Northampton

Apethorpe Hall sold to French baron after £8m English Heritage restoration

Apethorpe Hall
Image caption The property has been bought for £2.5m

A Jacobean country house which had fallen into decay has been sold after six years on the market.

Apethorpe Hall, near Oundle in Northamptonshire, was a favourite haunt of King James I.

The mansion has been bought for £2.5m by French professor, diplomat and academic, Jean Christophe Iseux, Baron von Pfetten.

English Heritage spent £8m renovating the hall, which fell into disrepair under a previous owner.

Part of the deal with Baron von Pfetten will see Apethorpe Hall open to the public for 50 days every year for the next 80 years. English Heritage will manage public access.

Built in 1470-80, Apethorpe played host to Queen Elizabeth I, King James I and King Charles I.

Image caption English Heritage spent £8m restoring Apethorpe Hall

Its stately apartments were where James indulged in "more commodious entertainment... and princely recreation" with his favourite, George Villiers, later to become the Duke of Buckingham.

The hall eventually became the property of Wanis Mohammed Burweila, but he left the country after the Libyan Embassy siege in 1984.

Apethorpe then fell into decay and ruin, riven with dry rot with its Jacobean plasterwork ceilings starting to collapse

The building was eventually bought by a consortium led by former QPR president Harold Winton, but the government was not happy with its plans and issued a compulsory purchase order and Apethorpe was bought for £3.5m.

In 2008, the 51,000 sq ft hall, complete with stable block, gardener's cottage and 45 acres of land, was put on the market for £4.5m.

English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley said Apethorpe was "by far the most important country house to have been threatened with major loss through decay since the 1950s".

Image caption Apethorpe Hall was a favourite haunt of King James I

Baron von Pfetten said he had spent the past 10 years renovating a 17th Century chateau in France and that his aim for Apethorpe was for it to "regain the place in British history it deserves".

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