Sale of massive family estate finally takes off

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AS family homes go, Conington House has rather more to offer than the average property.

AS family homes go, Conington House has rather more to offer than the average property.If its five bedrooms, three reception rooms and double garage were not enough to set it apart from many of the rest, the commercial airfield, church and vast expanses of land which make up its 2,200-acre estate certainly would be.

It is thanks to these considerable selling points that the Conington Estate has finally been sold after more than a year on the market by the family, which has owned it since the 1770s.

Kent-based heritage charity the Rochester Bridge Trust is believed to have spent in excess of 11 million on the property and its land, which lies directly east of the A1, a few miles south of Peterborough.

With six farms and 18 cottages and houses also changing hands as part of the package along with Peterborough Business Airport, the impact of the sale has been widely felt.

Many of those affected say they have high hopes for the future under new landowners who have promised to "invest, improve and enhance" the estate.

Pensioner Fionnuala Macphail has been living in a rented Conington Estate cottage in Church Lane with her daughter, Catriona, for 27 years.

"We are really glad it has finally been sold because the situation had been dragging on for too long," she said. Three or four other potential buyers had expressed an interest since the estate went on the market. We didn't know what they wanted to use the land for or whether they would look after the farms and cottages, which are in need of repair. But it's a relief it has been bought by a charitable trust, and hopefully it will decide to keep the estate as it is."

Mrs Macphail's optimism was shared by Julie Churchill, managing director of Flying Club Conington at Peterborough Business Airport, which began life during the Second World War as the headquarters of the United States Airforce 457th Bomb Group.

She said: "The people at the Rochester Bridge Trust seem like very nice people and I think they will be traditional sorts of landlords.

"I don't think they will want to change anything dramatically, at least at the start, whereas some of the other people who wanted to buy the estate were all for changing things left, right and centre."

The Conington Estate was bought by the Heathcote family in 1774 and has been passed down the generations ever since. Conington House is believed to be a conversion of the stable block which once formed part of the historic Conington Castle – a building demolished by the Heathcotes in the 1950s.

After purchasing the estate through rural estate agent Fisher German, the Rochester Bridge Trust says it is too early to say what plans it has for the land.

But the trust's property surveyor David Slack said: "The trust wants to invest in the estate, improve the estate and enhance the estate. The trust has a history of holding land and property for generations so it has very much been purchased as a long-term investment."