Buy a home, get An­thony Eden’s hat and coat free

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

Al­though Sir An­thony Eden may not have been one of the coun­try’s most suc­cess­ful prime min­is­ters – his mis­han­dling of the Suez Cri­sis saw to that – he was cer­tainly the most snap­pily dressed.

Pic­tures of him in the late 1930s show him sport­ing a stylish lounge suit with peaked lapels, which was the epit­ome of chic at the time, over a dou­ble­breasted waist­coat. With a neatly trimmed mous­tache and slick, Bryl­creemed hair, he cut a bit of a dash, es­pe­cially when com­pared with other, more crum­pled politi­cos of the era. His look was topped off with a beautifully cut over­coat and a Hom­burg hat, so widely as­so­ci­ated with him that it was of­ten re­ferred to as an “An­thony Eden”.

Now, his trade­mark over­coat and hat could be yours – if you buy the for­mer home of his mother, Sy­bil, in Rushy­ford, County Durham. “They are in quite a bat­tered state but it’s fun to take them out to show vis­i­tors,” says Valda Good­fel­low, 59, who, with her hus­band Paul, 60, has owned the house for the past 10 years.

“I imag­ine Eden used to keep them here so as not to spoil his best clothes when he was walk­ing the coun­try­side on visits to his mother.”

Fam­ily re­la­tions among the Edens were strained, so we can guess that his visits home were not ex­actly joy­ful oc­ca­sions. Born in nearby Windle­stone Hall into an aris­to­cratic fam­ily of landown­ers, his fa­ther, Sir William, was an ec­cen­tric, foul-tem­pered man. When he died in 1915, Lady Sy­bil – who was once de­scribed by Sir An­thony as “a very un­scrupu­lous and un­truth­ful woman” – frit­tered away the fam­ily for­tune. By 1936, Sir An­thony’s el­der brother, Tim, was forced to sell the es­tate and in­stall her in Park House, which is now on the mar­ket.

Dur­ing the years of these visits, be­tween 1936 and 1945, Sir An­thony was for­eign sec­re­tary, be­fore re­sign­ing in protest at Neville Cham­ber­lain’s ap­pease­ment pol­icy. He would have had much to mull over when out walk­ing, in­clud­ing Mus­sollini’s in­sult that he was “the best-dressed fool in Europe”. Like to­day’s po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, he also came un­der at­tack from his own side: Rab But­ler, a fel­low Tory MP, de­scribed him as “half mad baronet, half beau­ti­ful woman”.

“I think he was bet­ter as a lieu­tenant to Churchill than as a leader him­self,” says Good­fel­low, who has re­searched Eden’s life in some de­tail. “He was a com­plex man, re­mem­bered fondly by some of the lo­cals who have given me pic­tures, books and other doc­u­ments to add to my col­lec­tion of mem­o­ra­bilia, in­clud­ing the hat and coat.”

In­ter­nally, Park House it­self has changed be­yond recog­ni­tion since Lady Sy­bil lived there. Built around a rec­tan­gu­lar court­yard, one corner has been ex­tended, with big win­dows open­ing up views over the grounds and wood­land. The main liv­ing room has high ceil­ings and is open­plan and ideal for en­ter­tain­ing, com­pris­ing a din­ing area, lead­ing through to a sit­ting room, then a pa­tio. A mez­za­nine, used as a home of­fice, over­looks it all. The over­all ef­fect, thanks to the wood floors and heavy car­pets, is homely. “It’s a house to be lived in,” says Good­fel­low. “It’s not a set piece to be ad­mired.”

The kitchen, hand­made by a lo­cal firm, was in­stalled for the Good­fel­lows. There are also two more for­mal re­cep­tion rooms down­stairs, the li­brary and the draw­ing room, and up­stairs there are four bed­rooms, each with an en suite. On the op­po­site side of the court­yard there is a twobed­room guest cot­tage. It all stands in 28 acres of gar­dens, pad­docks and wood­land.

This sale is tan­gled in tales of both fam­i­lies’ his­to­ries. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War the Eden fam­ily pile, Windle­stone Hall, had been used as a pris­oner-of-war camp and Good­fel­low’s fa­ther, a Lat­vian, had been held there.

When the war ended, he had been al­lowed to stay in the coun­try, a ges­ture of com­pas­sion that made him a staunch English pa­triot. Good­fel­low ini­tially bought Park House be­cause it was in sight of Windle­stone, which meant so much to her fa­ther. She and her hus­band are sell­ing up now be­cause, hav­ing tried to re­tire, they have been tempted back into busi­ness, as sup­pli­ers to the hos­pi­tal­ity trade, and they need to live in a more cen­tral lo­ca­tion.

Then there is the ques­tion of Eden’s hat and coat. There is no covenant at­tached to it, but the pre­vi­ous owner ex­plained how a tra­di­tion had grown. “He had lived here for 28 years and he loved it, so it was clear [when we bought the house] that he was in­ter­view­ing us to be sure we were go­ing to look af­ter it,” says Good­fel­low. “In fact he had al­ready turned down an of­fer from a foot­baller who didn’t impress him. We agreed a price but he said we would have to prom­ise to leave the hat and coat so that it stayed with the house when we left. It was a mat­ter of trust.” Park House is on the mar­ket with Finest Prop­er­ties for £1.75mil­lion

Park House, main and be­low, is for sale with Finest Prop­er­ties for £1.75m; Sir An­thony Eden, be­low right

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