Hereford & Worcester

Charles de Gaulle cadet mansion sold in Bewdley

Charles De Gaulle at Ribbesford House Image copyright Merryn Howell
Image caption Charles De Gaulle visited cadets and officers at the training ground

A 20-bedroom mansion used to train Free French soldiers during World War II has been sold for more than £800,000.

Free French leader Charles de Gaulle is believed to have regularly visited cadets and officers based at Ribbesford House in Bewdley, Worcestershire.

Merryn Howell, 76, whose family has owned the property for the past 71 years, said it had brought a "lifetime of fun, excitement and interest".

The demand of up-keeping the home made it the "right time" to sell, she said.

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Estate agents Andrew Grant said the property, which had "an amazing heritage", was in need of complete renovation.

It was sold for £810,000 - more than £300,000 above the guide price of £500,000 - when it went under the hammer at the Crown and Sandys pub, Ombersley, on Tuesday.

Image copyright Andrew Grant/NeilStyles
Image caption The Grade II* property includes more than eight acres of land

Bewdley-born prime minister Stanley Baldwin and his cousin writer Rudyard Kipling had been among its famous visitors, the agents said.

Ms Howell and her brother Columb Howell have spent decades researching the site's 1,000-year history.

She said 211 French soldiers had stayed at the property and about a third of them were later killed in the war.

Image copyright Getty Images and PA
Image caption Writer Rudyard Kipling and his cousin Stanley Baldwin were among famous visitors to the mansion

Ms Howell said the soldiers made impressive figures when they walked into Bewdley.

"Their uniform was marvellous coats which went right the way round and sometimes when they came back it was observed that there were not only boots underneath but also heels, high heels that went click, click, click rather than boom, boom, boom," she said.

Image copyright Merryn Howell
Image caption Free French soldiers used the house between 1942 and 1944
Image caption A plaque at the mansion reveals its history
Image caption Merryn Howell plans to spend more time researching the site's history

She said their father, Wing Commander Alfred John Howell, bought the property in 1947 and its renovation became his "labour of love" following his RAF service.

The home was turned into accommodation for tenants and guests.

Ms Howell described its sale as "bittersweet", adding: "We have had lots of families here and there have been marvellous dos and wonderful parties."

Image copyright Andrew Grant/Neil Styles
Image caption The house has been the scene of many dinner parties and garden parties. It has 10 reception rooms and nine bathrooms

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