Whatever happened to: Roddy Llewellyn’s childhood haunt?

One of Britain's most glorious, beautiful and interesting country estates has been sold despite the challenges of today's property market.

Dozens of beautiful country estates and houses are sold every year in the UK without much comment or excitement as they transfer from one owner to the next, notable only for the glossy for sale advertisements for them in Country Life magazine.

But now and again an exceptional property stirs up passions and considerable public interest, the most memorable being the sale of Tyntesfield near Bristol in 2002 and Dumfries House near Cumnock in Ayrshire in 2007.

This year's big story is Shrubland Hall, the childhood haunt of the late Princess Margaret's former lover Roddy Llewellyn, which last week was sold by agent Knight Frank to a private buyer after it spent three years looking for a new owner.

Georgian mansion with Regency additions

The Shrubland Estate, which is six miles outside Ipswich, has been sold off in 42 lots with its high point the magnificent Shrubland Hall. Built in 1770 by James Paine for the Bacon family, it's a large and opulent Georgian mansion with Regency additions and an interior to rival many of Britain's great houses.

This includes dozens of French-style marble fireplaces, gilded plasterwork ceilings, a grand main staircase, six reception rooms, nine main bedrooms, 15 secondary ones, Italianate gardens styled by Sir Charles Barry, parkland designed by Humphrey Repton, its own deer park, a walled garden, five drives and three lodges.

Unusually for a country estate, Shrubland has survived 400 years of British history with the help of a relatively small number of enlightened owners. For example from 1887 onwards it was owned by the de Sumaurez family, who guided it through the horrors of the post-war period when many great estates were broken up to pay death duties.

Problematic recent history

But it's recently history has been more problematic. In the 1960s a purpose had to be found for the great house and in 1966 it became Britain's first health clinic, although Roddy Llewellyn says the estate “lost its soul once it had been turned into a clinic”. Llewellyn's grandfather, the 5th Lord de Sumarez, used the estate as his summer residence and both Roddy and his mother were frequent visitors.

The clinic was a success and 60,000 people passed through its doors before the current Lord de Saumarez decided to close ‘Shrublands' in April 2006 and put the estate up for sale with a price tag of £23 million.

But it remained on the market until this month, when a private buyer from London paid £6.5 million for Lot 1, namely the hall, 228 acres of land and three lodges. The remaining 40 lots, which include two further lodges, 31 cottages, agricultural land and quarries, the old Shrubland Hall, laundry, water tower and a 1960s house, have also now been sold.

Further reading

Read Roddy Llewellyn's reminiscences about his time at the estate, visit the Shrubland Hall Revisited website.

  • Roddy Llewellyn says the estate "lost its soul once it had been turned into a clinic"