A house of history and colour!
PUBLISHED: 17:05 07 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:54 20 February 2013
Standing in the shadows of Warwick Castle, number 2 Mill Street, has seen over 270 years of history come and go past its doors and was the scene of a number of liaisons between King Edward VII and his mistress. Victoria Jenkins is shown round by t...
Standing in the shadows of Warwick Castle, number 2 Mill Street, has seen over 270 years of history come and go past its doors and was the scene of a number of liaisons between King Edward VII and his mistress. Victoria Jenkins is shown round by the current owners.
You would never think, looking at this charming Grade II listed house in a quiet cul-de-sac by Warwick Castle, what an unexpected history it has. But this is where one of the most famous women of Edwardian times used to stay - Frances Greville, Countess of Warwick and mistress to Edward VII. One visit, at least, was reported by the Warwick Advertiser in April 30th 1932.
What is surprising is that at the foot of the garden are the grounds of Warwick Castle and one might have thought the Countess would have stayed there in her husband's ancestral home. But a neighbour in Mill Street recalls that one of the Countess's sons the Hon Maynard Greville also stayed at no 2 Mill Street for a time as did Lady Marjorie, one of the Countess's daughters. Another neighbour recalls that as a child she met Lady Marjorie coming out of No 2 one day. Lady Marjorie asked the little girl Norah the name of the doll that she was holding. Upon learning it was as yet nameless suggested her own name Marjorie.
The Countess, born Frances Maynard and who married into the aristocratic Greville family, was known as Daisy. A famous society beauty she was well known for her love affairs and these are what gave rise to the popular song Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer Do.
However No 2 is now the home of Christine and Peter Dangerfield where they live with Christine's daughter Daniella (23) and three cocker spaniels Chelsea, Bella and Rosie.
They moved into the 1730s six-bedroom house 11 years ago after their marriage (both for the second time) because as they then had four children between them they needed a bigger house.
"We loved it as soon as we walked in," says Christine. "Mill Street is a cobbled cul de sac and our house has a lovely long garden behind it. It had some lovely period features such as two beautiful marble fireplaces, beams, stone floors throughout most of the ground floor and an Aga; plus later we discovered there were two wells in the garden - one had been filled in with stones while the other was really scary as when you dropped a stone in it took ages before you heard a splash."
One side of the house had been turned into offices and rather strangely a cooker and a shower was in what is now the couple's laundry area.
However the kitchen with its bright red Aga was where it still is and was in perfect condition so initially all the couple did to improve the house was to put new tiles behind the Aga, have fitted wardrobes handmade by the local joiner and redecorate throughout. However, they did do a lot of planting in the garden as there was only a lawn when they arrived and now it is what Christine says is a proper country garden with bluebells, snowdrops and foxgloves in spring. And as a particularly elegant touch they hung twin balls of 'moss' (really Astroturf) on either side of the front door.
Six years ago, three of the children had left home and the couple decided to make some changes. They began by putting on a new slate roof using both original and reclaimed tiles then received planning permission to extend the exterior wall of the dining room. Although they added on only four feet or so, putting in French windows leading to the garden as well, they say the extra space has made a marked difference to the feel of the room. Peter, a builder, then panelled the dining room in American oak (based on the panelling in the famous Buckland Manor) to give it a very old feeling.
They also opened up some of the roof space, used hitherto just to store suitcases, and made it into a bedroom adding a window and a window seat. They also put down oak flooring in Daniella's bedroom and in the family bathroom.
One imaginative touch was the trompe l'oeuil door painted on the garden wall - it stands apparently half open as though inviting you to slip into the Castle's rose garden. This came from John Cornell Antiques in Warwick.
"I love antiques," says Christine. "I always wanted a four poster bed as a child and now I've got one and it's definitely my favourite item. It dates from the 18th century and came from Bonhams in Knowle. I always wanted an Aga as well because the farmhouse in which I grew up had one and luckily this house came with one too; another item I grew up with was a claw-footed bath and one of those was here as well."
The French mirror in the drawing room is Regency and came from an antique centre in Warwick and in the dining room is Christine's large collection of old pewter plates on a shelf running round the ceiling.
And does any trace of their former famous occupant remain? "I sometimes do feel a presence," says Christine. "But I've never seen anything and the presence feels friendly. Unfortunately now the children have all grown up we are thinking of downsizing but we'll be very sorry to leave such a historic house."
Number 2 Mill Street is for sale (offers in excess of £975,000) through Knight, Frank 01789 297735
Christine and her sister Hilary have run Elegant Clutter Ltd for 15 years which creates bespoke artwork and accessories for the international leisure market. They are equally at home installing local history artwork in the restaurant down the road as they are installing original artwork into the executive suites of the latest American cruise ship. ECL design, project-manage, manufacture and install all artworks seven days a week including bank holidays www.elegantclutter.co.uk