Meet the brothers who snapped up landmark Bewdley mansion for £800k
It has hosted visits from Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Rudyard Kipling and even Charles De Gaulle, who came to see French troops ahead of the D-Day landings.
Now the historic Grade II-listed Ribbesford House on the outskirts of Bewdley is to take on a new lease of life after being purchased by two self-made millionaires.
Wolverhampton-based brothers Samuel and Russell Leeds paid £800,000 at auction for the three-storey home, which dates back to the mid-16th century.
The estate is first mentioned in an Anglo-Saxon charter dated early in the 11th Century, which states that it was given by Wulstan, Bishop of Worcester, to his sister.
In more recent times, it was requisitioned and used by British, American and Free French military during the Second World War.
It was also visited by French general Charles DeGaulle in July 1942.
There is a monument to the Free French at the building, which housed more than 200 French soldiers.
Following the war, it was bought by Wing Commander Alfred John Howell and his wife in 1947, who converted it into 12 apartments.
But the family sold up after the run-down property, which was vacated in September, had become too much to upkeep.
The new owners, who made their money in property investment despite both leaving school aged 16, want to restore the building, creating luxury apartments for rent.
Two cottages on the eight-acre site could be turned into holiday lets.
The pair aim to spend £750,000 on a revamp of the estate.
Russell, aged 29, said: “We are highly conscious of its history and the importance of preserving the building.
“It has immense character and we intend to return it to its heyday. I love old buildings and love them to stay – I live in a Tudor house myself.”
Samuel, 27, said: “We are looking at several options as to how to best use the available space
“Two of the flats have 45 squsre metre sitting rooms. The accommodation really is vast and would suit people who love the country life but also want to be close to urban facilities.”
Ribbesford House was originally built by the family of Edward Lord Herbert, Master of the Revels for Kings Charles I and II and the Bewdley MP, back in the mid-16th century.
The Herbert coat of arms is carved in stone into one of the walls. And correspondence was discovered in one of the towers, including letters between the family and the Queen of Bohemia, Oliver Cromwell and General Fairfax in recent years.
However, in recent times the house has come under need of major investment. Asbestos is in two of the kitchens and Japanese knotweed is in the garden.
One part of the building’s roof has also caved in. In the past, the estate has boasted large formal gardens with a fountain, moat, rose gardens, ponds, a shrubbery and even a tennis court.
It was listed for auction by Andrew Grant with a guide price of £500,000.
The brothers were originally outbid, but were told a day later that the buyer had withdrawn, and it was theirs.
The pair, who attended Emmanuel School in Walsall, recently formed the Leeds Group, which is based at Hilton Hall near Wolverhampton.