| Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes. (Reuters)
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,"
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
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
He added: "We will invite comments or objections from
"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
19 September 2002: Director Mendes takes the long
road to promotion
19 November 2001: Kate Winslet 'besotted' with new
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