Village speculates as couple retreat behind castle gates: 'Weird' and 'aloof' lord of the manor provides locals with gossip. Steve Boggan reports

DAMNED handy things, castles. When devils from abroad are on the rampage, threatening to horsewhip you; when local peasants are locking up their daughters because of you; when all and sundry want to string you up by the privates, you can lock the gates and let the world go by.

That's what Alan Clark, the former defence minister, did yesterday when news reached him that James Harkess, a former judge, was on his way to confront him for sleeping with his wife and two step-daughters. 'I've heard they're coming, but I'm just happy to have nothing to do with it,' Mr Clark told the Independent at the gates of Saltwood Castle.

I suppose you're also happy that you live in a castle?

'Hmm. Goodbye,' he said.

Earlier, while walking the family rottweilers with his wife, Jane, outside the walls of their pounds 8m, 12th-century home near Hythe in Kent, Mr Clark was more forthcoming.

Having agreed that he should be horsewhipped for having affairs with Valerie Harkess, 57, and her daughters, Josephine, 34, and Alison, 36, he at least defended himself over Josephine's claims that he showed her his 'willy' when she was only 13. He blamed Max Clifford, the family's publicist, for inventing the story.

Mr Clark and Mrs Clark spent the rest of the day behind the walls of the castle, the site at which the murderers of Thomas a Becket hatched their plot, and the location for a TV advertisement for breakfast cereal.

Several hundred yards away, in Saltwood village, the locals were dining out on tales of their philandering lord of the manor. Most said he was aloof; some said he was weird; all agreed he was anything but boring. 'It's the talk of the village,' said Deepakben Patel, the postmistress. 'He loves the publicity - always has - but this has shocked some people. The ones with young daughters say they won't let them anywhere near him from now on. Others say that he should be castrated.'

However, Mrs Patel admitted that she had been harbouring a grudge against Mr Clark since he cancelled his daily delivery of the Times, Daily Telegraph and Financial Times when he discovered another shop could do it for 3p a week less.

Many complained that he never opened his castle to the public. 'It would make money for everyone in the village if he did,' said Carole Waters, landlady of the Castle Hotel. 'He never comes in here, but we wish he would. He sounds fascinating.'

Sarah Giles, 15, wandered into the grounds briefly two weeks ago when a friend told her the castle was open. 'I went in to ask if it was OK but he sent me away. He was weird - he had on a shiny shirt and mirrored sunglasses.'

Max Clifford might have been interested to know that Mr Clark touched - or tapped - Sarah on the shoulder before asking her to leave.

But Mr Clifford had more important things to ponder yesterday - how, for example, to keep the story hot.

'The judge would love to confront Mr Clark but it won't be up at the castle,' he said. And raising the stakes to presidential magnitude, he added: 'I think I'd like to see them talking face to face. Perhaps . . . some sort of TV debate.'

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
News
Stephen Hawking is reportedly taking steps to trademark his name
people
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Inside Sales Executive - Software & Hardware Automation

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This market leading hardware an...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen withi...

Recruitment Genius: CAD Technician - Structural Engineering

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are Consulting Str...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Account Executive is require...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor