The Times in a story entitled “Spoiler Alert: Evelyn Waugh fan could stymie mansion sale” has provided more details of the upcoming auction of Piers Court scheduled to take place tomorrow. Here’s an excerpt:
It is a story worthy of a book by Evelyn Waugh himself. A Waugh superfan could thwart the auction of the writer’s Cotswold mansion after setting herself up as a sitting tenant. Helen Lawton, 64, fulfilled her dream of living in Piers Court, a grade II listed eight-bedroom Georgian manor in Gloucestershire where the author wrote Brideshead Revisited.
The house is due to be auctioned tomorrow at a guide price of £2.5 million. As well as a library, topiary garden, cellar and dovecote, the house comes with two live-in tenants: Lawton and her partner Bechara Madi, who have a Common Law tenancy of £250 a year. Such tenancies fall outside the 1998 Housing Act and tend to be reserved for properties with exceptional high or low yearly rent under a private contract between the tenant and the landlord. The couple are said to be refusing access to prospective buyers…
Several other papers and internet media have reprinted the story, including the Daily Mail and the Daily Express. It is also noted that it was the trespass on Waugh’s property by reporters from the Daily Express that turned him against the house and motivated him to sell it. The article in the Express explains this in more detail:
…Waugh’s feelings towards Piers Court seemed to sour in 1955 after two Daily Express reporters gate-crashed in a bungled attempt to meet their “favourite idol”. The disturbance on 21 June is said to have affected Waugh who is reported to have told the reporters, Nancy Spain and Lord Noel-Buxton, to “Go away”. He is said to have told the pair in a rage: “Go away! You read the notice didn’t you? No admittance on business.”
In his diary entry for the day Waugh penned: “I sent them away and remained tremulous with rage all the evening.” On 22 June his diary simply adds: “And all next day.” He is reported to have told estate agent Knight Frank of his wish to sell the property with the words “I felt as if the house had been polluted”.
The Daily Mail has also posted a background story in its “FEMAIL” column placing his ownership of Piers Court within the context of a brief description of Waugh’s life. This is based to some extent on the writings of Alexander Waugh and Paula Byrne and includes several photographs which are worth a look. Most of the stories unhelpfully repeat the incorrect assertion that Waugh wrote the novel Brideshead Revisited while living in Piers Court. As explained in previous posts, he was the owner of the house when the novel was written, but it was occupied by an evacuated convent school while he was writing it in a Devon hotel on leave from the Army. Hopefully, all of this press interest will result in further reports of the results of tomorrow’s auction.