and St Albans Cathedral. It’s tucked away yet only five minutes from the heart of the city. The H shaped home draws on Japanese design principles with light maple, minimalist interiors and large windows that connect the outdoor areas. A 30m glazed atrium connects the two wings of the five-bedroomed property which includes a cinema room with surround sound. A green, sedum-topped roof allows the house to blend with its surroundings and it has been built with state-of-the-art technology and energy efficiency in mind incorporating solar panels. It's for sale through Savills, £5.95m.

Great British Life: The Squirrel Run at North Hill Farm. Photo North Hill FarmThe Squirrel Run at North Hill Farm. Photo North Hill Farm

North Hill Farm, Chorleywood

Unless you are one of the Korowai people who live high above the forest floor in Indonesia, a tree house probably won’t be your main residence of choice. But how about channelling your inner adventurer and staying in one for a couple of nights? This lofty abode can be found at North Hill Farm in the heart of the Chess Valley. It stands five metres above the ground and is accessible by seven-metre long suspension bridge. A balcony and panoramic windows give guests a bird's eye view of the surrounding countryside and accommodation includes a king-sized bed with ensuite, outdoor shower and hot tub. The Squirrel Run also includes a few mod cons including Smart TV, fridge, microwave and heater. A cosy staycation which will take you back to your childhood, anyone remember the Magic Faraway Tree? Prices from £200.00 per night for two adults. For details on stays

Great British Life: A modern microhome designed by the University of Hertfordshire. Photo University of HertfordshireA modern microhome designed by the University of Hertfordshire. Photo University of Hertfordshire

University of Hertfordshire

Described as a practical, modern microhome, QB2 was designed by Dr Mike Page and his team at The University of Hertfordshire. Designed for one person or a couple wanting to live a low-carbon life, it appeared on Channel 4’s George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces in 2013.The micro house was three metres by four metres and three metres high and although compact to say the least, it packed in a fully functional kitchen, galley bathroom, two-seater sofa and two further ottomans for four-person dining/sitting, movable four-seater table, storage space and a full-sized double bed. Low-energy options offered the potential for zero energy-bills. The outer structure was designed so it could be assembled and made waterproof in around four hours and it was estimated that the whole build could be completed in three to four days. The mini house could be transported by road and was aimed at those seeking independent housing, for leisure purposes, to house temporary workers or for emergency accommodation. Sadly, commercially the project didn’t take off, but we think it could be a great idea for those with boomerang kids.

Great British Life: Big Brother house 2014 credit: C4Big Brother house 2014 credit: C4


Is it really over 20 years ago that Big Brother premiered on Channel 4? The ground-breaking reality television series involved a diverse group of people living in a purpose-built house offering viewers the chance to watch the ‘housemates’ 24 hours a day on a live stream and vote for their favourites. Originally filmed in Bow, London, filming was moved to Elstree for the third series. The cameras, 87 of them, were strategically placed around the house and 110 microphones made sure no drama was missed. During this time, a total of 619 housemates passed through the famous Borehamwood house. The first winner at Elstree Studios was Kate Lawler. She survived 64 days in the house with over 10 million viewers tuning in to watch the season finale. Davina said in an interview with Channel 4 , ‘I lived and breathed Big Brother for 11 years of my life. It made me laugh, it made me cry and most importantly it taught me to never judge a book by its cover.’ Fans of the series will be pleased to hear a new one is planned this October.

Great British Life: North Lodge at gate house in the grounds of Knebworth Estate. Photo Knebworth House and GardensNorth Lodge at gate house in the grounds of Knebworth Estate. Photo Knebworth House and Gardens

Knebworth Park

While we would all like to live in the splendor of Knebworth House, although perhaps not appreciate cleaning it, it is possible to live like a mini lord in the estate’s North Lodge. During the 1880s Robert, 1st Earl of Lytton, began a series of additions to his home at Knebworth House, including adding a third storey and a water tower. In 1886 work began on a new access to Knebworth Park from Stevenage via two new lodges known as North Lodges. Robert was very involved in the design of the building. The three-bedroom property is now rented out by the estate. It has a private garden, but tenants are given access to the estate and parkland. You never know you may bump into Lord Cobbold and of course the parks iconic concerts can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own garden.

