Who would live in a house like this?
From the 1980s to the 2000s and beyond, the catchphrase ‘Who lives in a house like this?’ took a hold in our vocabulary. It was introduced by the popular TV panel game Through the Keyhole, on which viewers were taken on a tour of a house owned by a wellknown personality, before a panel of experts was invited to guess the name of the property’s owner.
Among the houses that might well have appeared on the show is Grade II*-listed Beel House at Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire, which is for sale through Savills (020–7016 3713) at a guide price of í6.5 million. It has been owned by an impressive array of celebrities, from actor Dirk Bogarde and film director Basil Dearden in the 1960s to, more recently, eccentric popstar Ozzy Osbourne and the former talkshow host, writer and politician, Robert Kilroy-Silk.
However, a contemporary panel might struggle to guess the identity of the owner from the contents of the interior, given that the house is presently unfurnished, as Mr Kilroy-Silk sold it last year to an international buyer, who now finds it ‘surplus to requirements’ and has put it straight back on the market. ‘Could a house like this work for me?’ is the question that A-listers and international businessmen alike tend to ask themselves when they set out to buy a house in the country, whereupon the merits of Beel House, once part of the important Beel Park estate, soon become apparent.
Privacy is always a major concern and the location of Beel House, at the end of a long, tree-lined drive, half a mile from the village, surrounded by 13-and-a-half acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, wildflower meadows and a small deer park, and protected by all-round security fencing and a sophisticated system of video cameras, light sensors and burglar alarms, instantly ticks that box. Swift, easy access to central London by road and rail and to Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton via the motorway network is another vital attraction.
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At the heart of it all sits the elegant 10,700sq ft country house once owned by the Duke of Buckingham, which, although in need of renovation, has both the aura and the facilities demanded by today’s celebrity owner or jet-setting businessman. The core of Beel House is a Jacobean yeoman farmhouse, which was extended and refronted with its striking Georgian façade in about 1795. Later additions include the loggia and conservatory, erected by Col Arthur Lyle in about 1910.
The house was completely refurbished in the early 1980s, when a new garage and games block completed the rear courtyard, and again in the early 1990s. A more recent addition is the splendid swimming-pool complex, with its large indoor pool, whirlpool and steam room; a large games room with a bar area provides an excellent alternative entertaining space away from the main house.
Within the main house, any accomplished interior designer would relish the chance to revive Beel House’s classic Georgian interior, with its well-proportioned rooms and spaces, which include a fine reception hall, a drawing room, a dining room, a sitting room, an orangery, a kitchen/breakfast room, a library, a large master bedroom suite, a guest suite, five further bedrooms and four bathrooms.
Who would have guessed that gracious, Edwardian Pinewood Hall, in deeply respectable Farnham Lane, Haslemere, Surrey, has been the cherished family home of writer and film director John Henderson since the 1980s? In the course of a prolific film and TV career spanning more than 40 years, during which he has directed such enduring family favourites as The Borrowers and Loch Ness, Mr Henderson is, perversely, perhaps best known for his association with Spitting Image, the wonderfully outrageous, satirical puppet series of the 1980s and 1990s. ‘In fact, when we first moved to the house, the people around here were so horrified at some of our Spitting Image storylines that they wouldn’t let their children play with our children,’ he recalls.
Unlike Beel House, which has changed hands at regular intervals over the years, Pinewood Hall has had relatively few owners, although those who have lived there could hardly be described as ordinaires. The house was originally built, in about 1905, for the eminent ‘surgeon, scientist and teacher’ Sir Jonathan Hutchinson.
It was later owned by a rich Venetian nobleman, the marquis nobilissimo Nazareno Zimmermann Barbaro, and then, in the 1980s, by Sheikh Kaki, the head of the Bank of Kuwait, who apparently housed his wife and housekeepers there before eventually selling to Mr Henderson. ‘He mistakenly thought it was close to Harrods,’ the latter explains.
The Sheikh had spent a fortune on the house, which boasted a wealth of elaborate marble statues, doors handpainted by Venetian artists and a dining-room table that looked like a wedding cake, when Mr Henderson came to view it. The banker also created Pinewood’s magnificent gardens, which had its own array of statuary, ranging from classic Greco-Roman to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the present owner recalls.
During their tenure, the Hendersons have carefully maintained Pinewood’s 7.2 acres of spectacular formal gardens and woodland overlooking the Surrey countryside. ‘The great thing about Pinewood Hall is that you think you’re in the middle of nowhere, but the station is only a mile away,’ comments its affectionate owner.
Mr Henderson’s engagingly lighthearted view of life is reflected in the décor of Pinewood Hall, with 6,700sq ft of accommodation, comprising three main reception rooms, a music room, a study, a gym, a kitchen/breakfast room, a large master suite, six further bedrooms and three further bathrooms, which is refreshingly uncluttered, light and airy. But, now that their children have flown the nest—if only to settle a mile or two down the road—he and his wife, Deirdre, have decided to downsize and their beloved Pinewood has been placed on the market through Strutt & Parker (020–7318 5187) at a guide price of £4 million.
The same agents’ Canterbury office (01227 808703) quotes a guide price of £3.5 million for Grade II-listed The Quaives at Wickhambreaux, six miles from Canterbury, the enchanting, small, east Kent country estate that has been the home of Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie for the past 25 years. Having rejoined the band for a global tour, which has already taken her to Australia and New Zealand, the 72-year-old singer has decided to buy a bigger house in London and something smaller in the country.
Set in some 19 acres of formal gardens and paddocks adjoining open meadows, The Quaives, which was extended and remodelled in the Flemish style in the 1600s, was substantially refurbished by Miss McVie on her arrival—she has imbued the house with her own relaxed, chilled-out approach to life, says selling agent Simon Backhouse. The house comes with two cottages and a courtyard of Kentish barns and has ample accommodation on three floors, including four reception rooms, six bedrooms and four bathrooms.