Tony and Cherie Blair have bought the £4m former home of legendary actor Sir John Gielgud, it was reported last night. The Grade I listed stately home near Chequers is the Blairs' sixth property in their growing portfolio.
South Pavilion in Wotton Underwood, Buckinghamshire, has seven bedrooms, a "magnificent" weather-vane tower and sprawling grounds, including ornamental gardens two paddocks and a converted outbuilding.
Its close proximity to Chequers suggests the Blairs miss the country house comfort of the official Prime Minister's residence where they spent a decade of weekends. But for Mrs Blair, who wrote a book about Downing Street wives entitled The Goldfish Bowl, some renovations may be needed.
The South Pavilion is overlooked by another stately pile, Wotton House, which is open to the public in the summer months.
The Blairs appear to be unfussed by the housing slump which has put off other families from buying new homes. Mr Blair has earned more than a £1m since leaving Downing Street last July, in speaking fees and as an adviser to JP Morgan Chase.
According to The Mail on Sunday, the house's current owner is Effie Lecky, widow of Canadian discount airline boss John Lecky. She appeared to confirm that the Blairs had bought the house when she asked the newspaper: "Who told you?" before refusing to comment further.
Mark Rimell, director of country house sales for estate agents Strutt and Parker, which marketed the property after Sir John's death in 2000, said the lack of privacy was a drawback.
But Mr Blair, who had an interest in acting while at university, would be drawn to the association with its previous owner.
Mr Rimell said: "When I first viewed the property, Sir John Gielgud's Oscar was still sitting in the bathroom. The house even had its own stage, but overall it was looking somewhat tired. The next buyers did some wonderful renovation work and, when they sold it, it looked exceptional, attracting a fair bit of interest, including some very famous clients.
"The main problem, however, is the lack of privacy, You can be standing in one of the public rooms of Wotton House and get a clear view of the whole garden and some of the interior of South Pavilion. Ideally, you would want to combine both houses."
The house was reportedly on a select list of properties offered to the Blairs by Savills. A source told The Mail on Sunday: "It ticked all of Cherie's boxes. She wanted a small stately home within a 20-mile radius of Chequers."
A spokesman for the Blairs declined to comment last night.