Countess sells earldom to buy central heating

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The Independent Online
The first earldom to come up for auction was sold yesterday by a Scottish countess to pay for the installation of central heating in her cottage.

The Earldom of Arran was sold by the Countess of Arran, Lady Jean Fforde, 74, who has had it in her family since the 15th century. It comes with 1,000 acres on the Scottish island of Arran and the ruined 13th century castle of Loch Ranza.

The title, which could also entitle the holder to a seat in the House of Lords, was bought anonymously in a private deal with the Manorial Society after it was withdrawn from yesterday's auction after failing to reach its reserve. Bidding stopped at £400,000.

Robert Smith, the auctioneer, yesterday refused to disclose the identity of the buyer, who will be a neighbour of Lady Fforde's, or what they had paid.

He said: "A condition of this purchase is that I can't say who the buyer is. The title didn't reach its reserve but as I left the auction room I was buttonholed by someone who asked what the reserve was and we came to a deal."

Lady Fforde will use the money to repair and heat her home in the former estate office of Broadwick Castle on the Isle of Arran. She handed the castle to the National Trust in 1960 in lieu of death duties.

She said yesterday: "I haven't a clue who bought it but it would be very nice if I could at least speak to them and see that it is good hands.''

Lady Fforde added that she was sad to lose the title."But losing it is nothing like when I lost the family castle to the National Trust. The castle and all its contents were taken from me and it was like losing my whole life."

The buyer will have to apply to the ancient Lyon Court in Edinburgh before gaining the right to call himself the Earl of Arran.