Country houses for sale

9,500 acres, 23 properties and 12 farms in the £35 million estate on the market for the first time in 650 years

Almost 10,000 acres of Northumberland is on the market as Rothbury Estate comes up for sale. Penny Churchill takes a look at what's on offer.

The Percy family’s ownership of land in Northumberland began with the purchase, by Lord Henry Percy, of the Barony of Alnwick and Alnwick Castle from the Crown in November 1309. Other lands soon followed, including the Baronies of Warkworth and Rothbury and the manors of Newburn and Corbridge, which were granted to Henry Percy, second Lord of Alnwick, by Edward III, on the death without male issue of their previous owner, John Clavering, in 1332.

Even before the purchase of Alnwick Castle and Barony, the Percy family already owned substantial land interests and was listed in Domesday as owning 118 manors in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Essex and Hampshire. Today, the Percy family portfolio of some 100,000 acres of farming, forestry and tourism interests throughout Northumberland and the Scottish Borders is managed by Alnwick-based Northumberland Estates, a privately-owned, multi-faceted organisation that, in recent years, has diversified into the commercial sector, investing in office, retail and industrial property throughout the North-East.

Although buying, selling and developing land is nothing new for Northumberland Estates, the farms and estates sector will be transfixed by the launch onto the market through Knight Frank of the historic, 9,486-acre Rothbury estate on behalf of Lord Max Percy, the Duke of Northumberland’s youngest son, who is now based full time in the South of England.

Located near the market town of Rothbury, on the edge of the Northumberland National Park, 14 miles north-west of Morpeth and 26 miles from Newcastle upon Tyne, the gloriously scenic mixed farming and sporting estate, which forms part of the Ancient Forest of Rothbury, is for sale for the first time in more than 650 years, at a guide price of £35 million for the whole.

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According to selling agent Will Matthews ‘the decision to sell has not been taken lightly, but it is hoped that the sale, which represents the largest ring-fenced carbon-offsetting opportunity to come to the open market in England, will not only maximise the environmental benefits offered by the estate, but its disposal as a single entity will allow the thriving rural community to continue to prosper, remain intact and retain its historic identity’.

The Rothbury estate comprises 12 working farms, including three in-hand farms, 3,281 acres in all; five farms let on three-generation Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies, 3,701 acres in all; and four farms let on farm business tenancies, 586 acres in all.

Scattered around the estate are 23 residential properties, let either on assured shorthold or longer-term tenancies. With negotiations on a number of tenancies currently ongoing, the estate produces an estimated rent roll of £283,000 a year. The property portfolio also includes a caravan park and the Crown & Thistle Inn.

Natural assets include 424 acres of in-hand woodland and 1,392 acres of Forestry Commission woodland, with an application pending with the Forestry Commission for tree planting over 750 acres.

The estate boasts 2,184 acres of moorland that has been actively managed as a one-day sporting moor: regarded as one of the finest driven grouse moors in Northumberland, Lordenshaws offers challenging and exciting sport with at least six main drives on undulating terrain. Other sporting opportunities include fishing on the River Coquet, one of England’s most important salmon rivers, a pheasant and partridge shoot and stalking on the moors.

The Rothbury Estate is for sale at £35 million via Knight Frank — see more details.