A Grade II*-listed Cotswold mansion where Evelyn Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited is up for auction with a guide price of £2.5m – about £400,000 less than it sold for just four years ago.
However, there is a catch, or two. Prospective buyers are unable to look around the eight-bedroom, six-bathroom property and no recent photos are available because sitting tenants are refusing to leave the property or allow estate agents or buyers in. The tenants are paying rent of £250 a year.
Piers Court at Stinchcombe near Dursley, about halfway between Bristol and Cheltenham, was bought by Waugh for £3,600 in 1937 with money he had been given by the parents of his second wife, Laura Herbert.
View image in fullscreenEvelyn Waugh pictured in 1955 at Piers Court. Photograph: Kurt Hutton/Getty Images
The couple lived in Piers Court for 19 years (apart from during the second world war when he let the mansion to a convent school), and Waugh wrote many of his best novels in its library including Officers and Gentlemen, Men at Arms, and Brideshead Revisited.
The couple also hosted dinner parties with famous friends and intellectuals including Graham Greene, Nancy Mitford and John Betjeman. Waugh wrote in his diary that Piers Court is “the kind of house which takes a lot of living up to”.
Waugh’s love affair with Piers Court was dashed on 21 June 1955 when two reporters from the Daily Express paid an unexpected visit to the mansion in attempt to interview the author. Waugh told them to: “Go away. Go away! You read the notice didn’t you? No admittance on business,” according to Express reporters Nancy Spain and Lord Noel-Buxton’s write up of their “attempt to gatecrash [our] favourite idol”.
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In his diary Waugh wrote: “I sent them away and remained tremulous with rage all the evening.” His diary entry for 22 June reads simply: “And all next day.”
He promptly wrote to Knight Frank, the same estate agents who are marketing the auction next week, asking for the house to be put on the market, saying: “I felt as if the house had been polluted.” It sold for £10,000.
The house was last sold for £2.9m in 2019 to a company controlled by a former BBC executive who was taken to court earlier this year after failing to pay most of the £1.24m cost of staying in the £4,725-a-night penthouse at the Mandarin Oriental hotel for eight months.
Jason Blain, who previously worked as an executive for BBC Worldwide and Sony Entertainment, was sued by the Knightsbridge hotel in January over an unpaid bill of £740,000, which included £30,110 for valet parking and £25,497 for room service.
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Blain bought Piers Court via a company called Winston’s House, with a loan of £2.1m from the historic London bank Hoare’s & Co. Blain could not be reached for comment.
The auction, which takes places on 15 December, was triggered by the bank after it appointed receivers to recover the debt. Accounts filed at Companies House show receivers Victoria Liddell and Tammy Wilkins of Allsops were appointed on 15 June. The receivers and Hoare’s & Co declined to comment.
Prospective buyers are warned by the auctioneers that: “The property is occupied under a Common Law Tenancy at a rent of £250 per annum. A notice to quit was served on the occupant on 19 August 2022 and a copy of such notice was affixed to the property gate on 22 August 2022. Prospective purchasers should take their own legal advice regarding this and will be deemed to bid accordingly.”
Piers Court’s history extends well before Waugh. In 1640, the local wealthy land and mill-owning Pynffold family acquired Piers Court where they remained for 150 years.
“After the fall of Bristol, it is thought that Piers Court was ransacked by parliamentarian troops who were searching for Prince Rupert, the king’s cousin and one of his generals,” the agents, Knight Frank, said in marketing material released for the last sale.