Ribbesford House owner seeks investors to complete development of historic Worcestershire estate!
“Due to the effects of the pandemic, it is time to open up joint venture opportunities to continue to bring this national treasure back to life”
The owner of one of Worcestershire’s most historic buildings is seeking investors to help complete an extensive and potentially lucrative renovation and development project.
Ribbesford House, near Bewdley, has links with former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, writer Rudyard Kipling and General de Gaulle who led the Free French against Nazi Germany.
The country mansion was in an appalling state of repair after decades of neglect when it was snapped up for £800,000 in 2018 by property developer Samuel Leeds.
The 29-year-old businessman bought the property at auction and set aside £2m to sensitively convert it into ten luxury apartments and four houses.
An independent chartered valuer recently estimated the Gross Development Value (GDV) of Ribbesford House at £6.35m.
An enormous amount of work has already been carried out, identifying and rectifying significant structural issues. But then the coronavirus pandemic struck, affecting Samuel’s business cashflow and progress on the scheme.
The father-of-two is the founder and chair of Property Investors, the largest training company of its kind in the UK. In 2019, the business moved from its base at Hilton Hall near Wolverhampton, to the heart of London on the back of rising profits.
“Like so many businesses, we’ve not been immune to the knock-on effects of the pandemic,” said Samuel.
“Covid-19 has slowed the works down. The pandemic has had a major impact on my training and events business, due to the government not allowing them. We’ve had to cancel events with an expected 10,000 people which has been hard on our cashflow.
“I am trying to make as few people redundant as possible and fortunately will be keeping the majority of the team. But I have had to refinance some of my personal properties just to pay wages. The investment and development side of the business has continued, but that too has not been without its difficulties.”
He said the time has come to open up joint venture opportunities and start raising finance for Ribbesford House.
“It was not my original intention as it reduces my personal share, but who could have predicted a global pandemic?”
The entrepreneur believes that despite the virus and Brexit, Ribbesford House remains a prime investment opportunity:
“I have never felt anything other than greatly excited and supremely confident about this project. These types of property hold their value exceptionally well despite external forces.
“There are potentially handsome returns to be had from a stake in Ribbesford House, as I would be happy to discuss with interested investors. This is all about improving the cashflow and getting back on track to realise the potential of this fantastic place.”
He added: “A perfect venture partner would be someone who not only understands the business potential of this project but is excited by the opportunity to restore an important piece of our heritage.”
Commenting on the £1m improvements made to date, Samuel said ridding the building of invasive Japanese knotweed was a huge undertaking.
“It covered the entire site and is terrible stuff. It’s now been completely eradicated and a £10m insurance policy is in place should it ever return.
“Extensive work on the dilapidated main roof is also nearly complete, and the majority of broken windows have been replaced in keeping with the building. We are also part-way through the re-render which will give a fresh but traditional look to the main structure. We have removed several trees which were pressed against the building and caused damp problems. This has also allowed more light to flood into the castle.”
Listed building consent has been granted for all works currently being undertaken and Samuel has been working closely with English Heritage and local conservation officers.
“The neighbours have also been very supportive which is hugely important with a project of this scale. As a Christian myself, I’ve been happy to allow the nearby church to use our access road and car parking facilities.”
Another hurdle involved a rare and protected breed of bats which have been roosting in the listed building. Natural England insisted that the bats should not be disturbed.
“Our ecology consultant has worked extremely hard to come up with a scheme approved by Natural England. We had an initial licence in place, but because of Covid-19 we had to apply for a new one. We now have to re-programme our works around that.”
Samuel believes that the pandemic could ironically lead to the value rising considerably beyond the £6.5m GDV estimate.
“In the light of the crisis and its effect on the economy, Boris Johnson has eased various rigid planning regulations. This will open up the way for us to sensitively build a small number of houses on the estate in addition to the holiday lets. In the past developers’ hands were often tied too much by outdated restrictions. There has never been a better opportunity than the one opened up by this change in policy.
“At the same time, we would be contributing to the Government’s policy to provide more homes. We’ll also be bringing a wonderful piece of our heritage back to life. There are so many wins to be had.”
Set on an 8.5-acre estate on the banks of the River Severn, the impressive Grade II listed building has a history going back beyond William the Conqueror. It is acknowledged as one of the oldest brick buildings in the country.
During the Second World War the turreted castle was requisitioned and used by the British, American and Free French military. General de Gaulle himself visited the house to see French cadets in training in the run-up to D-Day.
Anyone interested in gaining a stake in Ribbesford house should contact Samuel on