Defiant Evelyn Waugh superfans are STILL in his £3M Cotswold home
EXCLUSIVE Defiant Evelyn Waugh superfans are STILL living in the literary giant’s £3M Cotswold home… four months after it was sold
- EXCLUSIVE: Eight-bed Piers Court is in village of Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire
- Bechara Madi and his partner Helen Lawton are paying £250 a year to rent it out
- But they’re refusing to leave after the home was auctioned off last year for £3m
A couple of defiant Evelyn Waugh superfans who are living in the literary giant’s £3million former home in the Cotswolds for a peppercorn rent are refusing to leave the mansion four months after it was sold.
Helen Lawton, 62, and her partner Lebanese financier Bechara Madi, 60, pay just £250 a year to live in the Grade II listed Georgian manor as part of a complicated arrangement with the trust that owned it – but are now digging in their heels and refusing to leave.
The pair don’t answer the door to callers in case it’s bailiffs coming to evict them. Neighbours say they never see Ms Lawton, who is described as a larger-than-life ‘Hyacinth Bucket’ character.
MailOnline couldn’t get a reply when we called at the imposing eight-bedroom Piers Court in the Cotswolds village of Stinchcombe.
But voices could be heard from inside, the central heating and TV were on and the couple’s pet bulldog could be seen at a downstairs window.
Bechara Madi and his partner Helen Lawton pay £250 a year to live in Piers Court. Mr Madi is pictured in December walking his dog, Boo on the grounds of mansion. Mr Madi did not answer the door when MailOnline approached him this week
The eight-bedroom property is in the village of Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire. Novelist Evelyn Waugh bought it for £3,600 in 1937. It has been put up for auction with a guide price of £400,000 less than the £2.9million it was sold for just four years ago
Mr Madi later told us: ‘We are still residing at Piers Court. We are in the middle of a legal battle and are unable to make any comments as this could prejudice our position.’
READ MORE: ‘We’re going NOWHERE!’: ‘Tenant from hell’ paying £250-a-year peppercorn rent to live in Evelyn Waugh’s Cotswolds mansion says they won’t move out as £3M home heads to auction
That position has become more complicated after their business partner, former TV executive Jason Blain, was named as a debtor in a bankruptcy petition in the High Court.
It was Blain’s money that bought Piers Court and its 23 acres of grounds in 2018, although Ms Lawton and Mr Madi claim they put £300,000 into the deal.
The pair were paying just £5-a-week rent while they set about restoring the property where Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited.
But Blain, 52, got into financial difficulties after racking up a £1.1m hotel bill while staying at the plush Mandarin Oriental in London’s Knightsbridge in 2020, including £30,000 for valet parking and £8,600 for spa treatments and room service.
Hoare’s Bank in London, which gave him £2.1m to buy Piers Court, called in the loan because of missing repayments.
Ms Lawton and Mr Madi were served with a notice to quit on August 19 last year and a copy of the order was pinned to the property’s imposing wooden gates.
Piers Court was put in the hands of London auctioneers Allsop who offered it for sale with the warning: ‘The property is occupied under a Common Law Tenancy at a rate of £250 per annum.’
It was sold for £3.16m to a mystery buyer on December 15 – above the guide price but below what Mr Madi believes is its true value of £4m.
Piers Court was put up for sale last year – but with a warning that it was ‘occupied’ under Common Law Tenancy. The home (pictured) was sold to a mystery buyer on December 15
Evelyn Waugh (left) 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 Jason Blain (pictured above in 2009 with producer Deborah Schindler), a former BBC executive
The eight-bedroomed Grade II listed Georgian manor was once owned by author Evelyn Waugh. The house is pictured in December – when it was sold
It’s understood the new owner has yet to set foot inside the Grade II listed mansion, described as one of the most beautiful houses in Gloucestershire.
Interior designer Ms Lawton said at the time of the auction: ‘It was my wish to restore the house and give it its dignity back. That was going to be my legacy in life.
‘It was going to be a long project, I’ve done all the research on the architecture, the interiors, the grounds. It hasn’t been touched since the eighties, it needs an enormous amount of work, especially on the outside.’
Up until the sale Ms Lawton had been consulting with architects and English Heritage to return Piers Court to its former glory.
She added: ‘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 – he said he was beguiled by the place.
‘Bachara and I don’t have children so we have considered leaving the house to the Evelyn Waugh Society.’
Mr Madi (pictured in December) this week told MailOnline: ‘We are still residing at Piers Court. We are in the middle of a legal battle and are unable to make any comments as this could prejudice our position’
Pictured: Evelyn Waugh and his wife Laura Herbert in 1937. Waugh used the money from his wife’s father to purchase Piers Court
Ms Lawton, who describes herself as ‘eccentric’, even bought a Georgian horse-drawn carriage to go with the house of her dreams.
She claims her plans were backed by Waugh’s son Septimus, the writer’s seventh child, who lived in the house when he was young and died of cancer in 2021.
The new owner bought the mansion without seeing it – Mr Madi and Ms Lawton refused to show prospective buyers around or have the extravagant rooms and grounds photographed for the auction brochure.
It’s not the first time the couple have been involved in a property dispute. They took landlords of their £5m apartment in London’s Cadogan Square – the most expensive residential street in the UK – to a property tribunal in 2015.
Now they are in another legal battle which may go to the High Court if a solution can’t be found.
Meanwhile outside contractors are keeping the lawns cut and hedges trimmed while the occupants are continuing to answer their door.
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