ICI to sell off its pounds 6m country estate

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The Independent Online
FOR SALE: one castle, plus golf course and adjoining properties. Excellent views of the Cleveland Hills and, er, Europe's biggest petrochemicals site. Price guide: pounds 6m.

As asset sales go, the disposal of ICI's Wilton Estate on Teesside will not make much of a dent in its pounds 4bn debt mountain.

But every little bit helps and this week the property agents Knight Frank will start soliciting interest in the estate from would-be lords of the manor and commercial buyers.

The centre piece of the estate is the tudor gothic-style Wilton Castle, which first appeared in the Domesday Book. The present castle was built around 1810 and was sold to ICI after the Second World War.

Initially used as offices, the castle is now a private hotel and corporate entertainment venue. However, as the estate agents' blurb goes, it would be suitable for a number of alternative uses.

The 723-hectare estate also takes in an 18-hole golf course, a village with 23 listed cottages, a school house and creche, more than 400 acres of mixed woodland and farmland and a site of special scientific interest.

Also included in the sale of ICI Chemicals and Polymers' northern property portfolio are Norton Hall, a grade II listed hotel and conference facility near Stockton-on-Tees, and Lawson House in Runcorn, Cheshire, which has also been turned into a private hotel.

In true estate agent spirit, Clive Hopkins, the Knight Frank partner in charge of the portfolio, said he anticipated a great deal of interest in the sale, even though the castle is just half a mile away from the biggest ethylene cracker in Britain and dozens of other chemical plants.

An ICI spokesman said the view was quite spectacular at night.