Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pick of the Night

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pick of the Night

Article excerpt


Country House 7.30pm, BBC2

WE LOVE to see how the other half lives. In fact, we are so keen that this is the start of the fourth series of Country House - and, never mind about the other half, here we see how the other 0.1 per cent live.

Cameras move into Somerley, in the New Forest, home of the Sixth Earl of Normanton (right). Lord N to his friends. Although Norm seems somehow more appropriate.

"Hello my lord," house manager Anthony says, greeting Norm back to Somerley from holiday at the start of the programme.

"Welcome back, sir. Had a good journey, sir?"

adds Anthony, one of a generous complement of household staff. The display of servility is a flashback to the time when everyone was expected to grovel to their social superiors.

Norm has been to the Caribbean island of Mustique, but is glad to be back at his home, designed by Samuel Wyatt in the mid 1700s. "It's good to be back in paradise," says the ex-Etonian, who is divorced with three children, Lady Portia, Lady Marisa and Viscount James.

Time has left Somerley fairly untouched, as we see when the staff break into frenzied activity to ensure a correct grand welcome for a visit from Lord and Lady Beaverbrook. But despite his lifestyle, Norm likes the simple things in life. "If you give him mash, you can't go wrong," confides his chef.

Unlike many stately homes, Somerley is not supported by any heritage institutions or public visitors. It is just a family home - but can it afford to stay like that? Norm is determined it will. .

To bring in cash to run the house Norm has turned to pop concerts and corporate entertainment. He has also sold various works of art, including one Titian, which netted [pounds sterling]7.5 million seven years ago.

"People don't realise I had to pay 88 per cent tax on that and I got only about a million, which I ploughed back into the house," he says.

You can't help feeling that, despite his self-effacing manner, Lord N will do anything to keep his house restricted to the elite and out of bounds to everyone else. …

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