Grade II* listed Cumbrian mansion built by opium dealer and once marketed for £1.5 million for sale for just £460,000; it was also the scene of the UK’s biggest ever cannabis raid in 2012
A 23,000 square foot, 52 room, mid-19th century Palladian mansion in the Westmorland Dales National Park is to be sold at auction – by order of the mortgagees not in possession – for £1 million less than it was marketed for in 2014. It is sadly now described as being in an utterly wrecked, vandalised condition.
Built in 1851 for wealthy merchant brothers and tea and opium magnets Lancelot and Wilkinson Dent, 8-bedroomed Flass at Maulds Meaburn, near Penrith in Cumbria was designed by architects Grey and Mair and includes furnishings by the renowned firm Gillows of Lancaster and London.
Opulent to its core and said to have featured marble fireplaces, ivory door handles and friezes with pearls, Flass remained in the Dent family until 1973. Just prior to being sold for £17,000 (the equivalent of £202,000 today) that year to a historian named Frank Walsh, the then owner Sir Robert Dent opened up an attic of the house and discovered items from the Mughal Empire that he then auctioned for the astounding sum of £220,000 (the equivalent of £2.6 million today).
Subsequently this vast stucco finished, limestone built house – complete with a Doric porte-cochère and a three-storey tower – became a care home and was then after sold in 2000 to a singer-songwriter best known for co-writing the creepy Christian crooner Sir Cliff Richard’s Devil Woman named Christine Holmes (also known as Kristine Sparkle) and her husband Paul Davies. The pair turned the property into a performing arts school.
After the couple divorced, Davies took control of the mansion but due to spiraling maintenance costs, he eventually got himself involved with a gang of drug dealers in 2011. Due to what rental agents at the time described as the house being “totally private and hidden away, with an unmatched seclusion and charm,” Davies and his five cohorts were able to grow cannabis with a street value of £5.26 million undetected until a neighbour became suspicious. He was jailed for his role in the crime for three years and eight months in September 2015.
Christine Holmes subsequently took back control of Flass and after trying and failing to sell the house for £1.5 million spent £200,000 on renovations to put right the damage done by the drug operation. Her bad luck, however, was not to end there. In September 2017, the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald reported that a gang of ‘Urban Explorers’ had raided the somewhat derelict building and filmed their exploits. In the weeks that followed, trespassers returned at least twelve further times and “ransacked and trashed” the once glorious residence. She told the paper:
“I was absolutely horrified when I saw [videos of the house] online. I couldn’t believe how anyone could come into my home and believe it was an abandoned building.”
“I think since then people have been staying in the building and have even been there hiding while I’ve been there. I’m petrified. These are evil people who are breaking into my home. I think it’s becoming a game to them. They are breaking in every day.”
Auctioneers Harman Healy will now offer Grade II* listed Flass along with 17.5 acres of overgrown grounds with a guide price of just £460,000+ on 30th January. Christine Holmes no doubt will be glad if she finally gets shot of what she likely ended up considering to be the worst kind of white elephant.
Flass – The Numbers
January 2019 – To be offered at auction with a guide price of just £460,000 ($596,000, €525,000 or درهم2.2 million).
July 2014 – Offered for sale for £1.5 million ($1.9 million, €1.7 million or درهم7.1 million).
2000 – Sold for £490,000 ($635,000, €559,000 or درهم2.3 million) to the currently jailed drug dealer Paul Davies and his then wife songwriter Christine Holmes.
1998 – Reduced to £650,000 ($842,000, €741,000 or درهم3.1 million).
1997 – For sale for £750,000 ($972,000, €855,000 or درهم3.6 million).
1982 – Sold for £115,000 ($149,000, €131,000 or درهم547,000) to a retired solicitor named Malcolm Whiteside. He turned Flass into a care home which he ran with his wife Mary.
1973 – Sold by Sir Robert Dent, a descendant of the family who built the house, for £17,000 ($22,000, €19,000 or درهم81,000) to a historian named Frank Welsh.