The poet A.E. Housman made much of the fact that his native county boasted some of ?the quietest places under the sun?. However, for Shropshire estate agent Mark Wiggin of Lane Fox, life has been just a little too tranquil of late. ?For the first four years after the millennium, Shropshire was definitely ?the flavour of the month? and country-house prices rose by almost 20% a year. But the market has been much quieter in the past 18 months or so, especially at the very top end, and I can only think of two houses in the county which have sold for more than £2 million this year,? Mr Wiggin laments.
A million pounds is still a lot to pay for a house in Shropshire, he says, and people who retire to the county from other parts of England can expect to get a really good deal for their money. Which may explain why the handsome, Georgian Eardington Manor at Eardington, near the ancient market town of Bridgnorth, has yet to find a buyer after more than a year on the market.
The charming six-bedroom house, with 4.5 acres of glorious gardens and grounds, was previously offered for sale by another agent at considerably more than the £1.1m guide price currently quoted by Lane Fox?s Bridgnorth office (01746 766626), so perhaps still has to live down a reputation for being over-priced.
The same office quotes a guide price of £1.25m for elegant Bromley House in the hamlet of Bromley, 3? miles north-east of Bridgnorth, and 10 miles from Telford. The substantial Victorian house, built in about 1840, has been extensively renovated by the present owners without losing any of its original character. The house has four reception rooms, five/six bedrooms and two bathrooms, stabling, a swimming pool, a coach house with planning consent for conversion, and 2.6 acres of lovely gardens and grounds.
Edging gently upwards, the Ludlow office of Lane Fox (01584 873711) quotes a guide price of £1.5m for historic Aston Hall on the edge of Aston Munslow in scenic Corve Dale, with panoramic views across the unspoilt South Shropshire countryside. The 17th-century house, listed Grade II*, has splendid period features, including some fine oak panelling and timbers and an oak staircase.
The delightfully rambling accommo- dation includes four reception rooms, a kitchen and breakfast room, seven bed- rooms, four bath/shower rooms, attics, cellars and a heated indoor swimming pool. The 13.5 acres of grounds include formal gardens, a three-bedroom coach house, a traditional stone barn, a tennis court and paddocks.
A sharp intake of breath is the sound most likely to be heard around Netley Hall at Dorrington, six miles south of Shrewsbury, as prospective purchasers absorb the impact of the recent transformation of the previously run-down Victorian Hall into an imposing country mansion of quite remarkable splendour.
The present Georgian-style Netley Hall, listed Grade II, was built for Thomas Hope-Edwardes in 1854?56 to the designs of the Shrewsbury architect Edward Haycock. The main rooms were grouped around a magnificent galleried hall under a stained-glass panelled ceiling, with a staircase rising at one end of the hall, ?as grand as in a London Club?, according to Pevsner.
Six years ago, the current owners of Netley Hall bought the crumbling mansion and its 150-acre estate situated six miles from Shrewsbury on the Welsh borders, and embarked upon a monumental programme of restoration. Now, not only have they completely restored and modernised the house with its magnificent reception hall, five grand reception rooms, 14 bedrooms (12 with en-suite bath/shower rooms), and indoor swimming pool, but they have added a complex of 12 holiday cottages, as well as state-of-the-art sports facilities, including a sports hall, a football pitch, an AstroTurf tennis court, six fishing lakes and a golf hole.
For selling agent Tony Morris-Eyton of Savills (01952 239500), Netley Hall has ?everything that the rich man could want?, in this or any other age. But the house has practical aspects, too, in that the original servants? quarters have been adapted as a more or less self-contained unit for everyday family living, with the grand reception rooms kept for entertaining on a lavish scale.
The 150-acre Netley Hall estate is now being sold, either as a whole at £8.5m, or in four lots, with the hall, the gardens, and 80 acres of parkland on offer at £4m.
This article first appeared in Country Life magazine on October 19 2006