Hot Spot: Southwell, Notts

It wasn't mad or bad enough for Lord Byron, and nowadays this cathedral town with a top-notch school still attracts people looking for a quiet life, says Robert Liebman
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The Independent Online

Southwell may have given the world the Bramley apple, but Lord Byron couldn't give a fig. Owner of the derelict Newstead Abbey nearby, the poet was familiar with the town from visits to his mother, who lived there for several years in the early 1800s. Georgian houses did not have the cachet that they have nowadays, and the racecourse had yet to be built. Southwell simply wasn't mad or bad enough, and it still isn't.

Southwell may have given the world the Bramley apple, but Lord Byron couldn't give a fig. Owner of the derelict Newstead Abbey nearby, the poet was familiar with the town from visits to his mother, who lived there for several years in the early 1800s. Georgian houses did not have the cachet that they have nowadays, and the racecourse had yet to be built. Southwell simply wasn't mad or bad enough, and it still isn't.

"Byron pronounced Southwell very dull, whereas I fell in love with it the day I arrived," says publishing consultant and writer Eileen Campbell. "I distinctly remember first seeing it coming down the hill past the agricultural college at Brackenhurst. It was a beautiful sight, looking as if it had not changed for centuries." She still lives there 18 years later.

Property values are consistently strong given the town's attractiveness and its amenities, Campbell believes. "The minster is exquisitely beautiful, and Southwell feels very unspoiled and not much larger than a village. We don't have hordes of tourists and it is a great retreat from London. We are well served with shopping and schools. I can get everything I need locally, and self-sufficiency is important as I don't drive."

Estate agent Douglas Gascoine, who recently celebrated the founding of his agency 50 years ago, notes that the Minster School tops Nottinghamshire's league tables. "It is a big draw to the area. For example, families who are relocating to the Nottingham area buy here because of the school. I can't quantify the impact of this catchment area on house prices but it definitely firms up the market." Among the beneficiaries are investors, who tap into a tenant pool largely populated by buyers while they are looking around, and by students at Brackenhurst agricultural college.

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

Journey time to London King's Cross via fast train is 75-80 minutes from Newark, seven miles from Southwell. Nottingham is 14 miles away and East Midland's International Airport is 30 miles.

Minster

Southwell Minster, the cathedral for the 313 churches in the Southwell diocese, has a Norman nave, 13th-century chapter house and lead spires that are unique in England.

Minster School

The minster's collegiate grammar school is voluntary aided Church of England and is also a mixed comprehensive for Southwell and its surrounding villages.

Attractions

The Workhouse is a 19th-century institution for paupers maintained by the National Trust and is the least-altered example of its kind in existence today. Southwell Racecourse is just under two miles from the town. Brackenhurst College - Nottingham Trent University School of Land-based Studies - occupies a 500-acre estate containing a dairy farm and landscaped gardens.

Prices

A one-bed terrace with neither parking nor a garden and needing upgrading has a modest £110,000 price tag. A one-bed ground-floor flat with 21-foot open-plan kitchen/lounge, original arched windows and allocated parking in the massive Greet Lily Mill (a flour mill until the 1960s) is £123,000 at Gascoines. In Maythorne, just outside Southwell, a two-bed Grade-II listed period cottage is £139,950 at Richard Watkinson. The property overlooks the river Greet and shares a garden with the three cottages and two flats comprising the erstwhile mill. Two- and three-bed bungalows start at about £150,000, rising to about £250,000 with garage, conservatory and other features.

Family houses

Three-bed houses start at about £200,000. A four-bed, three-reception corner-plot house is selling for £260,000. A five-bed Grade II-listed Georgian house on three storeys in a conservation area, £549,950. A three-bed bungalow with garage and patio covered by pergola, £217,500; on the same road (Lower Kirklington Road), a three-bed semi with garage is £239,950. All at Richard Watkinson.

Business

A Georgian Grade-II listed B&B with one-bed separate family accommodation and five guest rooms, £395,000 at Gascoines.

Conversions

Originally a pub, the period detached Old Plough in Halam, two miles outside Southwell, has six bedrooms (c.3,048 sq ft internally) and a Grade-II listing, £595,000. Originally a rectory, a Grade-II listed seven-bed three-reception house with formal grounds and gardens in Claypole near Newark, £850,000. Both at FPDSavills, 0115 934 8020.

Expansion

A detached three-bed house with barn, workshop and large garden, with planning consent for a three-bed chalet bungalow, £410,000 at Gascoines.

Estate agents

Gascoines, 01636 813245; Richard Wilkinson, 01636 816200.

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