Like the proverbial football match, 2008 has been a year of two halves in Shropshire, says Mark Wiggin of Strutt & Parker’s Shrewsbury office (01743 284200), who explains: ‘Strange as it may seem, it’s easier to sell country houses now than it was earlier in the year, because vendors have finally come to terms with what has happened to the market, and begun to adjust their prices, by 20% or more in some cases. As a result, buyers especially those coming up from the South, where country house prices are still almost double those in Shropshire are now more willing to negotiate, and deals are being done, eventually.’ Although prospective vendors of fine houses elsewhere in the country seem more inclined to batten down the hatches and stay put until the market improves, Shropshire currently has an impressive number of good country properties with which to tempt potential purchasers.
A few weeks ago, Strutt & Parker launched the beautifully converted Redhill Mill on the edge of Hook-a-Gate village, three miles south-west of Shrewsbury, at a guide price of £1.35 million. The rambling red-brick house comprises part of an early-17th-century watermill, last known to be working in the 1950s, together with a Victorian wing and a converted maltings. Set in idyllic rolling countryside, Redhill Mill has three reception rooms, a games room, a kitchen/breakfast room, a study, six bedrooms, four bathrooms, garaging, outbuildings, and 3.8 acres of gardens and paddocks, with single-bank fishing on the Rea Brook.
Launched by Strutt & Parker in May with a guide price of £900,000, towering 18th-century Stone House Farm at East Wall, between Church Stretton and Much Wenlock in the scenic south Shropshire hills, has seen its price reduced to £850,000. The traditional Shropshire stone farmhouse stands in 5.5 acres of landscaped gardens and paddocks, and has two main reception rooms, a large kitchen/breakfast room, five bedrooms and two bathrooms, plus a Dutch barn and a splendid range of brick and stone outbuildings with potential for development.
Following the downward trend, the handsome Victorian Old Vicarage in the peaceful village of Uppington, half-way between Shrewsbury and Telford, was launched on the market in May at £975,000; Strutt & Parker now quote a reduced guide price of £899,000. Despite a steady stream of viewings, no one could quite bring themselves to sign on the dotted line, sighs Mr Wiggin. Built in the 1850s and recently refurbished by the current owners, the finely proportioned, 3,924sq ft house has three reception rooms, a garden room, a kitchen/breakfast room, five bedrooms, four bath/ shower rooms, a terrace and three-quarters of an acre of garden, as well as glorious views of The Wrekin and the surrounding countryside.
Shropshire has always been a quiet county, but the silence has been somewhat deafening of late, admits Tony Morris-Eyton of Savills in Telford (01952 139500). Yet, despite the gridlock in mortgage lending generally, Mr Morris-Eyton finds that professional buyers, such as accountants, doctors and lawyers, can still access finance of up to 60% or 70% of a property’s value; ‘aspirational’ businessmen, on the other hand, seem to be getting a much cooler reception. He is hoping that improved liquidity will gradually unlock the market in the coming months, especially around that magical £1m price bracket. £1m is the guide price quoted by Savills for charming Hobsley House in picturesque Frodesley village, eight miles south of Shrewsbury and within the Shropshire Hills AONB.
The 8,034sq ft former rectory to the neighbouring church of St Mark’s was built in the 1740s on the site of an earlier house that was destroyed by fire. The main reception rooms were added in the 1830s, and the whole property was remodelled in the 1880s. The much-loved family home of its current owners for more than 20 years, Hobsley House has three main reception rooms, six main bedrooms, two attic bedrooms, three bath/shower rooms, a separate two bedroom cottage and a period barn, the whole set in more than seven acres of part-walled gardens and land.
Wollaston Lodge in the hamlet of Wollaston, 12 miles west of Shrewsbury, is an elegant, three-storey, Victorian family house with wonderful views of the glorious South Shropshire Hills, which has seen its price slashed by Savills from £875,000 to £799,000. Built in about 1840, the 3,549sq ft main house has two reception rooms, five bedrooms, five bath/shower rooms and a converted coach house set in lovely terraced gardens laid out by its present owners, who are award-winning garden designers.