Country estate goes on the market for first time in 1,000 years

A beautiful country house has gone onto the market for the first time in almost 1,000 years. But you'll need to have a bit of money to buy it.

Shakenhurst Hall, in Cleobury Mortimer, near Kidderminster in Worcestershire, which is older than many of the world's countries, has an asking price of £12 million, slightly more (in today's money) than it was when listed in the Domesday Book in 1086.

The quintessentially English country home has 13 bedrooms and seven bathrooms and stands in 1,300 acres of gardens and land containing six farms and 12 houses and cottages

It also has links to some of the most momentous events of English history, such as the Battle of Hastings and the Hundred Years' War.

In 1086 the manor of Shakenhurst was in the ownership of Ralph de Toeni, the son of a Norman baron who fought in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and died aged 74 in 1102.

His father had a fearsome reputation fighting the Saracens in what is now Spain, who was known to boil his captives and feed them to other prisoners.

The entire estate was later passed to one of Ralph de Toeni's descendents - John de Meysey - as a gift by King Edward III in 1349.

In modern times, the estate was owned by Michael Severne and his daughter Amanda, who died in 2007 and 2008 and who were direct descendents of the Meyseys.

Family's country estate goes on the market for first time in 1,000 years... at an asking price of £12million

By Daily Mail Reporter
30th June 2010
Daily Mail

Anyone who has had their eyes on buying this house may have had to wait quite a while.

Well, nearly 1,000 years to be precise, which is how long Shakenhurst Hall and its estate have stayed in the hands of just one family.

But after a grand history in which it was tied to such momentous events as the Battle of Hastings and the Hundred Years War, the rather exclusive property is finally coming on the market.

Historic: The 1,300-acre Shakenhurst Hall estate is for sale for the first time in 1,000 years

The only problem is it comes at an asking price of £12 million pounds - slightly more than it was worth when listed in the Domesday Book back in 1086.

The Grade II listed main property boasts 13 bedrooms and seven bathrooms and stands in 1,300 acres of gardens and land containing six farms and 12 houses and cottages.

Part of it is thought to have been gifted to a French baron by William the Conqueror as a reward for his part in the Norman Conquest.

The entire estate at Cleobury Mortimer, near Kidderminster, was later passed to one his descendents - John de Meysey - as a gift by King Edward III in 1349.

A place to contemplate good fortune: One of Shakenhurst's light and airy drawing rooms

The double aspect Drawing Room has two large bay windows and features ornate cornice, door casing and dado rail, carved painted chimneypiece, stone hearth, polished oak floorboards and alcoved shelving

This time it was to reward 'services rendered overseas' - probably in battle against the French - and it has remained within the family virtually throughout the 661 years since.

Whoever buys Shakenhurst will certainly live like a lord. The estate boasts its own lake and landscaped parkland, a shoot and fishing on the River Rea, which forms the north-west boundary of the estate.

The hall is largely Georgian, having been rebuilt for a second time in the 1790s, and contains a library, drawing room, morning room, reception hall, dining room, kitchen and service passage boasting period features such as regency chimneypieces and moulded cornices and overdoors.

Shakenhurst Hall is a classic Grade II* Listed country house set in a superb landscaped park. The house is predominantly late 18th Century, having been built around an Elizabethan core and re-built in the 1790s

The Hall is set within fine gardens and boasts grounds that are secluded, private and exceptionally lovely, according to the estate agent

The Shakenhurst estate includes farmland and a number of cottages, including this one

The gardens, described as 'a legacy of historic Elizabethan, Georgian and Victorian designs', include a walled kitchen garden and a sunken rose garden, whilst there is also a butler's pantry room, boot room, scullery, cloakrooms, offices and cellars.

The estate is being sold jointly by agents Balfours and Savills after being put on the market by trustees of the estate of Michael Severne and his daughter Amanda, who died in 2007 and 2008 and were direct descendents of the Meyseys.

David Groves, land agent for Balfours, said it was 'extremely rare' to find a property with such history which had never been sold before.

The fishing on the River Rea has also been run by a private, welldisposed syndicate with about 150 wild brown trout being caught a year, almost all returned. Shakenhurst is the perfect sporting country estate

View from the house: Come up with £12million and this is what you could be looking at out your front window

Colleague Tim Main, added: 'The Shakenhurst lineage dates back to 1086 and it is truly remarkable that this is the first time the property has been offered to the market.'

Tony Morris-Eyton, of Savills, said: 'The estate is completely unspoilt and that is a benefit of having this extremely unusual blood lineage dating back to the 1300s.

'It really is the quintessential country estate and the family are distressed at seeing it go.'

The Domesday Book

In 1066 William, Duke of Normandy, invaded England and defeated England's King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings, becoming King William I of England.

In 1085 England was again threatened with invasion, this time from Denmark. William had to pay for the mercenary army he hired to defend his kingdom. To do this he needed to know what financial and military resources were available to him.

At Christmas 1085 he commissioned a survey to discover the resources and taxable values of all the boroughs and manors in England. He wanted to discover who owned what, how much it was worth and how much was owed to him as King in tax, rents, and military service. A reassessment of the tax known as the geld (an Anglo-Saxon land tax continued by the Normans. It was assessed on the number of hides. A hide represents the amount of land that could support a household, roughly 120 acres) took place at about the same time as Domesday and still survives for the south west of England.