Great British Life: Amh House, Harpenden. Photo The Modern HouseAmh House, Harpenden. Photo The Modern House

Ahm House, Harpenden

This spectacular home, set in a leafy road on the outskirts of Harpenden has been described as ‘the best modern house in the world’ and considering it was designed by Jorn Utzon- the same man who created the Sydney Opera House, it’s easy to see why. The house was built in the early 1960s and took two years to complete. The finished result is a celebration of the beauty of engineering. It was originally designed by Utzon for a friend- and a fellow Dane- named Povl Ahm and has undergone several extensions over the decades. The house is entered via a car port. From here steps lead up to a living room boasting full length floor to ceiling glass windows which overlook glorious gardens. It was sold through

Great British Life: Building you own at Twyford Bury Lane, Bishop's Stortford. Photo Modern HouseBuilding you own at Twyford Bury Lane, Bishop's Stortford. Photo Modern House

Twyford Bury Lane, Bishop's Stortford

As the movie quote goes: ‘If you build it they will come’. Well, if you are lucky enough to secure this plot of land on the southern fringe of Bishop’s Stortford, you could build your dream home- then everyone will want to come. The freehold plot of land could be yours for £500,000 and has planning permission for an expansive single storey house. Award-winning architects StudioSDA has designed a home full of voluminous, light filled spaces. The living accommodation would radiate around a central glazed circular courtyard, unfurling into an acre and half of landscaped gardens. The design of the home is inspired by the Venus flower basket, a deep-sea sponge found in the Pacific Ocean. It's on sale through

Great British Life: Stay in an old converted Victorian water tower in Benington. Photo Francesca AldenStay in an old converted Victorian water tower in Benington. Photo Francesca Alden

The Old Tower, Benington

Fancy renting a unique abode fit for Rapunzel- how about a refurbished, ivy covered 60ft high Victorian water tower? The Tower in Benington can be rented through Airbnb and despite its gorgeous historic features including delightful roof terrace with tower turrets, it has all the mod cons that guests would like and need- including wifi and satellite TV. The water tower was built in 1890 to supply a private Benington estate. After a lavish refurb the space now has a light and airy vibe, and with four bedrooms and four bathrooms space won’t be an issue. There’s also a wine room, a folly and a summerhouse outside in the gardens. Don’t forget to bring your walking boots as the woodlands which surround the property are ripe for exploring.

Great British Life: Standon Mill. Photo SavillsStandon Mill. Photo Savills

Standon Mill

If you hanker after a luxury home situated within a charming village, then an apartment in Standon Mill- a converted old Victorian flour mill- is the perfect choice. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom, home listed for £400,000, is located next to the River Rib and boasts plenty of natural light and original period features. The home has the best of both worlds with historic touches such as exposed brickwork, high ceilings and original pillars and windows, fused with modern, open plan spaces. There’s even a balcony, overlooking the river, where you can kick back and relax while the communal gardens boast manicured lawns, mature trees and a meandering gravel path. The home is on the market through Savills.

Great British Life: Ashraya won RIBA East building of the year. Photo Edmund SumnerAshraya won RIBA East building of the year. Photo Edmund Sumner

Ashraya, Aldbury

It’s not a surprise that Ashraya - a low carbon, contemporary rural house located within the Chiltern Hills with views to die for – has won a plethora of architectural and design awards. Set over three-levels, the house, which was completed in 2022, nestles into the surrounding rolling landscape. Architect Kirkland Fraser Moor’s strong geometric design has been praised as entirely of its time, yet it melts seamlessly into its surroundings. The project, which evolved over a five year period, was designed holistically. Sustainability was the driving force in design, construction and operation with the aim that the total past, present and future carbon footprint is as low as it can feasibly be. The home in Aldbury won RIBA East Building of the Year and Project Architect of the Year.

Great British Life: Le Diplomate, Hampton Hall Farm, Rickmansworth. Le Diplomate, Hampton Hall Farm, Rickmansworth.

