For many southerners, the designation ?north Midlands? immediately conjures up images of red-brick houses huddled together in rows of identical streets stained with the grime of the Industrial Revolution. Yet despite their industrial heritage, the land-locked counties of Staffordshire and Derbyshire offer some of the most glorious rural landscapes in England, a fact reflected in the nomination of Derbyshire?s 540sq mile Peak District as Britain?s first national park in 1951, closely followed by that of Staffordshire?s Cannock Chase a few years later.
?In the past, Staffordshire would probably not have been the first choice of someone looking to buy a property in an undiscovered corner of the English countryside, but the opening of the M6 toll-road has begun to change all that,? says Stuart Flint of Knight Frank?s Birmingham office.
So it was entirely appropriate that the first person to drive along the toll road when it opened two years ago should have been well known local property developer and amateur historian Fred Pritchard, now the vendor of one of Staffordshire?s most delectable country properties, the 204-acre Chestall Hall estate near Lichfield.
Knight Frank (0121?200 2220) and John German (01785 236600) quote a guide price of £2.5 million for Chestall Hall, which was once part of the vast Beau Desert estate granted to the Paget family in 1546 by Henry VIII. Chestall was bought by Henry Paget, the first earl of Uxbridge, in the late 1700s, and from 1834 to about 1892 was occupied by the Darling family, who were land agents to the Marquis of Anglesey.
In 1896, the Hall was let to John Reid Walker of distilling fame, who extended the main house and greatly enhanced the gardens. Mr Pritchard bought the property in 1996, since when he has completely restored the Hall, which has four fine reception rooms, eight bedrooms and four bathrooms, plus wonderful gardens, a tennis court and swimming pool, a walled kitchen garden, a lake and 2,400sq ft
of garaging and stabling.
This article was originally published in Country Life magazine, October 13, 2005. To subscribe click here.