Get your dukes in a row

A lit­tle-known part of the coun­try that was home to dukes of old has a re­vival on the hori­zon–and it’s long over­due, says Eleanor Doughty

Country Life Every Week - - Property News - Edited by An­nun­ci­ata Wal­ton

SO quaintly named that one would be for­given for imag­in­ing it’s some­thing out of Thomas Hardy, the Duk­eries is Not­ting­hamshire’s best-kept se­cret. An area tucked into a cosy cor­ner in the north-west of the county (about 20 miles north of Not­ting­ham, to­wards Work­sop), the Duk­eries in­cludes part of the an­cient For­est of Sher­wood and is named af­ter the four con­tigu­ous ducal es­tates it was once home to: Clum­ber House and the Dukes of New­cas­tle; Thoresby Hall and the Dukes of Kingston; Wel­beck Abbey and the Dukes of Port­land; and Work­sop Manor and the Dukes of Nor­folk.

‘as­ton­ish­ingly In the Duk­eries, house prices are rea­son­able’

These four es­tates share not just ge­og­ra­phy, but lin­eage, too. When Bess of Hard­wick mar­ried Sir Wil­liam Cavendish in 1547, she planted an enor­mous Mid­lands fam­ily tree. Between their six sur­viv­ing chil­dren, the fam­ily went on to oc­cupy all of the Duk­eries’ es­tates in one form or an­other.

Now, only one of the four duke­doms still ex­ists, that of Nor­folk, and only one house re­mains in pri­vate own­er­ship: Wel­beck. This 15,000-acre es­tate is now run by Wil­liam Par­ente, nephew of Lady Anne Cavendish-bentinck, the el­der daugh­ter of the 7th Duke, and in­cor­po­rates a host of com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing a cook­ery school and farm shop.

De­spite its cu­ri­ous social his­tory and prime com­muter lo­ca­tion, the Duk­eries re­mains a rel­a­tively un­known area, says James Stock of Fine & Coun­try Bawtry (01302 591000). ‘We can reach any­where pretty quickly here,’ he says, ‘be­cause we’re bang in the mid­dle of the coun­try’—the mid­dle of the Mid­lands, to be pre­cise.

For fam­i­lies mov­ing from Lon­don, there are two dis­tinct ad­van­tages, ac­cord­ing to Chris Charl­ton of Sav­ills Not­ting­ham (0115–934 8000). The first is ac­ces­si­bil­ity: ‘From the Duk­eries, you can get down to Ne­wark for trains both north and south,’ he ex­plains (90 min­utes to Lon­don King’s Cross and Leeds and an hour’s dash up to York). ‘The A1 and M1 are in touch­ing dis­tance,’ adds Jeremy Bag­u­ley of Brown & Co (01777 709122). For week­end trips, Bakewell, for ex­am­ple, in the heart of the Peak Dis­trict, is only 33 miles from Work­sop.

The sec­ond ad­van­tage of the Duk­eries is its as­ton­ish­ingly rea­son­able house prices. ‘If you look north of £1 mil­lion,’ says Mr Charl­ton, ‘there’s vir­tu­ally noth­ing avail­able. It’s a very com­pet­i­tively priced mar­ket.’ Prices do vary, post­code to post­code. In Bawtry, for ex­am­ple, a small mar­ket town with a thriv­ing restau­rant scene, a four-bed­room house would set you back about half a mil­lion. ‘But if you go up the road to the lo­cal pit vil­lage, you could buy the same for £70,000—it’s ridicu­lous,’ says Mr Stock.

‘There are very good ar­eas and ar­eas that peo­ple per­ceive to be bad, sim­ply on the ba­sis that they haven’t been well in­vested in pre­vi­ously.’ Mr Charl­ton ex­plains: ‘Some of this could be down to min­ing and the im­pact on the in­fra­struc­ture that took place over the years.’

The hous­ing stock is also var­ied— there are old-style vil­lages with vicarages and rec­to­ries and larger coun­try houses such as Ranby Hall. This Grade Ii-listed prop­erty, which is on the mar­ket for £1.65 mil­lion with Brown & Co (01777 709122), needs re­fur­bish­ment, but comes with for­mal state rooms and 12,000sq ft.

In Mis­ter­ton, four miles from Gains­bor­ough, a Grade Ii*-listed, five-bed­room con­verted pump­ing sta­tion with a 39ft liv­ing room and five acres of land is on the mar­ket for £850,000. Nearby, in Ret­ford, within easy reach of the train sta­tion, a fivebed­room tur­reted house off the Lon­don Road is for sale at £950,000.

The Duk­eries has a bright fu­ture. The high-speed rail lines of HS2 and HS3, con­tentious though they are, will bring more in­vestors to the area, says Mr Charl­ton—that is, if they haven’t al­ready ar­rived—‘and we’ll be see­ing more strate­gic pur­chase op­por­tu­ni­ties’. What are you wait­ing for?

His­tory in the mak­ing: this for­mer pump­ing sta­tion in Mis­ter­ton, near Gains­bor­ough, is now a Grade Ii*-listed home with five bed­rooms and five acres of land. £850,000

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