'The main focus of estate planning is directed towards the preservation and repair of its properties and landscape, the rediscovery of lost rural skills to bring back traditional practices where ever feasible, and innovation to reduce the carbon footprint of the community.' Rupert Acton
The ancient Acton Scott estate has an idyllic setting in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in the South Shropshire Hills. Owned by the Acton family for approaching 900 years, it remains in their hands today and consists of a number of small farmsteads, stone and timber framed cottages, ancient woodland and open pasture, amounting to some 1,500 acres. At its centre is Acton Scott Hall, a Grade II* listed, Elizabethan mansion of 1580, built by the Acton family, it remains their private residence.
Eadric, known as Edric the Wild, is the earliest known holder of Acton, later Acton Scott, in 1066. Eadric may have fortified the manor for his rebellious attack on the King at Shrewsbury, although he was soon reconciled. 'Acton' means oak wood, whilst 'Scott' is derived from the medieval family holding a share in the manor, whose name, 'le Scot', was dropped in the fourteen century, in favour of 'Acton'. It is from Eadric, that Reynold le Scot - who was Lord of part of the manor in 1255 - and also the current Actons - of Acton Scott - can trace their ancestry.
There is a Scheduled Ancient Monument on the Estate, the site of a Roman Villa set within an Iron Age enclosure. Whilst during the Civil war, it is believed that a skirmish took place at Acton Scott, and that Prince Rupert, the King's nephew, stayed at the Hall during this time. In the future, the estate hopes to attract re-enactment groups to demonstrate similar skirmishes so as to foster knowledge of this period.
The Acton family has long supported environmentally friendly practice in the management of the estate and its properties. It is approaching thirty years since Acton Scott Hall became one of the first private houses in Britain to install a woodchip burning boiler for its heating, using timber by-products of the Estate's woodland. This system is combined with solar panels that provide hot water during the summer months. A wood pellet burning boiler is shortly to be installed in one of the estate's holiday houses and, if successful, they will be introduced to some of the tenanted cottages.
Instead of introducing modern farming techniques on inheriting the Acton Scott estate, more than a generation ago, Tom Acton chose to preserve the 19th century skills and knowledge he had grown up with. He maintained the 18th century Home Farm buildings for their original purpose and conceived an Historic Working Farm as a visitor attraction. The first of its kind and much copied since, his decision was a prescient one, because knowledge of this era is now much in demand.
During the last 20 years, many of Acton Scott's derelict hedges, walls, farm buildings and cottages have been sympathetically restored, using traditional skills and materials. More recently, the disused Walled Garden has been brought back into production in order that the Acton family are self sufficient in fruit and vegetables, with any surplus being sold locally.
In recent years, a number of uninhabited estate properties have been finely renovated by Rupert Acton to provide attractive and quality Holiday Houses, each set in its own picturesque and private grounds. The latest examples are the renovation of Henley Cottage and ‘The Smithy’ to reinstate their period features and re-use them for their original purpose.
Wildlife is actively encouraged at Acton Scott through the sympathetic management of farmland and woodland. A number of agreements with Natural England operate on the estate, including a 'Countryside Stewardship Scheme.' This requires non-intensive husbandry to encourage a habitat in which birds, insects and wild animals can thrive. Permissive footpaths have been added to the existing extensive rights of way network enabling walkers to enjoy the beautiful landscape, historic buildings, features and wildlife of Acton Scott.