A RESTORATION project to turn a historic Bewdley mansion into luxury apartments will cost owners £2m - double the initial budget.

Property developer Samuel Leeds, aged 28, says Ribbesford House, which he bought with his brother Russell at auction for £800,000 last year, is in a far worse state of repair than first anticipated.

He said: "We knew it was in a dire condition and most of the past year has been about stabilising the property and conducting a string of reports on it.

"We’ve now been told it will take at least £2m to restore it to the best possible standard.”

Ledbury Reporter:

The Grade II listed building has a history going back beyond William the Conquerer, and was requisitioned by British, American and Free French military during the Second World War. General de Gaulle visited the house to see French cadets in training in the run-up to D-Day.

Chartered surveyor Adrian Walsh says the house was in the worst condition he has ever seen in a listed building.

"It’s taken 12 months just to fully assess it," said Adrian. "Every imaginable problem an old building could have is present – the full A-Z of issues.

“The scale of what is involved is unbelievable. I’ve seen properties in a poor state of repair, but absolutely nothing to this extent.”

The fabric of the mansion was in a precarious state with dry rot causing whole sections to cave in.

Previous owners had split the building into 12 flats - one of which had collapsed onto the ground floor.

Adrian said: "We couldn’t even find flat six and flat seven had literally fallen down in a gale. We spent £120,000 alone on securing that.

"We spent an entire month lifting out the debris and analysing it so that we could salvage roof trusses, tiles and bricks for re-use in the renovation.”

To date, 80 sash windows have been repaired, with many more needing to be replaced entirely.

Ledbury Reporter:

An ecological survey also identified the presence of bats, which will by relocated in the next few weeks.

The aim now is to get the main section of the house wind and watertight by Christmas. The roof will be removed temporarily to install a breathable membrane and the external masonry will be replaced, reinforced and painted.

The collapsed part of the building in the wing should be protected from the elements by Easter. Only then can the creation of the new luxury apartments begin, including installing new electrics and a ceiling.

A new heating system will also replace the ancient coal boiler system which has not worked for several years.

Two cottages on the 8.15-acre site, bordering the River Severn, will be turned into holiday lets.

“Realistically we are looking at around September next year to complete the restoration,” added Adrian. “The final part of the work will focus on the exterior.

"We will repair the car park, which has subsided, and look at the exterior lighting, drainage, replanting and general landscaping.”

Land owner Samuel, who is overseeing the project, said his team are "not holding back on our budget".

“Obviously we have looked at all of this from an investment point of view, but I can assure everyone that we are doing things properly and systematically," he said.

Ledbury Reporter:

"We are acutely aware of our responsibilities as custodians of an historic national treasure.

“That’s why we are conducting the renovation in such a meticulous way. We are not holding back on our budget and will spend at least £2m on this.

"We still think it will prove to be a fantastic investment for us, but it is a labour of love too as it is incredibly satisfying to be able to restore a jewel of a building to an incredibly high standard.

“We are following all the stringent requirements. Meetings with representatives of Historic England and the Wye Forest Conservation Group are taking place just about every month.

"We know people care about Ribbesford House and we care too.

“In the end we will have brought an historic home back from an appalling condition.

"This is a place that has been visited by former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, who was born in Bewdley, and his cousin Rudyard Kipling.

"We believe we are doing something extremely worthwhile.”