Rambling home that inspired Dickens for sale: Agents lower financial expectations as 'Miss Havisham's house' goes on the market needing extensive restoration

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The Independent Online
MISS Havisham's house is up for sale. The huge 17th-century building that inspired Charles Dickens's Satis House in his novel Great Expectations is now in the hands of the receivers.

Its most recent owner was Rod Hull, the comedian of Emu fame, who sunk thousands of pounds into restoring the house. His work included recreating the drawing room which Miss Havisham had intended for her bridal feast, putting in a large table, with a wedding cake and even the cobwebs.

Restoration House is in the centre of Rochester, Kent, very near where Dickens once lived. Documents in the local library confirm its literary association.

In Great Expectations, Pip refers to it as 'a large and dismal house'. On his first visit he asks Estella, Miss Havisham's companion, about the name Satis House.

She tells him that satis means 'enough'. 'But it meant more than it said,' Estella goes on. 'It meant, when it was given, that whoever had this house, could want nothing else.'

They would certainly not want for space. The house has six reception rooms, eight bedrooms and four bathrooms and sits in about half an acre of garden.

There is a dilapidated Grade II listed summer house in the grounds, which Samuel Pepys is said to have visited. The house itself is Grade I listed.

Many of the rooms still retain their grand features. A massive oak staircase sweeps up from the hall, which has a fine carved ceiling. The sitting room is fully panelled, with a stone fireplace bearing heraldic shields.

In the study there is a cupboard with hidden access to the King's Bedchamber and a secret passage runs 14 feet below the basement.

The name Restoration House dates back to 1660, when Charles II spent his first night back on English soil there, on his way to reclaim the throne. The owner of the house, Sir Francis Clerke, changed its name in honour of the King's visit.

During happier times it was owned by an industrialist, Stephen Aveling, who painted murals in the King's bedchamber. Despite the enormous time and expense put in by Rod Hull, the house still needs a tremendous amount of work.

Robin Tillett of Knight, Frank & Rutley in Tunbridge Wells, who are handling the sale, said: 'Rod Hull put such a lot into this house. It's terribly sad that it got the better of him. The figure of pounds 250,000 is a guide price which reflects the amount of work which needs to be done.' Rod Hull bought Restoration House in 1987 when it was in a dilapidated state. He first tried to sell it three years ago for more than pounds 600,000. It went to auction; but in the teeth of the recession, failed to sell.

Great Expectations ends with Satis House being emptied and put up for sale. 'There were printed bills on the gate, and on bits of carpet hanging out of the windows, announcing a sale by auction of the Household Furniture and Effects. The House itself was to be sold as old building materials and pulled down.'

Restoration House needs a new, Dickensian-style benefactor.

(Photograph omitted)