Thursday, February 22, 2024

Brideshead Unvisited – Former Home Of Evelyn Waugh For Sale; No Viewings Allowed

Georgian mansion in Gloucestershire once home to ‘Brideshead Revisited’ author Evelyn Waugh to be sold at auction for knockdown price of £2.5 million; no viewings are allowed, the current ‘tenant’ pays just £250 per annum rent and was taken to court in January for owing £1.2 million to the Mandarin Oriental

A former BBC executive and current director of 27 companies named Jason Blain – who once racked up a bill of £1.24 million for a stay at the anything-but-shabby Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge, London – is potentially set to be turfed out of an anything-but-shabby Grade II* listed Gloucestershire manor house if it sells at auction next week.

 

Bought for him in 1937 as a wedding present by his second wife’s grandmother, Piers Court at Stinchcombe was home to the revered author of Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh (1903 – 1966), from 1937 until 1956. It became home to the aforementioned former BBC Worldwide head of business development after he stumped up £2.9 million for it in April 2019, but now a receiver is punting it for sale for just £2.5 million on 15th December.

 

Devout Catholic and father of seven Waugh, himself, expired on his lavatory on Easter Sunday 1966 at another property he subsequently purchased. He was a man who believed in “avoiding long conversations on general subjects” and disliked those who were “slack about grammar.” In writing, Waugh believed “thoughts” should “be subtle” and he was someone who liked to “prune” what he considered “unessential.” He is said to have found Paris “very much like High Wycombe indefinitely extended” and Cape Town a “hideous city that reminded me of Glasgow.”

 

Extending to 14,565 square foot in internal accommodation, Piers Court – which Waugh ultimately also came to dislike after a visit from an uninvited Daily Express journalist – currently might have or might not have 6 reception rooms, 8 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms but most definitely stands on a plot of 23.58 acres. It is described as having “not been inspected since early 2019 when purchased by the current owners.”

 

Of it, in their somewhat bizarre marketing literature, joint agents Knight Frank continue: “The photographs are from historic marketing in 2018. The vendors agents are able to discuss the property from historic viewings… The property, at the time, was extremely well presented” before curtly and somewhat laughably adding: “The property is occupied under a Common Law Tenancy at a rent of £250 per annum. A Notice to Quit has been served on the occupant on 19th August 2022 and a copy of such notice was affixed to the property gate on 22nd August 2022. A prospective purchaser should take their own legal advice regarding this.”

 

Allsop and Knight Frank will sell Piers Court “on the instruction of the joint fixed charged receiver” on Thursday 15th December “unless sold prior to or withdrawn.” They offer it as an “investment,” but show little enthusiasm for the fact that it offers only a “gross initial yield of 0.01%.”

 

Knight Frank have previous in flogging repossessed mansions in Gloucestershire. In September 2013, they marketed “stripped out” Broadwell Manor, near Morton-in-Marsh for £6.95 million after its self-declared “I make no apology for being expensive to run” owner, Adrian Burford, had it repossessed from himself and his wacky wife Dr Amber Kennard. This especially charmless pair of chancers had supposedly paid £9.3 million for it in 2011.

 

Editor’s Note – Unlike as is the case in many publications, this article was NOT sponsored or supported by a third-party.

 

Evelyn Waugh Jason Blain
Revered author Evelyn Waugh in the since sadly removed library at Piers Court (left) and ex-BBC Worldwide business development boss Jason Hector Blain with producer Deborah Schindler in Toronto in 2009 (right). Mr Blain’s ‘chief of staff’ booked him a room at the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge, London for six nights in October 2020. The 51-year-old was then said to have spent eight months in the ritzy hotel’s penthouse. After being taken to court by the Mandarin Oriental over his hotel bill, Blain emailed the manager stating: “The bill is of course my debt and this will be reversed at a future point.”
The library and the drawing room of the house in the time that it was home to the Waugh family.

The Names & Numbers – Piers Court, Wooton Road, Stinchcombe, Near Dusley, Gloucestershire, GL6 6QE, United Kingdom

15th December 2022 – To be sold at auction for a price of offers in excess of £2.5 million ($3.1 million, €2.9 million or درهم11.2 million) by Allsop and Knight Frank, a sum 30% lower than The Move Market valuation and 14% lower than the 2019 sale price.

 

4th December 2022 – Featured in The Mail on Sunday in the gossip column penned by Emily Prescott. She mused:

 

“After being forced to pay a £704,000 [which eventually amounted to £1.2 million with interest] five-star hotel bill he ran up during an eight-month stay, former BBC executive Jason Blain is maybe keen to free some cash – and is selling his £2.5 million Gloucestershire home.”

 

But those who fancy the six-bedroom property once owned by Evelyn Waugh are going to have to trust their instincts – and pictures of it taken back in 2018 – as no one is allowed to view the house in person before they buy it. Not even agents Knight Frank have seen the property since Mr Blain, who worked in business development at the Beeb, bought it in 2019.”

 

“Earlier this year he was ordered to pay the huge bill at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hyde Park after a planned six-night penthouse stay lasted months.”

 

December 2022 – Valued on the The Move Market website at a high price of £3.59 million ($4.40 million, €4.17 million or درهم16.15 million).

 

June 2020 – The then “owners” of Piers Court submitted text to Stinchcombe Parish Council for publication on their website. In it, they complained of members of the public causing “damage” and committing “blatant trespass” on the property. They moaned about “unpicked dog fouling” and announced they’d installed signs across the property telling walkers where they could and could not go.

 

They added: “The owners are close friends with Evelyn Waugh’s family, in particular with Septimus (Evelyn’s youngest son) who vividly remembers his early childhood at Piers Court and who is currently assisting the new owners.  Given that it is the 75th anniversary of the publication of Brideshead Revisited (which was written at Piers Court), the owners will be inviting some of the Waugh family to Piers Court to mark the occasion.”