But Domesday is much more than just a tax record. It also records which manors belonged to which estates and gives the identities of the King’s tenants-in-chief who owed him military service in the form of knights to fight in his army. The King was essentially interested in tracing, recording and recovering his royal rights and revenues which he wished to maximise. It was also in the interests of his chief barons to co-operate in the survey since it set on permanent record the tenurial gains they had made since 1066.

It was an exercise unparalleled in contemporary Europe, and was not matched in its comprehensive coverage of the country until the population censuses of the 19th century - although Domesday itself is not a full population census, and the names that appear in it are mainly only those of people who owned land.

It is our earliest public record, the foundation document of the national archives and a legal document that is still valid as evidence of title to land.

Used for many centuries for administrative and legal purposes, the Domesday Book is the starting point for most local historians researching the history of their area and there are several versions in print which should be available through good reference libraries. Despite its iconic significance, it has been subjected to increasingly detailed textual analysis by historians who warn us that not everything it says should be taken at face value.

Providing definitive proof of rights to land and obligations to tax and military service, its 913 pages and two million Latin words describe more than 13,000 places in England and parts of Wales. Nicknamed the 'Domesday' Book by the native English, after God's final Day of Judgement, when every soul would be assessed and against which there could be no appeal, this title was eventually adopted by its official custodians, known for years as the Public Record Office, and recently renamed the National Archives.

The official who wrote Dialogue of the Exchequer in 1179 wrote that 'just as the sentence of that strict and terrible Last Judgement cannot be evaded by any art or subterfuge, so, when a dispute arises in this realm concerning facts which are written down, and an appeal is made to the book itself, the evidence it gives cannot be set at nought or evaded with impunity'. It was a landmark in the triumph of the centralised written record, once set down fixed forever, over evolving local oral traditions

Shakenhurst through the centuries

According to the Domesday Book, in 1086 the manor of Shakenhurst was in the ownership of Ralph de Toeni, the son of a Norman baron who fought in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and died aged 74 in 1102.

It is thought he was gifted Shakenhurst by William the Conqueror, but it is unclear whether he lived there as a tenant of the Crown or as the landowner.

His father, Roger, was born in Tosni, France, who earned a fearsome reputation fighting the Saracens around Barcelona after he was sent into exile.

He became known as 'The Spaniard', and spread terror after butchering captives and then boiling and feeding their bodies to the other prisoners.

According to the Domesday Book, in 1086 the manor of Shakenhurst was in the ownership of Ralph de Toeni, the son of a Norman baron

Roger later returned to Normandy but died in 1040, with his two eldest sons, from injuries sustained in a battle with a neighbouring land owner.

It is unclear what happened to Shakenhurst until 1280, when records show the de Stuttenhursts, who later changed their name to de Shakenhurst, were living there, probably as Crown tenants.

By 1339, Walter de Shakenhurst, the Sheriff of Worcestershire and John de Meysey's uncle, was in situ. Walter died without having any children but passed the right to live at Shakenhurst on to Meysey.

Edward III then handed over the entire estate to Meysey, whose family are thought to have come to England from Meysey in Brittany with William the Conqueror.

William Lorimere, a trustee of the estate and a relative of Mr Severne, said: 'What we do not know is what those services rendered overseas were which prompted the King to gift Shakenhurst to Meysey.

'Shakenhurst was a royal estate, with inhabitants living on it like modern-day tenants.

A rear view of one of the lovely cottages that comes along with the 1,300-acre estate

'One can only speculate but 1349 was right in the thick of the Hundred Years' War - perhaps Meysey took part and was rewarded with ownership of the estate for fighting against the French.'

Shakenhurst remained with the Meyseys until 1906, when the widow of Charles Wigley Wicksted, a Meysey descendent, left it to her godson, Hugh Gurney and his wife Sybil, satisfied that a handful of other Meysey descendents would be well provided for by three further country properties the family owned.

Shakenhurst was used as a school for girls during the Second World War, by which time the widowed Mrs Gurney were struggling under a £20,000 gambling debt run up by their son, Peter, during his first year at Oxford University.

She was forced to sell off substantial parts of the estate to settle the debt, and the house fell into disrepair with Mrs Gurney living in just two upstairs rooms.

The varied and challenging shoot has been run for many years by a private, long-established convivial syndicate, which has the licence until February 1, 2011. An incoming purchaser will have the choice of running the shoot in hand or continuing with the existing arrangement

The property fell back into the hands of a Meysey descendent when Mrs Gurney left it to Michael Severne upon her death in 1961. It followed an impromptu visit he made to Shakenhurst 11 years earlier, where he told Mrs Gurney how the property was his ancestral home.

Mr Severne and wife Rachel set about reviving the estate and launched a business manufacturing Perspex from a stable block in the grounds, which provided Shakenhurst with a much needed income. The firm moved to a new site in the Midlands following his death in 2007.

In May 2008, his daughter Amanda died of cancer at the age of just 54, leaving a husband, a son and a daughter.

Mr Groves says that while the business helped pay for the upkeep of Shakenhurst Hall, the estate itself was not in financial difficulty. He said it was being sold for 'family reasons'.

BBC - History: British History in-depth (external - login to view)
Last edited by Blackleaf; Jun 30th, 2010 at 12:29 PM..
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