LETTER: Modest needs of the manor house

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The Independent Online
From Dr J. Hawgood

Sir: I was astonished to read Vicky Ward's statement ("Why Alice had to leave wonderland", 3 April) that "the bottom line for maintaining the most modest of historic houses is roughly around £100,000 a year". Lest that alarms people considering taking on the undoubted (but satisfying) burden of owning a listed historic house, may I put the record straight?

My wife and I live in a 20-room Grade I listed manor house with a two- acre garden, originally built about AD 1300 and extended in 1671 and 1736. We are both retired on modest pensions and have no private means, but we can afford to live here because our approximate annual costs (to compare with those in brackets quoted by Vicky Ward for "the average country house") are:

Council tax (Band G), £1,000 (community charge, £4,000); buildings and contents insurance, £2,000 (£l5,000); heating and lighting, £2,500 (£8,000); professional fees for accountants, £0 (£3,000); wages for indoor staff, £0 (£20,000); building maintenance, £2,000 (£20,000); security and picture restoration, £0 (£10,000); gardener, £0 (£25,000); garden equipment, £500 (£10,000) - total, £8,000 (£115,000).

Admittedly, our lifestyle and furnishings are modest, the possibility of major repairs being needed is a worry, and our garden is now too much for us, but the figures quoted by Vicky Ward really do seem totally unrealistic for "the most modest of historic houses" or even "the average country house".

Yours faithfully,

J. HAWGOOD

Durham

6 April

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