The Edgars’ home is their cas­tle, for now

The Weekend Australian - Life - - PROPERTY - RUTH BLOOM­FIELD

Bri­tain is a land of cas­tles but, aside from the fa­mous Beefeaters who guard the Tower of Lon­don, al­most no­body in Lon­don can claim to live in one — ex­cept for Dave and Bar­bara Edgar.

Their home for 20 years has been Van­brugh Cas­tle, a fortress-like folly built around 1720 by John Van­brugh, a great Ge­or­gian-era ar­chi­tect and play­wright. He is said to have mod­elled his south Lon­don man­sion on the French Bastille, where he was im­pris­oned on charges of spy­ing for the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment.

When Dave Edgar, now 60, and his wife, 59, first saw the cas­tle, “it was a real rush of blood to the head mo­ment”, he says. “We just fell in love. And given its his­toric im­por­tance we also felt that we could be cus­to­di­ans of the cas­tle for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

Van­brugh Cas­tle, in Green­wich, is one of the finest sur­viv­ing build­ings of its pe­riod.

In 1719 the 55-year-old Van­brugh mar­ried 26-yearold Hen­ri­etta Yar­burgh and de­signed their nup­tial home. The Bri­tish are known for their love of ec­cen­tric­ity, and Van­brugh Cas­tle is cer­tainly quirky. The gothic-style man­sion in­cludes de­fence tow­ers, bat­tle­ments and a cen­tral tower with a con­i­cal, cop­per roof.

“I think that Van­brugh must have been a lit­tle para­noid be­cause when we moved in we dis­cov­ered he had dug all sorts of quite spooky es­cape tun­nels run­ning from our cel­lar and out into the grounds,” Edgar says. “Be­cause we had an in­quis­i­tive eight-year-old at the time, we also got a lit­tle bit para­noid and had them bricked up, but there are tun­nels in the grounds which still ex­ist.”

Sadly, Van­brugh didn’t get to en­joy his cas­tle for long. He died af­ter suf­fer­ing an asthma at­tack in 1726, leav­ing Hen­ri­etta a widow with a young son, Charles.

In the years af­ter his death the cas­tle was sold. Sub­se­quent res­i­dents in­cluded a nov­el­ist, an en­gi­neer who pi­o­neered treat­ments for spinal in­juries, and an oil mer­chant who do­nated it to the Royal Air Force to be used as a school for the chil­dren of of­fi­cers killed in the ser­vice. It fell into dis­re­pair un­til, in 1976, a lo­cal con­ser­va­tion char­ity, the Black­heath Preser­va­tion Trust, took it on and con­verted it into four sep­a­rate homes.

The Edgars own the cen­tral sec­tion of the cas­tle, which mea­sures just over 232sq m. Laid out across three main floors it has four bed­rooms and two bath­rooms as well as a cel­lar. Their favourite part of the home is its roof ter­race in one of the bat­tle­ment tow­ers.

Set on a hectare, the man­sion has out­door spa­ces that in­clude gar­dens and wood­land shared with the cas­tle’s other home­own­ers. Af­ter they moved in, the Edgars no­ticed the re­mains of a pri­vate am­phithe­atre built by Van­brugh to put on al­fresco per­for­mances.

The prop­erty was in a “ter­ri­ble state” when they bought it for £400,000 in the mid-1990s. Be­fore they could move in, they em­barked on a year-long restora­tion, up­grad­ing ageing plumb­ing and wiring, re­dec­o­rat­ing and in­stalling a new kitchen and bath­rooms.

As well as the cel­lar of their main house, the Edgars also own a sec­ond cel­lar, ac­cessed via the back yard. They use this space as a party room and for guest ac­com­mo­da­tion and stor­age.

The Edgars are sell­ing be­cause their son, Tom, is now 28 and has left home. They want to down­size and would like a more lock-up-and-leave home so they can travel. The cas­tle is listed for £2.9 mil­lion ($5.7m). The Edgars have mixed feel­ings on the sale. “We all agree it is ab­so­lutely the right thing to do, but we are de­lib­er­ately not talk­ing about it,” Dave Edgar says. “It is such an emo­tional sub­ject. Mov­ing day is go­ing to be hard.”

Van­brugh Cas­tle, in Lon­don’s Green­wich, is one of the finest sur­viv­ing build­ings of its pe­riod. You can buy a slice for $5.7 mil­lion

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