Le Diplomate, Rickmansworth

Many of us daydream about living near the water - even on a houseboat. But for most of us it would have to be a luxury houseboat that tempts us away from bricks and mortar - we're thinking of the one Tom Hanks lived on in the film Sleepless in Seattle. However, Le Diplomate – a stylish floating home on a private residential mooring in Rickmansworth could most definitely do the trick. This charming floating home is awash in natural sunlight and offers enchanting views. The layout includes an open-plan kitchen/reception of 30ft, a full bathroom, generous double bedroom, sun deck and even parking space. The leasehold houseboat was recently listed for £260,000.

Great British Life: Stained glass windows and a working bell tower add to the charm of Church House. Photo Wright & CoStained glass windows and a working bell tower add to the charm of Church House. Photo Wright & Co

The Old Church, Allen’s Green, Sawbridgeworth

Holy moly this is a divine house. Originally the church of St Anne, designed by GE Pritchett and dating from 1863, it was sensitively converted in 2013 and is now a grade II listed home with bags of charm. Inside and out, there are still plenty of features in this single-storey home to remind you of its origins: high ceilings, exposed beams, stained glass windows and a working bell tower. It has a large open kitchen-diner-reception space, complete with wood-burning stove, and there are two bedrooms, one with an ensuite bathroom, and an additional shower room. Outside, there’s parking for three cars and a wrap-around garden. If this is the home of your dreams, the great news is it’s up for sale - £575,000 and it could be yours – possibly a prayer answered!

Great British Life: Stay at the Witches House. Photo Richard Meredith-HardyStay at the Witches House. Photo Richard Meredith-Hardy

The Witch's House, Radwell

This is the stuff of fairy tales: so much so that reputedly local children refer to this century-old cottage as ‘The Witch’s House’. It must be the home of a good witch though – it’s far too cute to give off anything but positive vibes. Available to rent for a truly ‘magical’ holiday, this Radwell riverside retreat boasts a mezzanine main bedroom (accessible via a ladder, so you’ll need to be nimble), with a sofa that transforms into a comfortable king-sized bed downstairs, along with living space, kitchen and bathroom. There’s no central heating, so you’ll need to keep the stove well stoked if you visit in winter. Once warmer weather comes, French doors open out to a patio looking over the river Ivel and surrounding woodland. Sounds like a spell-binding proposition to us...

Great British Life: The Old Boat House on the banks of the Grand Union Canal. Photo Martyn Drabik, My Home Property MarketingThe Old Boat House on the banks of the Grand Union Canal. Photo Martyn Drabik, My Home Property Marketing

The Old Boathouse, Berkhamsted

With its wonderful location on the banks of the Grand Union Canal, the Old Boathouse in Berkhamsted is an aquaphile’s dream. What you’ll get for the £2.75m guide price you should you want to call it home is accommodation arranged over three floors with four bedrooms, five bathrooms and light filled, pared back living space: think contemporary fireplaces, black-framed windows, designer lighting and wooden floors. There’s also a roof terrace, enabling you to make the most of the setting on warmer days. Attached to this is the converted boathouse itself – a substantial space that would make an ideal family room or artist’s studio. If you’ve got your own boat, you’ll get private mooring with it, and the entire property is reached via gated access. Wind up living here and you’ll surely be home and dry.

Great British Life: Temple Gardens, an Art Deco house in Rickmansworth. Photo RobsonsTemple Gardens, an Art Deco house in Rickmansworth. Photo Robsons

Temple Gardens, Rickmansworth

This rare 1930s Art Deco house, situated in Rickmansworth’s exclusive Moor Park Estate, is a paean to architectural panache. Features inside the house in Temple Gardens include an impressive curved and panelled walnut staircase in the hallway – just the sort of thing you would imagine Fred Astaire incorporating into one of his dance routines. Reception rooms feature original Art Deco fireplaces and were designed for entertaining on a grand scale, above all – there’s simply masses of space. Eight bedrooms include a master suite with its own bathroom, dressing room and lounge – ideal for anyone who likes their own area within a family home. Outside, large lawns are planted with mature specimen trees and, behind the house, the garden backs onto Moor Park Golf Course – great if you’re handy with a four iron. And just how much will this sort of glamour and seclusion will set you back? A cool £3.795m.

