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Johnny Depp rumoured buyer of Downton Abbey style Hadspen estate in Somerset

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 05, 2014

  • Johnny Depp

  • Hadspen House

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Hollywood actor Johnny Depp is rumoured to be buying a Downton Abbey-style mansion in Somerset.

The Pirates of the Caribbean actor, 50, who was previously in a long-term relationship with Vanessa Paradis, is thought to be planning a new home with his latest partner and actress Amber Heard.

Hadspen estate in Castle Cary, Somerset – which has been in the Hobhouse family since 1785 – is thought to be up for sale at a rumoured £12 to £13 million.

The stunning abode, which looks like it has been taken straight out of a Jane Austen novel, features 12 bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a sprawling walled gardens and a shoot within its 850 acres.

The newly engaged couple better be quick to put in an offer though, as the property is also thought to have been viewed by a South African who wants to create a new version of celeb-favourite, Babington House.

The sale of a Somerset manor house illustrates the rocketing demand for Downton Abbey style estates with storylines to match from overseas buyers.

Niall Hobhouse said inheriting and restoring one of the prettiest country houses in England, which was built with money made from trading sugar, tobacco and slaves, is not the dream many believe it to be.

Nearly ten years ago he was accused of “an act of vandalism” in a row which raged on both sides of the Atlantic when he bulldozed a 32,000-square-foot garden created by his mother, the acclaimed garden designer Penny Hobhouse, and launched a competition to find a new design.

Many were unhappy to see the demise of the work of the 84-year-old, who designed English country gardens for a number of famous Americans, including Apple founder Steve Jobs, and chronicled the transformation in her well known book The Country Gardener.

But Mr Hobhouse said when the two Canadian gardeners, who moved to England to take it over when his mother and father divorced in the mid-1980s, eventually retired in 2005, their experiments in breeding and hybridising plants became too labour intensive to maintain.

When he originally decided to sell nearly two years ago, Mr Hobhouse told The Sunday Times that inheriting the estate from his grandfather 30 years ago had involved complex negotiations which took years to settle.

“I ended up landlord to my own father,” he said at the time. “We did it to keep ahead of the tax man, but it destroyed our relationship. In retrospect, it wasn’t worth it.”

Niall, who celebrates his 60th birthday in August, is the middle of three children, Georgina and David being the other two.

There are dozens of Hobhouses around Castle Cary but former leading county councillor Henry Hobhouse, laughed at suggestions they are all due a windfall.

“It’s Niall’s,” he said. “What Niall does with the estate is his private business and nobody else’s. I don’t know who has moved in because we’ve not really spoken since he bulldozed Penny’s garden.”

The land registry lists the new owners as the Regent Trust, an offshore trust in Jersey, and it is understood the international buyer has insisted on keeping their identity secret.

Nobody in the estate office was willing be drawn on the identity or the future owner of the imposing mansion.

Estate agents also refuse to discuss the buyer of the house which was originally built to cement Henry Hobhouse’s position on the landed gentry.

Mr Hobhouse, who has an abiding interest in architecture and trustee of various museums, has given lectures on what happened when he decided to put his own mark on the estate after his father’s death in 1992.

Hobhouse embarked on a thorough reinterpretation of the estate.

Brimming with ideas, the renovation which he estimated cost between £4 and £5 million includes a brand new roof and a facelift of every room by local craftspeople.

There was a Sotheby’s sale in 1996 and the manor is now a mix of old and new.

Before leaving, Mr Hobhouse said he had fond memories of spending time in the cosy attic rooms but his twin children, Arthur and Eleanor, preferred London to maintaining a country estate with five full-time staff.

He told The Sunday Times: “A place like this needs someone to live in it and engage with it. I’m too busy and distracted to do that.”

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