White mischief in Mayfair

Recently, I was researching a home in one of the most sought after addresses in London, Chesterfield Hill in Mayfair. During my research I was excited to find one of the former owners directly linked with a scandal – in fact, it was of such notoriety, the story was written into a book.

The house stands out amongst its older Georgian neighbours, with a rebuilt Arts and Crafts inspired exterior. Completed in 1900, the home features bands of ornate plasterwork, bay windows and a wrought iron balcony. It has formerly been the home of Charles Newton-Robinson, a writer, poet, art collector and Olympic fencer, as well as, Sir Leslie and the honourable Lady Gamage of the General Electric Company. Sir Leslie Gamage was also president of the Institute of Export and chief business advisor of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

However, it was Thomas Pitt Cholmondeley, fourth Baron Delamere, who owned the house in the 1950s, who was connected to the scandalous case of the ‘Happy Valley’ murder of Joss Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll. The fourth Baron Delamere and in particular his third wife, Diana Caldwell, were stars of the rich landowning social scene in colonial Kenya. The high society scene became known as ‘happy valley’ for its drinking, drugs and sexual dalliances.

Diana Caldwell was a society beauty and in 1940 was married to Sir Henry ‘Jock’ Delves Boughton, but was also having an affair with the dashing Josslyn, Earl of Erroll. In January 1941 Joss was found shot dead and the jealous husband, Sir Henry Boughton, was charged with his murder. Sir Henry was later acquitted and returned to England without his wife, but by 1942 he had died of a drug overdose.

His wife, the engaging Diana Caldwell, married again in 1943 and again in 1955, when she married Thomas Cholmondeley, fourth Baron Delamere, shortly after he had bought the grand Mayfair home on Chesterfield Hill.

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The story of the happy valley murder was the basis for the book White Mischief (1982) by James Fox, later becoming a film featuring Charles Dance, Greta Scacchi and Hugh Grant, who played the role of Thomas’s father, the third Baron Delamere.

Find out more information about No.11 Chesterfield Hill

See the full history of the house

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