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Upselling And The Landed Gentry: Cheshire's Landowners Are A Case Study In Diversification

Henry Brooks and rolling Cheshire acres

There are, supposedly, just three ancient families that own Cheshire: The Cholmondleys of Cholmondley Castle, the Bromley-Davenports and the multibillionaire Grosvenor Dukes of Westminster.

Of course this is nonsense — there are plenty more landowners with ample rolling acreages, and among the relative newcomers are the Brooks family, who are teaching the big names a thing or two about diversification and upselling. 

Henry Brooks is the third generation of his family to take a hand in the fortunes of the vast Cheshire holding, the Tatton Estate. Totalling around 5,000 acres of the most valuable land south of boomtown Manchester, it is centred on the market town of Knutsford.

Brooks’ innovation was to spin The Tatton Group out of the landed estate in 2012. Not only does his arm of the family business spot housebuilding and commercial property opportunities, but it also has a wider remit through several new divisions.

These include Tatton Locations, which provides locations for film and TV, Tatton Tech, which provides local broadband services, Tatton Occasions for hosting events and Tatton Stays for hospitality investments.

Cheshire's answer to Hollywood: the Tatton studios

Tatton Tech and Tatton Locations have come together to provide locations for the Fox Searchlight biopic Tolkien, about the acclaimed fantasy author, among others.

It amounts to a massive systematic programme of upselling and diversification. 

“This is absolutely what everything needs to be about in property, and in the rural economy, we’ve learned fast,” Brooks said. 

“We are right on the edge of Manchester and yet we didn’t have the basic connectivity of broadband. Now we have, through Tatton Tech, and we have clients like the BBC who couldn’t function without us," he added. "We’ve got redundant farm buildings, lovely redbrick barns which are no longer fit for agricultural purpose but have great character, perhaps up to 1M SF, and we have to find uses for them, but the aim is to upsell as well.”

Brooks is now working on plans to add another 50K SF film studio to the two existing film production units, all of which are in heavy demand.