A massive cannabis factory has been uncovered at a £2.4million countryside mansion.
More than 2,000 marijuana plants were found over the four-storeys of a stately home, with an estimated street value of up to £500,000.
The home, which is set in 3.7 acres of private grounds which include a tennis court, had been rented by a criminal gang.
The mansion boasts three reception rooms, a kitchen with an Aga, breakfast room, butler’s pantry, cellar, games room, eight bedrooms and three bathrooms.
There is also a converted coach house with three bedrooms and outbuildings at the back.
But behind the grand red brick facade of Field House in Hoole Village, near Chester, criminals had set up a huge operation by linking an unsophisticated system of hosepipes to the kitchen sink.
The windows had been blacked out, plunging the upstairs into darkness.
The mansion was raided at dawn on Tuesday when 15 officers surrounded the building. No arrests were made as the building was deserted.
DS Ian Morgan from Cheshire Police said: ‘The whole of the top floor is taken over for the production of cannabis. There are thousands of plants.
‘It’s been well established. They’ve aimed big.
‘You look at the amount of production they’ve got and I’m sure the profits will pay for the lease.
‘They’ve been using downstairs as living quarters – there were some makeshift camp beds and the basement has been used as a drying room.
‘It wasn’t till you got upstairs that you noticed the smell. It’s a massive operation.
‘There’s not been anybody here for a couple of weeks. Because it was linked to other addresses that we searched, they probably knew we were coming.’
He added that information about the factory came from a similar raid earlier this month.
Police seized 1,000 plants worth £150,000 from a raid on a £1million home in Nether Alderley, less than two miles from upmarket area of Alderley Edge, home to several Premiership footballers.
A 50-year-old Vietnamese woman was arrested during that raid.
Cheshire police inspector Phil Hodgson said each crop, which takes three months to grow, could sell for up to £500,000.