The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kate’s home with a problem

The timber beams and honey-coloured stone of 14th-century Church Westcote Manor deep in the heart of the Cotswolds attracted Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes so much that they paid more than half a million pounds over the asking price.

Their offer of £3.3 million saw off competition rumoured to have included Liz Hurley, Sir Elton John and Ruby Wax. The attractions included unspoilt views over three counties, oak-panelled rooms and a 22-acre walled garden. But the couple have discovered another aspect to the rustic charm of the place which is distinctly less welcome.

It could be a structural wreck.

According to plans the couple have lodged with the council, the Grade II listed house could be riddled with damp and the walls and the beams could be in a dangerous state of repair. They have applied for listed building consent to remove the facade of the building to see how deep the visible cracks are on the eight-bedroomed house and to check the old beams are not rotten. Along with general renovations and building work, it is estimated it could cost a further £1.5 million to put right.

Winslet, the star of Titanic, and Mendes, who won an Oscar as the director of American Beauty, bought the sprawling manor house last July from the estate of Raoul Millais, the late artist, who died in 1999 aged 98.

The asking price was originally £2.75 million but such was the competition for the home that it eventually sold for £3.3 million. Situated in the village of Church Westcote, it overlooks the Evenlode Valley, affording stunning, unspoilt views over Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. Described as an eccentric English pile, it is a mish-mash of different architectural styles, some of which date back to the 14th century.

But there is a danger its disadvantages may outweigh its advantages. The former owner had refused to install central heating and according to locals the house had been falling into disrepair for years with overgrown gardens and dilapidated buildings. Work to investigate the state of the cottage will include opening up the rear of the building's entire facade to investigate cracks in the stonework, if the council grants permission.

Builders will also look at the severe damp in the

cellar that could have spread to the wooden beams in

the walls and ceilings, knock several rooms on the

ground floor into one and demolish a modern kitchen


McDonald and Berridge, the couple's architectural

agent, based in London, hinted at the problems ahead

in a letter to the Cotswold District Council.

"This house is in a poor state of repair. We are

planning a preliminary opening up contract and further

works when the full state of the building is known,"

it read.

One villager added: "It's a wonderful house, full of

character. But they'll have to spend a small fortune

to put it right.

"It has been neglected and the place is in a pretty

sorry state."

Kevin Field, a planning officer with Cotswold District

Council, said: "They are trying to establish what they

can do to properly explore the state of the building.

"You need to get under the floor and into the timber

to see how bad the damage really is.

"They will have known about these problems from their

original surveyor's report, but a surveyor can only

estimate how bad it is.

"They won't know that until they have a proper look."

Because the main house is Grade II listed, any

structural work inside or outside needs consent from


But Mr Field said permission is likely to be granted

without objection.

He added: "We will invite comments or objections from

the public.

"However, I don't see anyone having a problem with


It is not the first time Miss Winslet has encountered

problems with her homes. The former pump house she

bought in Walton-on-Thames had to be barricaded with

sandbags to avoid flooding.

Neither Miss Winslet nor Mr Mendes were available for

comment yesterday.

19 September 2002: Director Mendes takes the long

road to promotion

19 November 2001: Kate Winslet 'besotted' with new

love Mendes

Information appearing on Electronic Telegraph is the

copyright of Telegraph Group Limited and must not be

reproduced in any medium without licence. For the full

copyright statement see Copyright


Jaideep Chatterjee

Assistant News Editor

The Telegraph

6,9 Prafulla Sarkar Street, Calcutta, India

00-91-33-2600216, 00-91-33-2600229


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