An Evelyn Waugh superfan who is being evicted from the writer’s Cotswold mansion after it sold at auction yesterday for £3m says she planned to restore the property and leave it to the nation.
Helen Lawton, 62, says she has the backing of the writer’s family who support her as custodian of the Grade II-listed Georgian mansion.
Ms Lawton pays just £250 a year rent to live in the eight-bedroom property, which was sold to a mystery bidder for £3.16m.
She and her partner, Lebanese businessman Bechara Madi, 60, say they are victims of the dispute and vow to continue living in the mansion on 23 acres of prime Cotswold countryside.
Helen Lawton, 62, claims she has the backing of the writer’s family who support her as custodian of the Grade II-listed Georgian mansion (pictured)
Lawton and her partner, Lebanese businessman Bechara Madi (pictured Wednesday walking their dog, Boo, around the mansion grounds), 60, say they are victims of the dispute and vow to continue living in the mansion in 23 acres of land. first cotswold countryside
Pictured: Evelyn Waugh and his wife Laura Herbert at their wedding in 1937. Waugh used his wife’s father’s money to buy Piers Court.
The couple say they paid a £300,000 deposit at Piers Court when they set up a property company to buy it four years ago and have continued to invest money in it.
Ms Lawton said: ‘For them to auction off the house is totally outrageous, morally and on every level, it’s totally outrageous.
‘It was my wish to restore the house and restore its dignity. That was to be my legacy in life.
‘It was going to be a long project, I did all the research on the architecture, the interiors, the grounds. It hasn’t been touched since the 1980s, it needs an enormous amount of work, especially on the exterior.
Interior designer Ms Lawton has been consulting with the local planning authority and English Heritage to return Piers Court, in the village of Stinchcombe, to its original state.
She said: ‘I am passionate about the house. It was love at first sight when I saw the house and apparently it was the same for Evelyn Waugh: she said he was enthralled by the place.
Waugh, author of Brideshead Revisited and Decline And Fall, paid £3,600 for Piers Court in 1937.
Ms Lawton, known as the Hyacinth Bucket character, said: “You’re just a custodian of a place like this.”
“Bachara and I have no children, so our wish was to leave the house to the Evelyn Waugh Society or the nation.”
The eight-bedroom property is located in the village of Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire. Novelist Evelyn Waugh bought it for £3,600 in 1937
Evelyn Waugh (pictured left in 1955) 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 former BBC executive Jason Blain (pictured right in 2009 with producer Deborah Schindler).
Ms Lawton, who describes herself as ‘eccentric’, even bought herself a Georgian horse-drawn carriage to go with her dream home.
The couple say a £10,000 survey was carried out on the property when they first moved in and restoration work had begun when the Covid pandemic struck.
Lawton said Waugh’s son, Septimus, the writer’s seventh child, who lived in the house as a young man and died of cancer last year, was backing his plans.
She said: ‘I had lovely conversations with Septimus about his time at Piers Court. He could remember the stairs and the chandeliers.
‘I was hoping that whatever time I did stay I would do my best to restore the house and grounds.’
But in August, Ms Lawton and her partner received an eviction notice when the bank to which they had lent £2.1m called for the loan.
A firm of trustees was brought in after his business partner Jason Blain was sued over an alleged £740,000 unpaid hotel bill.
The former home of writer Evelyn Waugh, in Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire, sold for £3.16m at auction yesterday.
The house was featured in the Daily Mail in January 1989, after it had sold for £1.25 million.
The shareholders said they had proof of the funds to redeem the mortgage, but were ignored and the property was put on the market despite Lawton and his partner refusing to visit potential buyers.
Just 24 hours before an online auction, Mr Bechara told MailOnline: “We’re not going anywhere”, saying the couple would put up their Christmas tree and decorations as usual.
London auctioneers Allsop declined to name the new owner having been advised: “The property is held under a common law tenure at a rate of £250 per annum.”
The buyer paid £660,000 above the reference price but, according to Lawton and Bechara, they still have a bargain. They believe the mansion is worth more than £4 million.
The couple, who own a multimillion-dollar London flat, accused the bank and trustees of acting “aggressively and underhandedly.”
Financier Mr Madi, 60, said: “Until the contracts are exchanged, there will be no formal sale. We need to speak to Jason (Blain) about this to assess our position.”
“We will have internal talks to see what our next move will be.”