Great British Life: Cell Park Markyate Photo: HamptonsCell Park Markyate Photo: Hamptons

Cell Park, Markyate

Here’s a house with history: this huge nine-bedroom mansion was built on land previously belonging to Markyate Priory following the dissolution of the monasteries back in 1539. It was subsequently remodelled over the centuries and became home to Lady Katherine Ferrers, reputedly the ‘Wicked Lady’, a 17th-century highwaywoman who operated in Hertfordshire and was eventually shot at Nomansland Common, close to where The Wicked Lady pub now stands. Plump for this as your next home and you’ll get jaw-dropping spaces (including a sprung-floored ballroom), a two-bedroom staff cottage and grade II-listed gardens to wander through. At this time of year you might want to keep your eyes open for the ghost of a nun, said to wander the grounds… £4.99m.

Great British Life: The Hexton Manor Estate is between Hitchin and Harlington (Credit Savills)The Hexton Manor Estate is between Hitchin and Harlington (Credit Savills)

Hexton Manor, Hexton

Someone didn’t miss the chance to live the Bridgerton dream when magnificent Hexton Manor came on the market back in 2022. Located on the edge of the Chilterns near Hitchin, the current Grade II listed house was built in 1767 under the guidance of the memorably named architect Newdigate Poynt, Snr. Following in the footsteps of previous occupants including Herts High Sheriff Andrew Laoutour and wealthy textile merchant, George Hodgson, the new owner not only has 11 bedrooms to call his or her own, but additional spaces including a reception hall with its own hand-painted dome ceiling. Additional houses, cottages, stables (used as office spaces), landscaped parkland and walled gardens were included in the deal too. Sounds like the sort of home no one would want to leave in a hurry.

Great British Life: Towering over Walkern, The Tower House. Photo DreampadTowering over Walkern, The Tower House. Photo Dreampad

Brewery Tower, Walkern

You certainly won't need a stair climber to keep you fit at this property. The house which towers above the properties in Walkern will certainly keep your steps up. Once part of Wrights Brewery, it was built around 100 years ago and was originally a granary store. The Tower House has been sympathetically renovated and extended to make a very unique home. Accommodation is arranged over five floors with three double bedrooms all on different levels. A stunning roof terrace has sweeping views over the village and surrounding fields. Owner Adam Jordan loves living in such a unique property. 'From the terrace, there are uninterrupted 360-degree views of the countryside,' he says.

Great British Life: The tiny house in Tring. Photo: Cesare & CoThe tiny house in Tring. Photo: Cesare & Co


One of Britain's tiniest homes can be found in Western Road, Tring. This super-slim, one-bedroom property was formerly a shop unit and was converted for residential use by Tring-based architect Katharine Allen. The single-storey property was redesigned with an all glass frontage, vaulted ceilings and high-end fittings such as Corian worktops. It has a kitchen/living room area and small dining space which leads into a modern bathroom and master bedroom. It also has its own parking space. The quirky 479sq ft property has been featured in the Daily Telegraph’s list of Britain’s tiniest homes. It was last sold by Cesare & Co in 2019.

Great British Life: Roly Poly Cottage. Photo MullucksRoly Poly Cottage. Photo Mullucks

Roly Poly Cottage, Barley

Not only did we have to include this picture postcard cottage for its charm but who wouldn't love this address - Roly Poly Cottage situated in Pudding Lane? The delightful two-bedroomed property is 450 years old and has been in the hands of owner Rosie for 17 years. She describes the cosy cottage as 'very calm'. 'It is an old lady and you have to treat her with respect,' she adds. Over the year's Rosie has had Americans posing outside for photos, a visit from a bride who had always wanted her picture taken outside the grade II listed cottage (Rosie had a glass of Champagne with the wedding party) and a man who had lived in the cottage as a young boy. It is made of wattle and daub and was once two 'hovels' which would have housed two farming families. A quintessential English cottage.