An Evelyn Waugh superfan who lives in the writer’s Cotswold mansion is said to be refusing access to prospective buyers – and could thwart the auction of the Grade II-listed Georgian manor.
Helen Lawton and her partner Bechara Madi are paying £250 a year under a Common Law tenancy to live in Piers Court, the eight-bedroom mansion in Gloucestershire where Waugh wrote many of his best novels including Brideshead Revisited, Officers and Gentlemen and Men at Arms.
Ms Lawton, a ‘Hyacinth Bucket figure from Cheshire’ who had been hankering after the house for 25 years, asked her millionaire ex-BBC boss friend Jason Blain for help when the house came on the market in 2018 – and Blain duly set up a company to buy the property for £2.9million a year later.
The Waugh superfan and her partner then set themselves up as tenants, on a rolling six-month tenancy with rent of £250 a year. On the day of the purchase, they resigned as directors of the company.
The former home of writer Evelyn Waugh, in Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire, is up for sale. The exclusive home is seen from the air. It boasts eight bedrooms but little is known about the current state of its interior, because its tenants will not allow prospective buyers inside
Evelyn Waugh (left) lived at Piers Court for 19 years and wrote novels including Brideshead Revisited, Officers and Gentlemen and Men at Arms in the library there. The mansion was bought in 2019 by Jason Blain (pictured above in 2009 with producer Deborah Schindler), a former BBC executive
Prospective buyers are unable to view Piers Court because the tenants are refusing to leave and will not let estate agents or buyers in.
Speaking to The Times, Ms Lawton insisted: ‘The house is not for sale, it is coming off the market.
‘We’ve been through hell in the last three weeks. This is going to become very big public knowledge.’
The eight-bedroom property in the village of Stinchcombe was bought by Waugh for £3,600 in 1937.
The auction of Piers Court takes place on December 15. The auctioneers have warned prospective buyers: ‘The property is occupied under a Common Law Tenancy at a rent of £250 per annum.
In images that were taken on Tuesday, Piers Court is seen from a public footpath that runs through the property’s grounds
There are wooden gates leading up to the home. They are seen above in images that were taken on Tuesday
Piers Court’s name is seen engraved on a gate post outside the enormous property
The driveway leading to the property is seen above. The home was sold in the late 1980s for £1.25million
The entrance to Evelyn Waugh’s former home in Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire, is pictured above
Piers Court and part of its impressive grounds are seen from the air in images that were taken on Tuesday
The property would make a fabulous home for any new owner, if they can secure the departure of the tenants
‘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.’
Mr Blain bought the mansion with a £2.1million loan from the London bank C Hoare & Co.
In January this year, it emerged that he was being sued by the five-star Mandarin Oriental hotel near Hyde Park over an alleged unpaid bill. According to documents filed at the High Court, he allegedly booked a £4,275-a-night penthouse for six days but stayed for eight months.
The eight-bedroom property is in the village of Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire. Novelist Evelyn Waugh bought it for £3,600 in 1937. It has been put up for auction with a guide price of £400,000 less than the £2.9million it was sold for just four years ago
Prospective buyers are unable to view Piers Court because the current tenants are refusing to leave and will not let estate agents or buyers in. The auction of the property takes place on December 15
Mr Blain was accused of still owing £731,500 of a £1.25million bill, alongside other fees such as £55,000 in service costs, £30,100 for valet parking and £25,497 for room service.
He was said to have emailed the luxury hotel in June last year saying: ‘The bill is of course my debt and this will be reversed at a future point.’
Mr Blain, who lives in Perthshire, Scotland, was taken to court in November 2021 by Torsten van Dullemen, the Mandarin’s general manager.
They claim he paid back £508,500 of the bill, with the most recent coming on June 9, 2021, for £25,000.
The claimant said he emailed area director of finance Allan Collier to admit to owing the money and said he would pay it ‘at a future point’. But the Mandarin was then seeking the repayment for £740,832.01.
The picturesque country estate near near Dursley, was bought by Waugh for £3,600 with cash given to him by the parents of his second wife, Laura Herbert.
The pair lived in the mansion for 19 years – but it was let to a convent school briefly during the Second World War.
The property’s sweeping driveway and grounds are seen from the air on Tuesday
Pictured: Evelyn Waugh and his wife Laura Herbert in 1937. Waugh used the money from his wife’s father to purchase Piers Court
The sweeping country estate was lived in by Waugh and his wife for 19 years before they sold it off in the 1950s
Waugh and his wife used to stage stunning dinner parties at Piers Court, attended by famous pals and intellectuals, including novelists Graham Greene and Nancy Mitford and renowned poet John Betjeman.
In his diary, Waugh described Piers Court as the ‘kind of house which takes a lot of living up to’.
But Waugh’s love for the mansion was soured in June of 1955, when two Daily Express reporters paid an unexpected visit to Piers Court to interview him.
The furious author reportedly told them to: ‘Go away. Go away. You read the notice didn’t you? No admittance on business.’
Describing the encounter in his diary, Waugh later wrote: ‘I sent them away and remained tremulous with rage all the evening.’
Feeling the mansion had been ‘polluted’, the author placed it on the market with estate agents Knight Frank the next week. It sold for £10,000.
Knight and Frank is now asking for offers in excess of 2.5million for the 23.5-acre estate.