Real Estate

Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead mansion sold for £3m despite tenants refusing to leave

The Grade II*-listed Cotswold mansion where Evelyn Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited has sold at auction for £3.16m despite buyers being warned that sitting tenants – who are paying a weekly rent of £5 a week – are refusing to leave the property.

Piers Court, at Stinchcombe, a village about halfway between Bristol and Cheltenham, was sold to an unnamed bidder in an online auction on Thursday after the owner defaulted on a loan secured against the eight-bedroom, six-bathroom property.

The sale, which was first reported by the Guardian, went ahead despite the tenants, who described themselves as “Evelyn Waugh superfans”, refusing to vacate the property which they rent for just £250 a year in a deal with its previous owner, Jason Blain. The former executive for BBC Worldwide and Sony Entertainment bought the property for £2.9m in 2019 through a company called Winston’s House.

Piers Court sale
Piers Court auction page. Photograph: Allsop

However, the company defaulted on a £2.1m loan from the historic London bank C Hoare & Co, which appointed receivers to sell the property at auction.

Blain, who was earlier this year sued by the Mandarin Oriental hotel over the £1.24m cost of an eight-month overstay in the hotel’s £4,725-a-night penthouse, appointed his friends Helen Lawton and Bechara Madi to the board of Winston’s House and agreed the cut-price rent deal with them.

Prospective buyers were warned by the auctioneers that: “The property is occupied under a common law tenancy at a rent of £250 per annum. A notice to quit was served on the occupant on 19 August 2022 and a copy of such notice was affixed to the property gate on 22 August 2022. Prospective purchasers should take their own legal advice regarding this and will be deemed to bid accordingly.”

Madi said this week: “It’s our home, for the short term and for the long term. We will be putting our Christmas tree and decorations up in the next few days. We are going nowhere.

“We have spent a lot of our own money on the upkeep of the house, it’s our home and we have no plans to move,” he told MailOnline, adding that they had put a share of their money into the company that bought the house. “We are not tenants, we have a major share in the house and have put in hundreds of thousands of pounds of our own money.”

Evelyn Waugh at Piers Court in 1955
Evelyn Waugh at Piers Court in 1955. Photograph: Kurt Hutton/Getty Images

Lawton claims to be friends with Waugh’s family, and told the Evelyn Waugh Society that she was planning a party to bring together many of his relatives at the house.

Duncan McLaren, of the Evelyn Waugh Society, writing of a chance meeting with Lawton in 2019 while walking along a public footpath through the grounds of the house, said: “In recent weeks she has been very excited to learn about the Evelyn Waugh associations of her new home.”

He said they had a conversation in which Lawton said she knew Septimus Waugh, the author’s seventh child, and there was a plan to bring Septimus’s former nanny, who was then in her 90s, from Northumberland to the house for a day. It is not known if the visit happened.

McLaren wrote: “Helen also knows Alexander Waugh, Evelyn’s grandson, and has other plans to bring Evelyn Waugh activities to the house.”

Waugh bought the house for £3,600 in 1937 with money he had been given by the parents of his second wife, Laura Herbert. The couple lived in Piers Court for 19 years, apart from during the second world war when he rented the mansion to a convent school, and he wrote many of his best-known novels in its library, including Officers and Gentlemen, Men at Arms and Brideshead Revisited.

Waugh and Herbert hosted dinner parties with famous friends and intellectuals including Graham Greene, Nancy Mitford and John Betjeman. Waugh wrote in his diary that Piers Court was “the kind of house which takes a lot of living up to”.


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