Ukip donor’s trib­ute to ‘fun-lov­ing’ Tessa

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - What’s On -

The mil­lion­aire owner of Chil­ham Cas­tle has spo­ken mov­ingly of his late wife’s “mis­chievous” sense of hu­mour in­clud­ing send­ing page 3 girls to his birth­day lunch.

Stu­art Wheeler, 82, who has owned the stately home since 2002, says he is get­ting to grips with run­ning the cas­tle which was looked af­ter by Tessa, who died aged 72 just be­fore Christ­mas.

He told the Stan­dard news­pa­per that his wife had been ini­tially re­luc­tant to leave Lon­don for Kent but threw her­self into it, host­ing nu­mer­ous par­ties and Ukip fundrais­ing din­ners af­ter her hus­band be­came party trea­surer.

Mr Wheeler, who made his for­tune in the spread bet­ting in­dus­try, once said the cost of run­ning the Ja­cobean man­sion was crip­plingly ex­pen­sive. “I com­pletely un­der­es­ti­mated the cost of re­fur­bish­ing and fur­nish­ing it,” he said.

The cou­ple met in Aspinalls Casino in May­fair owned by the Kent zookeeper John Aspinall when Mr Wheeler used the glam­our of high­so­ci­ety Lon­don to woo the bo­hemian pho­tog­ra­pher Tessa Co­dring­ton.

They had three daugh­ters, in­clud­ing the su­per­model Jac­quetta, who mar­ried at the cas­tle in 2012.

Mr Wheeler, who once gave £5 mil­lion to Ukip and has also sup­ported the Con­ser­va­tives with do­na­tions, told how the cou­ple were op­po­sites, him a pro­fes­sional gam­bler and she more suited to out­door life es­pe­cially horses.

He told the Stan­dard: “Tessa had a rare gift for get­ting on with peo­ple ter­ri­bly well. If we had peo­ple to din­ner, she’d launch off into a story with great en­ergy and end it with a very nice laugh that I could recog­nise from the other end of the ta­ble.”

Mr Wheeler was “amazed” when Tessa agreed to move to Chil­ham, “which seemed a nice cas­tle”. “She threw her­self into it and as a won­der­ful host — there’s not much point hav­ing a big place like that and not putting some peo­ple in it.”

Mrs Wheeler had spo­ken about the chal­lenges of turn­ing around the di­lap­i­dated build­ing “from roof to cel­lar” but fi­nally com­pleted the ren­o­va­tion in 2005 throw­ing a big party to co­in­cide with her hus­band’s 70th birth­day.

“We found the house in a sorry state. There was a huge amount of work that needed do­ing from roof to cel­lar,” she re­called. “The com­ple­tion of the ren­o­va­tion co­in­cided with Stu­art’s 70th birth­day in Jan­uary 2005 and we threw a party to cel­e­brate and thank all those in­volved.

“I’m happy to say Stu­art’s dream has come true. Most week­ends, the house is full of guests from many dif­fer­ent strands of so­ci­ety. He loves to mix peo­ple up and give them the chance to dis­cuss, ar­gue, eat and drink in a pri­vate and re­laxed at­mos­phere.”

Mr Wheeler told how he once con­sid­er­ing ar­rang­ing for a “ghost” to visit the cas­tle but his wife who was “full of mis­chief” got her re­venge in first by send­ing a stri­pa­gram nun to his of­fice with a fake writ.

“On another oc­ca­sion, Tessa brought page-three girls to my birth­day lunch. She was good fun,” he said.

Re­gard­ing Ukip’s suc­cess in driv­ing the out­come of the EU ref­er­en­dum, he ad­mits to mak­ing thou­sands for a bet that the UK would leave but he never found out how his wife had voted.

In his in­ter­view he re­calls with fond­ness his gifted and fun-lov­ing wife, who bat­tled can­cer for 10 years. “She was a very like­able char­ac­ter,” he said.

“We were both un­demon­stra­tive so we didn’t tell each other how we felt but I was cer­tainly proud of her.

“We were in­de­pen­dent but I don’t think that stopped us lov­ing each other very much.”

Tessa Wheeler with her beloved res­cue dog Otto

FOND MEM­O­RIES: Stu­art Wheeler

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.