We are used to footballers owning grand houses.
Earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a week means they can easily afford a mansion (not to mention a fleet of expensive cars and enough high tech distractions to keep them occupied between games).
Charlie Aitken, who still holds the record for most appearances for Aston Villa, certainly has the fine house.
But when he started his playing career back in the late ‘50s and early 60s, the types of sums top players can command today were unimaginable.
“I used to live in digs in Yardley because we couldn’t afford houses,” he says.
“In those days £20 a week was the maximum wage. I was left with £4 14 shillings after I had paid for my digs.
“I could earn twice that grouse beating in the Scottish highlands while I was still at school,” recalls Charlie.
There were no just-rolled-off-the-production-line sports cars for the players, and the team bus was a very different affair.
“I used to get the bus down from Yardley to play in front of 30,000 people,” says Charlie.
“George Graham and Mike Tindall, who used to play for Villa in the 60s, used to live further up on the Outer Circle bus route. If we were playing in the team at the same time, we used to meet on the bus.
“It seems incredible today.”
Home for Charlie, his wife Valerie and their family now is a little grander than the rented accommodation he had in Yardley .
Elsich Manor is Grade II* listed country house, just outside Ludlow.
A head for business outside of the beautiful game meant that Charlie started investing in property while still playing.
“In soccer you are limited by your age. You have got a declining income. So I decided the best thing was to buy property. I started in the 1960s.”
He also bought and sold antiques and had a delicatessen in his native Edinburgh that supplied food to Hearts of Midlothian.
Charlie had never planned to be a footballer. He attended George Watson’s school in Edinburgh where he played rugby.
“I was very well educated,” says Charlie. “I’d passed all my exams and was going to go to university.”
He and some friends started playing football for fun, setting up a team at the local youth club they attended.
Then he was invited to train with and play for Hibs, before being asked down for a trial with Villa.
“I wasn’t particularly interested, to be honest,” he recalls. “I wanted to go into sixth form.”
He was persuaded to go when his headmaster agreed that he could come back to school if he wanted, if he decided football wasn’t for him.
Charlie ended up staying at Villa Park for 17 seasons. He made his debut in 1959 and went on to make 660 appearances for the club. In that time he played under nine managers (starting with Joe Mercer) and in three divisions.
He left in 1976 and spent the next two years playing for the New York Cosmos, where his team mates included Pele and Franz Beckenbauer.
“I had a wonderful time out there. Everybody used to come to the dressing rooms after the games, like Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall.”
All the players were treated like VIPs, but there was no question who was the superstar – Pele.
“It was a great honour to play with him,” says Charlie. “I got on really well with him.
“We were playing in San Jose once and he was missing. We were all wondering where the heck he was.
“All of a sudden this helicopter came and hovered over the centre circle. This rope ladder came down and Pele made his entrance, all kitted out.
“Beat that if you can.”
Even though he was playing in America, Charlie still had his business interests in the Midlands and would come back during winter.
While in America he was given a film directors apartment to live in. Back in England he liked to buy “large houses with character”.
Elsich Manor is certainly that.
It dates back to 1545 and still has the remnants of a moat outside.
It is believed to have been built by a Richard Baldwyn, whose brother William had been cup bearer to Queen Mary.
Richard’s son, Thomas, was confined for three years in the Tower on suspicion of being implicated in a plot for the release of Mary, Queen of Scots.
The Baldwyns held the estate until 1779 (although they had been letting the house out since 1635). From 1913 to 1953, it was owned by the Edwards family. The buyer, Charlie Edwards was a stockbreeder and auctioneer, and aspiring MP for Ludlow.
In 1976 fire swept through the manor house. Work to repair the damage has been undertaken by a number of owners since.
The Grade II* listing was awarded mainly for the hexagonal tower, but there are many other features worthy of the protection it gives, including studded internal doors, timber frame and wooden floors.
“There is also an original toilet in a little closet upstairs,” reveals Charlie. “It was probably the only one in the house in those days. And there is a minstrel’s gallery in the master bedroom. I have covered it over but you could remove the covering and look right down into the lounge. Also there is a hydraulic floor in the lounge. You press a button and it goes down to the cellar. The previous owner did that.”
Between the drawing room and the sitting room, there are great timber doors. The latter room not only has panels to the wall but also a huge open fireplace. There is another open fireplace in the dining room, this one housing a woodburner.
The kitchen has a country feel, as one might expect in a house like this, which sits in a rural hamlet.
It has an electric AGA as well as an electric Rangemaster, a butler’s sink and oak units with integrated appliances. Thick beams cross the ceiling of the both the kitchen and breakfast area.
A wooden staircase spirals up the tower from the drawing room to the master suite.
Apart from a bedroom, dressing room and bathroom, it also has a small room off that is used as an office and the Tudor garderobe (toilet). The staircase then continues up to a huge attic room which is packed with possibilities for conversion (subject to planning consents).
Four more bedrooms, three with en suite facilities, can be reached from stairs off the dining room and kitchen.
There are two more bedroom suites on the second floor. Outside the gardens and ground cover 10 acres and include a barn, carport and a summer house.
AGENT: Strutt and Parker
TEL: 01584 873711
GUIDE PRICE: £1,195,000