Few rural counties of England have a better supply of good schools and fine country houses than Worcester-shire, a fact that has gradually dawned on house-hunters from London and the West Midlands who previously would not have strayed beyond the Cotswolds. Traditional Worcestershire villages such as Belbroughton, Birlingham, Chaddesley Corbett, the Combertons, Hanley Swan, Himbleton, Ombersley and Suckley have been popular family targets in a year of short supply elsewhere, says Jonathan Bengough of Knight Frank in Worcester (01905 723438).
Knight Frank launched pretty Church House at North Piddle, near Pershore, on the market in April and sold it for £940,000 in July to a buyer from the West Midlands. Hall Farm House at Bricklehampton, near Pershore originally the farmstead to the Bricklehampton Hall estate went to auction in July with a guide price of £515,000, and was knocked down to a local buyer for £685,000.
Meadows Farm at Stoke Prior, near Bromsgrove, went to ‘best and final offers’ when it came on the market in September at £795,000; it eventually sold to a buyer from Birmingham for more than £900,000. For Mr Bengough, the sale of the year was elegant Mathon Lodge at West Malvern, which came on the market in May, went under offer in August, and was sold to a London buyer for £1.4 million in September.
This year has been ‘a vast improvement’ on last year for Worcester-based Andrew Grant (01905 734735) who, with Humberts, found a buyer for Well Furlong at Little Comberton, near Pershore, ‘for several hundred thousands more’ than the £1.95m guide price.
And the season is far from over, as Mr Grant still has a sizeable portfolio of good houses left to sell. The pick of the bunch is undoubtedly the exquisite 16th-century Earls Croome Court at Earls Croome, near Upton upon Severn, which is on the market at a guide price of £1.395m. This is the 10,000sq ft former dower house to the surrounding Croome Court estate, and should not be confused with the Grade I-listed Croome Court itself a Robert Adam house with grounds by Capability Brown which is also on the market (through Knight Frank, at £2.75m).
Where in the Cotswolds would you find a 2,700sq ft, 17th-century village house with gardens and spectacular views, for less than £700,000, Mr Grant asks, citing the example of Upper Norgrove at Alfrick, six miles from Malvern, as an example of the value for money to be found in the county. The secluded family house, set in enchanting traditional gardens, has four reception rooms, five bedrooms and two bathrooms.
And, at a guide price of £985,000, Astley Towne at Astley, between the popular north Worcestershire villages of Shrawley and Dunley, is also ‘not expensive’ in Mr Grant’s view. The Grade II-listed house, once owned by the Baldwin family of nearby Astley Hall, stands in 3.75 acres of gardens and paddock, and is for sale for only the third time in more than 150 years. It has four main reception rooms, seven bedrooms and three bathrooms, plus a detached two-bedroom cottage.
Moving up a notch, £1.15m will buy Grade II-listed Perry House at Hartlebury in rural north Worcester-shire, but still within easy reach of Kidderminster, Worcester, Bromsgrove and Droitwich, and good schools such as King’s Worcester, the Royal Grammar School, Alice Ottley and Bromsgrove School. Built in about 1741, with Victorian and late-20th-century additions, Perry House is a serious country property with five reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, five double bedrooms, three bathrooms, a coach house, outbuildings and more than three acres of gardens and grounds.
Moving south again, villages such as Suckley and Alfrick in the tranquil Teme valley west of Worcester are still relatively undiscovered by buyers from outside the county, says Tim Gascon of Humberts (01905 720100), who quotes a guide price of £875,000 for the traditional timber-framed Haventree at Suckley, which has glorious views over open countryside. The 3,359sq ft house, listed Grade II, stands in two acres of delightful cottage gardens, and has three main reception rooms, six bedrooms and three bathrooms.
This article first appeared in Country Life magazine on November 9 2006