Cambridgeshire mansion used by Special Operations Executives in the Second World War and as a borstal subsequently for sale; Gaynes Hall is next to the prison that housed Max Clifford and was briefly a cannabis farm in 2019
- Grade II* listed Georgian mansion in Cambridgeshire for sale for £2.65 million in spite of being in far from perfect condition and next door to a prison housing 1,220 convicted sex offenders.
- The estate was owned by the aristocratic Duberly family from 1798 until 1940. An earlier house on the house had been home to Oliver Cromwell’s namesake and uncle.
- It was requisitioned in the Second World War by the Special Operations Executive. Hitler was so annoyed by the operations at Gaynes Hall that he supposedly nicknamed the place “the hornet’s nest.”
- After the war, the hall became a borstal and after that closed, part of the estate became HM Prison Littlehey – famous for housing PR ‘guru’ Max Clifford, victim of a miscarriage of justice Stephen Downing and Australian cricketer Alex Hepburn.
- More recently, the estate came to public attention after being discovered to be the centre of operations for drug lords. £250,000 of cannabis were seized there in 2019.
In June 2019, once ritzy Gaynes Hall at Perry, near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire came to public attention when a drugs baron who’d turned part of the building into a cannabis farm was jailed. For his troubles, Nebir Tahiraj was relieved of £250,000 of drugs and ‘gained’ a sentence of 13 months.
Grade II* listed and built circa 1800 for Sir James Duberly (1758 – 1832), the gault brick house was originally plaster rendered. Of three storeys plus cellars and seven bays, the 20,795 square foot building is currently being marketed by agents Wilson Peacock for £2.65 million – up from £2.2 million back in 2019.
Gaynes Hall (also known as ‘Gaines Hall’ occasionally) stands in 16 acres of grounds including lakes and a moat and comes with a three bedroom cottage “requiring full modernisation and refurbishment.” It was home to the Duberly family until 1940 when it was requisitioned by Special Operations Executives (SOE) on the instructions of Winston Churchill.
Supposedly, according to the local Parish Council’s website, Hitler was so exasperated by the activities at Gaynes Park that he referenced the house “the hornet’s nest.” It was known locally during this period as a “spy school” and its master, Wing Commander Thomas Odett, was nicknamed ‘The White Rabbit’ on the basis that “he was always popping up in unexpected places.”
After the war, the mansion became the governor’s residence and administrative offices of the newly created Her Majesty’s Borstal Gaynes Hall and remained in that use until 1983 when the borstal closed. Her Majesty’s Prison Littlehey, which is best known as the place of death of the public relations ‘guru’ paedophile Max Clifford, was subsequently opened next door and residents of Perry get to hear its sirens periodically if a prisoner escapes or there is a disturbance.
In 1985, AIM Cambridge (later AIM Technology) leased the hall and from the Ministry of Defence and converted it into offices. When their business failed, the building became empty and in 1990, Gaynes Hall was sold again. In the years since, it has been in mixed use.
The Names & Numbers – Gaynes Hall, Perry, Great Staughton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE28 0ST, United Kingdom
14th June 2019 – 35-yeard old Nebir Tahiraj found guilty at Cambridge Crown Court of “being concerned in the production of cannabis” in his flat at Gaynes Hall and jailed for 13 months. When police raided the property, they “found more than 200 plants at varying stages of growth, growing equipment and two large bags of cannabis ready to be sold” worth circa £250,000 ($316,000, €279,000 or درهم1.2 million). He attempted to claim “he was being exploited and kept at the flat against his will,” but the National Crime Agency (NCA) discovered he had been willingly involved.
Mid 2019 – For Sale for £2.2 million ($2.8 million, €2.5 million or درهم10.2 million) through Michael Graham.
March 2019 – Fleet Assist announce they will be moving their business from Gaynes Hall to Ermine Business Park in Huntingdon.
2002 – Purchased by the Malik family (according to Wikipedia).
1994 – 2002 – Owned by the McCallion family (according to Wikipedia).
1985 – Converted to offices and used by firms including AIM Cambridge (AIM Technology) and Fleet Assist in the years subsequently. Part-let as apartments and by the room also for residential use.
1945 – 1983 – Used as the governor’s residence and administrative officers of the Her Majesty’s Borstal Gaynes Hall. ‘Boys’ who were detained there have recounted their experiences on this fascinating Facebook page; it plainly was not an especially pleasant place.
1940 – Requisitioned for use by Special Operations Executive (SOE). Gaynes Hall – under the codename ‘Station 61’ – became the headquarters for Air Liason Officers and used as a ‘hotel’ for them prior to their being dropped into occupied Europe.
1798 – 1940 – Owned by the Duberly family. The present house was constructed for them circa 1800 to the designs of architect George Byfield (circa 1756 – 1813).