‘The Steeple Times’ selects five undesirable homes currently for sale that many would say would remain best avoided; they’ve all been in the news and they’re all connected to infamous names
Destined most certainly not to feature in Penny Churchill’s Downton Abbey-esque country house porn Country Life column or as an Evening Standard chi-chi ‘Homes & Property’ ‘House of the Week,’ we have selected five undesirable homes currently for sale.
In spite of the fact that one has a link to a recently deceased paedophile, two have been the scene of murders, one is supposedly haunted and the final was the setting for a bizarre nine year sleep, their prices seem somewhat crazy – but maybe some people will just love the idea of living with notoriety. Whether any of them sell for their asking prices, however, seems as likely as the case of Jack the Ripper ever being solved.
Paedo Palace – 9 East 71st Street, Lenox Hill, New York, NY 10021, USA
For sale for £69 million ($88 million, €74 million or درهم121 million) through Modlin Group.
Known as the ‘Herbert Straus House’ in polite circles, but now forever more likely to be remembered as ‘Jeffrey Epstein’s Paedo Mansion,’ this 28,000 square foot, 7-floor, 40 room mansion was home to the deceased bestie of Prince Andrew from 1996 until his incarceration and suicide in 2019.
Few details are shared on the listing other than to declare it of “gargantuan size and opulence” and “the largest single-family home in New York City.” Though the late Alberto Pinto’s design work at the property is lauded, there’s no mention of what Ghislaine Maxwell got up to there or the bizarre birthday parties with Christopher Mason.
Murder Mansion – Devisdale House, Dunham Road, Bowdon, Cheshire, WA14 4QG, UK
Originally called ‘Oakleigh,’ this “striking Gothic Victorian villa” subsequently became known as ‘The House of Horror’ but has now been renamed ‘Devisdale House’ in an attempt to relieve it of a position in the ranks of undesirable homes.
In March 2005, Christopher Lumsden, a partner in the international law firm Pinsent Masons, killed his former Sotheby’s auctioneer wife Alison in the house in a “frenzied domestic attack in the master bedroom” according to The Sun. He stabbed her 30 times after she announced she was leaving him for another man and was amazingly jailed for just five years “after he was found guilty of manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility, claiming he had a depressive illness.”
‘Oakleigh’ subsequently “fell into rack and ruin” in spite of reports suggesting Lumsden may have inherited his wife’s fortune, but more recently it was purchased by a property developer. They have added an especially ghastly underground swimming pool, sauna, cinema room and triple garage and now pompous selling agents Jackson-Stops pretentiously laud the property as “incredible,” “striking” and “meticulously remodelled.” Christopher Lumsden, meanwhile, was released from prison after serving just two years of his jail sentence.
A Killer Castle – Pencoed Castle, Pencoed Lane, Llanmartin, Newport, Gwent, Wales, NP18 2ED, UK
Pencoed Castle dates to the 13th century and in the time since one can imagine all sorts has gone on there. Most recently, in 2016, a then 56-year-old businessman Peter Morgan strangled his girlfriend of three years, a 25-year-old personal escort named Georgina Symonds, in a bungalow in the castle grounds. The married multi-millionaire was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 25 years in prison and with that the estate found itself joining the ranks of undesirable homes.
Wales Online report that “it is not known if Mr Morgan still owns the property,” but for less than a million pounds, a buyer could get themselves not only the castle (which could be turned into 12 dwellings and offices also), but also a former farmhouse, two bungalows and 64.8 acres of land. Previous plans to turn the site into a Disneyland-style theme park called Legend Court came to nothing and of the property a local cryptically remarked: “This place’s recent history is very dark.”
Axing a Ghost – Maplecroft, 306 French Street, Fall River, Massachusetts, MA 02720, USA
Sold last for £469,000 in February 2018 and £386,000 in November 2014, Maplecroft is described by realtor Suzanne St. John as “a Queen Anne Victorian Mansion.” It was built in 1887, extends to 3,935 square foot and includes 7 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms.
The allegedly haunted residence, which stands on a plot of 0.31 acres, is notable as the post-prison home of one Lizzie Borden (1860 – 1927) – a woman who was the main suspect in the 1892 axe murders of her father and step-mother. Accused, tried and acquitted, Miss Borden inherited a fortune, bought Maplecroft and when she died of pneumonia her wake was held in the parlour.
The current owner also owns the house where the murders were committed and runs it as a ‘murder house B&B.’ He had intended to convert Maplecroft into something similar, but COVID-19 (and perhaps the spirit of Lizzie Borden) got in the way.
A Nine Year Sleep – Sleepy Cottage, 1 School Lane, Turville, Henley-On-Thames, Buckinghamshire, RG9 6QX, UK
Strictly speaking, our final choice, has had only a gruesome past in a fictional sense given that it sits in a village used in Midsomer Murders. Nobody in their right minds – if such a place did really exist – would want to reside in any of Midsomer’s locations given the risk of ending up brown bread would be so high, but the innocent sounding name of this cottage makes it worthy of mention.
Used also in the perfectly harmless series Goodnight Uncle Tom and the BBC sitcom The Vicar of Dibley, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom Sleepy Cottage is also noteworthy as it was most famously home to ‘The Sleeping Girl of Turville.’
Of this enigma, selling agents Savills remark:
“Ellen Sadler, who lived in the cottage with her family when in 1871, aged eleven she purportedly fell into a deep sleep from which she could not be roused for nine years. The case attracted international attention from newspapers, medical professionals and the public. She became a tourist attraction for the village, and her family made considerable money from visitors’ donations.”
“Rumours exist that among the elder Turville residents that Royalty even took an interest in her. The Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, visited her and laid his hands on her which people in those days believed would cure the sick.”
“As the years went on and with no sign of Ellen waking, speculation grew that her illness was caused by her mother, an issue that was never resolved. In late 1880, soon after her mother’s death, Ellen awoke. She later married and had at least five children.”
Undesirable Homes Currently For Sale – Pictured top: Jeffrey Epstein’s initials were prominently displayed at the entrance to 9 East 71st Street whilst the entrance hallway beyond aimed to impress with its classical grandeur. Goodness knows how many unfortunates passed through this space on their way on their way to be abused by the late Mr Epstein and his mucky madam Ghislaine Maxwell.