Apethorpe Hall, the 48 room house is one of Britain’s most historic country mansions. Located near Oundle, Northamptonshire the house was developed as the focal point and power base of leading Tudor and Jacobean families. These families had close links with the Court of England’s ruling monarchs for over 150 years from Edward IV to Charles I. The house originally built in 1470-80 by Sir Guy Wolston has hit the market for a bargain price of £2.5 million. However, the property carries a £100,000-a-year maintenance bill. And in addition the conditions of sale stipulate that the new owner must also keep the hall open to the public for at least 28 days a year. By the luxury real estate standards it is really a bargain.
The luxury mansion has been built on a royal scale with all the trappings of a palace fit for a king. It has its own minstrels’ gallery, 18th century classical library and vast Italianate gardens. Sir Guy Wolston who built it sold it to Sir Walter Mildmay, an English statesman who would serve as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Queen Elizabeth I. He played host to the Queen in the house. It was one of the Queen’s favorite overnight stops on the Great North Road. It stayed in his family for 350 years. Monarchs James I and Charles I also frequented Apethorpe and enjoyed magnificent feasts of venison and wine. James I is also believed to have enjoyed homosexual trysts when he visited the home 10 times between 1614 and 1624. A secret doorway leads from the King’s bedchamber to the chamber used by his favorite courtier George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham. The discovery was made during the restoration work.
Apethorpe Hall is being sold by English Heritage. They had bought it in 2004 for £3 million. The house at the time was in bad shape as it was ravaged by years of neglect. They pumped in another £4 million on restoration in order to pull the property back from ruin. At the time it was considered Britain’s most neglected Grade I country house. The house had earlier been used by the Catholic Church to run a school. The Libiyan millionaire Wanis Mohammed Burweila also owned the house till he fled UK after the shooting of WPc Yvonne Fletcher during the Libyan Embassy siege in 1984. Some historical dramas and the 1984 film Another Country, starring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth has been filmed in the house.
However the decision of English Heritage to sell the house has not gone down with the people in general. They feel that the Government has wasted taxpayers money and is now giving the property back into private hands at a huge discount. They argue that the property should have been left with the private developer to be restored properly and there was no point in acquiring it at that time. It has resulted in a huge loss to the taxpayer which the country cannot afford. English Heritage on the other hand believes that as the government’s protector of England’s unique legacy of historic buildings it was their duty to save Apethorpe Hall before it was too late. However the new owner will have to invest quite a lot if they want the property to regain its original glory.