A SPRAWLING estate sprinkled with cottages and historical remnants has been put up for sale.

Oxford University is selling Nuneham Park near Oxford after almost half a century in its care, in a "rare and exciting" opportunity that could see the 18th century site spruced up to former glory.

The 1,054 acre plot in the village of Nuneham Courtenay – complete with country mansion Nuneham House, three recently –vacated farms and registered grounds originally designed by Capability Brown - is no longer used by the university.

Richard Binning, director of farms and estates at Savills, began advertising the estate on Wednesday with a princely price tag of £22m.

He said: "It makes for something very interesting to look at and be a part of – you are really owning a part of history.

"There is a change of occupancy from the existing farmer who has been there over 50 years.

"It's an incredibly rare and exciting proposition - it comes alongside diverse income streams, investment and redevelopment potential."

The land was bought by Viscount Harcourt in 1712 and was developed by his descendants before they sold it to Oxford University in 1948, while it was in use by the RAF, and was used for studying and storage.

It was graced in its heyday by grandiose guests including King George III, who described it as "the most enjoyable place I know", and a newlywed Queen Victoria who hailed it as "a most lovely place".

Throwbacks to its past include the remains of a brick ice house, shrouded in thickets of woodland that lie in the park, and a cow tunnel where farmers once herded livestock.

Nuneham House, a lodge, and grounds of about 39 acres are currently being let to the Global Retreat Centre.

Mr Binning said: "The mansion house is subject to a long lease so we are not majoring on that – it's a relatively minor part of the whole picture."

He said there are 29 other rented properties dotted around the estate, from terraced cottages to the detached farmhouse on one of the agricultural plots, plus commercial areas including a metal yard and various estate buildings.

Mr Binning added: "We are obviously very keen that we carefully select the buyer and any changes will all be subject to planning permission. The tenanted properties have all been contacted."

The estate is currently owned by The Oxford Funds, an arm of the university that holds £2.9bn of charitable endowment on behalf of the central university, 22 colleges and four collegiate trusts. It will be sold as a whole or in three parts.

Harcourt Arboretum, which adjoins the site, will remain under the university's ownership.