An Exquisitely Beautiful Shropshire Mansion For Sale That Was The Home Of JFK’s ‘closest Friend’

Penny Churchill September 8, 2023

Woodhill Park in Shropshire is not just a magnificent home — it is also the former residence of Sir David Ormsby-Gore, the British ambassador to the USA during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Set in the heart of unspoilt Shropshire countryside, four miles from Oswestry and 22 miles from Shrewsbury, Grade II-listed Woodhill Park is described by the agents as ‘a glorious Georgian house standing in the privacy of a magnificent park and woodland estate’.

For sale for the first time since 1987 at a guide price of £4.5 million via Savills, the ring-fenced 156-acre estate has remained largely intact since the mellow red-brick house was first built in the early-to-mid 18th century.

The imposing Georgian house is said to be in good decorative order throughout. It offers 11,075sq ft of accommodation, including a spacious reception hall, four main reception rooms, a large kitchen, a study, 12 bedrooms and four bathrooms.

Outside, an Edwardian stable courtyard of two-storey stone stables has lapsed planning consent for conversion to two cottages.

Other estate buildings include a two-bedroom lodge, three cottages, a pair of unrestored semi-detached cottages, and a courtyard of farm buildings, including a clear-span modern building that could easily be converted to an indoor riding school.

Although altered and extended in Victorian times, the house remains true to its origins, having the beautifully balanced, well-lit rooms and fine decorative detail that is the hallmark of the Georgian era. The estate itself comprises mostly wooded parkland with a range of cottages and barns suitable for conversion to a variety of uses. According to Historic England, the park was laid out in 1806–07 and later extended.

Woodhill Park, better known as Woodhill, is said to have been built for Richard Jones, whose daughter and heiress, Elizabeth, married Lazarus Venables, scion of a prominent Welsh landowning family, in 1771. Venables greatly extended the house, moving the entrance front to its present position and altering the course of the road southwards away from the house.

Their son, Lazarus Jones Venables, made further alterations to the house and acquired more land. In doing so, he appears to have overspent and Woodhill was offered for sale in 1852.

The property was then sold to a member of the Lees family, who were baronets of Blackrock, Dublin. In about 1870, they further extended the house, adding a new billiard room and dining room. In the late 1800s, Woodhill was the seat of George Dumville Lees, who was twice master of the Tanatside Harriers and, as ‘Tantara’ George, was a well-known writer on hounds. He was killed in the hunting field in November 1906, when his horse tripped on some concealed barbed wire and landed on top of him.

The 20th century saw the removal of many of Woodhill’s Victorian additions. After the Second World War, the Woodhill estate, by then part of the Ormsby-Gore family’s Brogyntyn estate, was transferred to David Ormsby-Gore, who farmed the estates while also becoming MP for Oswestry and a minister in Harold Macmillian’s government.

After John F. Kennedy was elected as US President, Ormsby-Gore was appointed British Ambassador to the US, serving from 1961 to 1965 — years which included the Cuban Missile Crisis. As well as distinguishing himself in incredibly trying times, he also developed a close friendship with the Kennedy family. Indeed, he was ‘my father’s closest friend,’ according to JFK’s daughter Caroline Kennedy.

Recommended videos for you Following the President’s assassination in 1963, he maintained close ties with Kennedy’s widow, Jackie, and her brother-in-law, Bobby Kennedy, both of whom stayed with him at Woodhill; he was also a pallbearer at Bobby’s funeral after the assassination in 1968. That same year, and by now Lord Harlech, Ormsby-Gore proposed marriage to Jackie. She declined, marrying Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

Woodhill was sold with 93 acres in 1971 and, 16 years later, was again back on the market. Having sold Woodhill to its current owners in 1987, Tony Morris-Eyton of Savills is now fronting the campaign for ‘this exceptional small estate, which offers complete privacy in a truly glorious setting’.

Woodhill is for sale via Savills — see more details and pictures.