 

15th April 2019 – Sold for £2.9 million ($3.6 million, €3.4 million or درهم13 million), presumably to Jason Blain.

 

May 2018 – The property is again placed for sale for £3 million ($3.7 million, €3.5 million or درهم13.5 million) with Knight Frank. Lauded by realtor Rupert Sturgis as “one of the most beautiful houses in Gloucestershire.”

 

2004 – Piers Court is again offered for sale at a price unknown. At that time House & Heritage revealed: “Under a previous owner, the library where Waugh wrote was shipped, piece by piece, to Texas, where it was supposed to be reconstructed as a museum but is still in packing cases.”

 

October 1956 – The Waughs moved out of Piers Court.

 

16th July 1956 – The EvelynWaugh.org website recounts:

 

“The Waughs entertained Mrs Gadsden for lunch. The future owner of Piers Court was most accommodating, agreeing to take over cows and peasants, if required. However, she baulked at inheriting the statue of Rafael that was in the front garden at Piers Court.”

 

Mrs G: “I don’t want it.”

 

EW: “I’m not selling it to you, I’m giving it away.”

 

Mrs G: “It’s a monstrosity.”

 

EW: “Even the most cursory knowledge of western civilisation would suggest otherwise, Madame.”

 

“In early July, Waugh made the observation in his diary that as he moved about Piers Court, inside and out, nothing annoyed him as it had before. In his mind, it was Mrs Gadsden’s house, not his any more, so he didn’t care if the stone crumbled and the taps dripped and the weeds smothered the flower beds. He would soon be away. Evelyn thought there was a meditation on death to be constructed along these lines.”

 

June 1956 – Sold by Evelyn Waugh and his wife to a lady named Mrs Gadsden for £9,500 or the equivalent of £188,000 ($231,000, €219,000 or درهم847,000) today.

 

June 1955 – Piers Court was placed for sale with Knight Frank & Rutley by Evelyn Waugh and his wife for £10,000 or the equivalent of £198,000 ($243,000, €230,000 or درهم892,000) today.

 

June 1955 – A Daily Express reporter visited the house uninvited. Feeling his privacy had been irreversibly invade, Waugh decided to sell. Of why, he penned: “I felt as if the house had been polluted.”

 

2nd June 1952 – Given a Grade II* listing by English Heritage and described by German-British architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner CBE FBA (1902 – 1983) as a “dignified and elegant house.”

 

September 1945 – The Waughs return to live at Piers Court. Of it, in his diaries, he later wrote: “‘It’s the kind of house which takes a lot of living up to.”

 

Of this, EvelynWaugh.org recounts:

 

“On Monday, September 10, 1945, a great thing happened. The nuns left Piers Court, where they’d been settled for the duration of the war, and the Waughs moved back into the house. Laura thought everything was perfect while Evelyn – bless his cynicism – detected losses and damage everywhere he looked.”

 

“In the cellar, Evelyn flushed out four dozen bottles of Dows 1922 and six dozen assorted claret, so things started to look up. Within a week his library was in order. That’s to say he could be sitting at his desk – cigar in hand, glass within reach – and look up from his papers to see a one-time King of England, George the Third, looking down on him from the wall, approving of his subject’s set-up. All was well with Waugh’s world after all.”

 

“How had the world changed for Evelyn since he had last been in residence in 1939? Mainly in the following ways: Britain and its allies had won the war, but at what cost? A post-war Labour government was in power which meant high taxes on his earnings which were used – much to Waugh’s dismay – to provide Welfare for the masses.”

 

“He was the author of ‘Brideshead Revisited.’ This had been chosen as Book of the Month in the United States, which meant a £10,000 windfall and an additional £10,000 in royalties to be looked forward to. Moreover, it gave Evelyn an exalted sense of his own importance. ‘If you have laurels, rest on them,’ might have been Waugh’s philosophy at the time. Besides, if he wrote more books in the next few years the income from them would be taxed at 80%.”

 

“He was the father of four children by now and, for the first time, would have to get used to them being around. Not in the library, of course, that would remain a child-free zone. But he could hardly keep them out of the house as a whole. Not those (Meg and Hattie) that were under school age, and not even those (Bron and Teresa) who were of school age, at least when their schools were closed for the holidays. More kids on the way? That’s how the Roman Catholic Church would have it, so yes. The Haynes’ four-poster had been erected in Evelyn’s bedroom.”

 

May 1945 – Waugh’s best-known work, Brideshead Revisited, is published.

 

October 1939 – Rented to a convent school for a year for £600 or the equivalent of £31,000 ($38,000, €36,000 or درهم140,000) today.

 

May 1938 – Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop is published and gains “universal acclaim.”

 

January 1937 – Bought for Evelyn Waugh and his second wife, Laura Herbert, by the bride’s grandmother for £3,600 or the equivalent of £194,000 ($238,000, €226,000 or درهم874,000) today.

 

18th century – The present building was constructed on the site of an earlier 16th century house and incorporates parts of that.

 

More pictures of Piers Court (all taken in 2018 as the current occupant, presumably Jason Blain, has clearly refused to allow access to estate agents Allsop and Knight Frank)…

Piers Court 1
Piers Court 3
Piers Court 4
Piers Court 5
Piers Court 6
Piers Court 7
Piers Court 9
Piers Court 10
Piers Court 12
Matthew Steeples
Matthew Steeples
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Matthew Steeples is a writer and marketing consultant. He conceived The Steeple Times as a media arena to fill the void between the Mail Online, The Huffington Post and such organs as the New York Social Diary in 2012.

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