One way to ride out the collapse in property values is to let buildings to the government. That’s exactly what Leicester-based Charles Street Buildings has done. Errand girl to multi-millionaire Freddie Linnett is a director and leading shareholder in the successful family-owned property company Charles Street Buildings (Leicester).

The Murphy family, including Freddie Linnett’s uncles, came to Great Britain from Ireland after the Second World War. They set up Charles Street Buildings where Freddie used to act as secretary and tea girl.

She became a director and inherited her stake in the company on the death of her uncles in the 1990s. At that time she was the richest woman in the country behind the Queen. She married accountant Michael Linnett, while the day to day running of the company was taken over by Freddie’s brother Hugo Murphy.

Dealing primarily in property development, sales and lettings, Charles Street Buildings is very successful. Based on Melton Road in Thurmaston, published accounts show profits of £43.6 million and net assets of more than £345 million.

The group’s portfolio includes major property interests in the city and county of Leicester, including, offices, retail premises, warehouses and industrial units totalling five million sq ft. The company is a patron of Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce.

The business is probably worth close to £400 million and the family has other assets.

Fifty-nine-year-old Freddie Linnett is active in charitable fund raising, in particular the Ireland Fund of Great Britain. The fund – founded in London in 1988 – supports Irish communities in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic with grants for social and educational projects.