Cream Of The Country: Uppingham

Take a wrong turn off the M1, and swap urban sprawl for a secret rural location
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Uppingham defies the popular perception of the East Midlands. To most outsiders the region is defined by the M1 and the urban sprawls of Northampton and Leicester, but this pretty period market town of 6,000 people is hard to get to and as a result remains a secret to most.

Uppingham defies the popular perception of the East Midlands. To most outsiders the region is defined by the M1 and the urban sprawls of Northampton and Leicester, but this pretty period market town of 6,000 people is hard to get to and as a result remains a secret to most.

Its fine range of stone buildings within the town centre and the adjoining market place are complemented by modern conversions of older barns and farmhouses a few hundred yards from the centre, with small estates of new-build on the outskirts.

Five pubs, two large hotels and several fine, large townhouses dominate the centre, where the not-too-busy A6003 dissects the High Street which hosts a busy country market every Saturday, and a farmers' market once a month.

Jan James, who moved here from London when husband Michael changed jobs in 2002, says the town's appeal is that it's relatively unknown. "We'd driven through Northamptonshire and we didn't like any town we saw," she says.

"Then a traffic hold-up forced us to divert through Rutland and we drove into Uppingham. We hadn't really heard of it, nor short-listed it as a place to visit for a possible home; but when we saw it, we knew we wanted to live there."

She admits surprise at how easily she fitted in after a lifetime of living in cities. "We started visiting our local, and people were overwhelmingly friendly. It didn't take long before we were being invited to parties."

She says there are a few downsides for newcomers. Period homes usually come with no parking, there are few period properties on sale at any one time so you may need to wait for the right place, and there is no large supermarket for miles. "But otherwise, it's a glorious location," she says.

Central to the town's reputation is Uppingham School and its 750 pupils, mostly of the awfully posh variety, whose parents pay a cool £7,102 a term for boarding or a mere £4,972 a term for day-only attendance. The institution dates back to 1584 and its original schoolroom, which stands in the churchyard, is open to visitors.

Although the school is centrally located and dominates the town's architecture (its large playing fields give the town an open, green feel), it has little social impact on residents except when the parents' 4x4s arrive for graduation and sports days.

"Although it's got several thousand residents, Uppingham is really a village - it's got that sort of feel and the locals regard it that way. They love the place and regard the universe as moving around it, which is nice," says Scott Murray, who runs one of four estate agencies in the town (01572 822587). He says stone cottages more than 200 years old are most in demand, with sales "doing as well now as in the boom days". Buyers at the middle and upper end of the market are those moving out of East Midlands cities or from the north of England for jobs in regeneration zones including Corby and Leicester.

"A lot come here for stone cottages but find there aren't many on sale at any one time. Inevitably, a few settle for new homes instead or try elsewhere," says another agent.

Meanwhile, some larger properties, mainly conversions, have taken a while to sell in the current market, and have fallen in price since January. Now might be the time for a bargain if you want to escape from city life to a part of the rural East Midlands hitherto undiscovered by most people.

Fact box

Stephen Fry, Rick Stein, newsman John Suchet, DJ Johnny Vaughan and horror-meister Boris Karloff all attended Uppingham School - so did some band members of Busted and McFly.

From the north exit the A1 at the B668, head to Oakham, then Uppingham; from the south leave the M1 at j15 for Kettering, Corby, Stamford and finally Uppingham.

A third of homes around the town are detached, another third are semis, with about 25% terraced and the rest flats. Prices range from £130,000 for a two-bedroom modern home on the edge of town, £360,000 for a three-storey period townhouse, or £600,000-plus for a grand, central six-bedroom home.

Selling Point A period haven in a region dominated by unglamorous Peterborough, Northampton and Leicester.

Comments