CONRAN CAPTURES THE REPOSSESSED CASTLE: FASHION DESIGNER JASPER SNAPS UP £7m 'BILLY ELLIOT' HOUSE - FOR JUST £2.75m
Daily Mail, 10th August 2010
Wardour Castle, one of Britain’s most valuable repossessed homes, has been bought for a knock-down price by multi-millionaire fashion designer Jasper Conran.
The house, with its magnificent galleried staircase, was the setting for the Royal Ballet School in the hit movie Billy Elliot.
Conran paid just £2.75 million for the 18th Century Castle in Tisbury, Wiltshire.
It’s an absolute bargain because it was up for sale two years ago for more than £7 million,’ said Graham Winterton of upmarket estate agency Strutt & Parker.
‘It was repossessed by the bank two months ago. It’s rare to see a building of this value and size being repossessed. I can’t think of another country house on this scale that this has happened to.
What’s more, the former owner spent a fortune restoring it with incredible taste and authenticity. It’s huge and it’s stunning.’
Jasper, 50, is the son of Sir Terence Conran, the Habitat founder and restaurateur, and his second wife Shirley, the best- selling author.
Grade I-listed Wardour Castle was designed by Georgian architect James Paine and built in 1770 for the 8th Lord Arundell to celebrate his marriage to Maria Christiana Conquest.
It replaced a crumbling house of the same name whose attractive ruins can still be seen from the castle’s magnificent arched windows.
Wardour’s fabulous Georgian interior is acclaimed as the ‘finest in Wiltshire’ in the authoritative Pevsner architectural guide.
When the house was built, the Arundells – whose title has now died out – were one of the wealthiest families in the country.
Since then, the stately home, in common with many others, has suffered mixed fortunes.
After the Second World War until 1990 it became Cranbourne Chase School for Girls.
But during the last big property slump, in 1992, property speculator and ecologist Nigel Tuersley saw the castle advertised in Country Life magazine and bought it for under £1 million.
Mr Tuersley, now 60, made his fortune on building projects at Canary Wharf in East London and made Wardour Castle a home for himself, his wife Vanessa and their two children.
An enthusiast for Classical design and modern minimalism, Mr Tuersley set about restoring Wardour Castle with the help of architect John Pawson and spent millions of pounds transforming it into a truly spectacular 21st Century residence.
The east and west wings were converted into flats, and the massive central castle building – with its Great Hall, stupendous state rooms and Sir John Soane interiors – became known, incongruously, as The Apartment.
But when the money ran out, it went back on the market and became known as a ‘posh repossession’ in property circles. Mr Tuersley now lives in a cottage on the estate.
‘Jasper has bought The Apartment, the most important and prestigious heart of this lovely old castle,’ said a friend. ‘He loves Georgian architecture and is truly delighted.’
Conran, whose business interests include designing anything from women’s clothes and spectacle frames to Wedgwood china, has built up a personal fortune estimated to be in excess of £25 million, with which to indulge his love of fine Georgian buildings.
He has built up an impressive property portfolio and even his offices are in a Georgian listed building in Mayfair.
In 2006, he bought the handsome 18th Century Walpole House in Chiswick, West London, which features a stunning baroque hall that overlooks the Thames.
A year later, Conran bought Grade I-listed Ven House in Milborne Port, Somerset, for nearly £8.5 million.
He also has a London flat and it is believed he is keen to move into Wardour Castle as soon as possible.
Last night a spokeswoman for Conran confirmed: ‘Jasper has bought Wardour but it’s purely a private transaction.
'He is on holiday in Italy and he won’t be saying anything about it because it has nothing to do with the business.’