Parnham House was once one of the most impressive (and cursed) Tudor mansions in England, brought to glory in the 1520s and then remodeled in the early 19th century by John Nash, the most celebrated architect of the Regency. It is set on 131 acres of park land that are described as “magnificent.”
Now it’s for sale for $3.9 million (£3 million), but there’s a catch. A big one. The mansion was ravaged by fire a year ago under very mysterious circumstances and has an illustrious, yet harrowing past.
Its recent owner, Michael Treichl, an Austrian-born financier, spent 15 years restoring the vast house. The 2017 fire was considered suspicious, and Treichl has since drowned.
Knight Frank is putting the house on the market, calling it “an opportunity of a lifetime.” While the park land is gorgeous and the house illustrious, the fire has left it “completely derelict, requiring total restoration.”
“Whoever takes on the huge project will have to consult Historic England due to the grand property being Grade I Listed,” reported Dorset Echo.
The house is set away from the road, rising on grounds that include stone statues and topiary that have remained unchanged for centuries.
For two centuries Parnham House belonged to the Strode family, who took possession in the mid-1500s, when Richard Strode married Elizabeth Gerard, whose ancestors built the first house on the site in about 1400.
During the English Civil War, the house saw tragedy. On July 5, 1645, while protecting house and home from the Roundheads, Lady Strode was “brutally killed by a soldier under the command of Colonel Fairfax,” said the Dorset Echo.
In 1810 William Oglander, a new owner, commissioned the famed John Nash to restore and enlarge the house. Nash also worked on the 19th century enlargement of Buckingham Palace.
Evidence of his work in Parnham includes distinctive winding staircases and stone mullioned windows.
In 1896 Vincent Robinson moved in, followed by Hans Sauer, “who was keen to restore the Tudor interior,” according to Dorset Life. The Rhodes-Moorhouse family followed; William Rhodes-Moorhouse was the first airman to win the Victoria Cross in World War One. His son was killed in the Battle of Britain.
During the 1920s Parnham was a country club. “Visitors included Arthur Conan Doyle and the Prince of Wales,” wrote Town & Country.
It was requisitioned during World War 2 for the American army. In 1956 the house became a nursing home until 1973. It had been empty for three years when it was bought for $140,000 by John and Jennie Makepeace for their School for Wood Craftsmen, where leading cabinet makers were trained.
In 2009, Dorset Life raved over the work done on the house by financier Michael Treichl and his wife, Emma, a former model: “They have exceeded expectations in re-creating the grandeur of a Grade I listed stately home and at the same time the more intimate atmosphere of a delightful family home.”
With the guidance of English Heritage and top architects, the segregating hallways, corridors and stud walls were removed. Daylight now pours into the once-dark rooms. “But what has also been achieved can only be described as a kind of room reverse psychology,” said Dorset Life. “Whilst the rooms have been made bigger, instead of finding them loft-like and unfriendly, you feel drawn into them and compelled to stay within the comfort they offer.”
Reportedly Treichl spent $14 million on restoring and improving the house.
But on April 15, 2017, a suspicious fire raged throughout Parnham. Almost immediately, the BBC and other media outlets reported the fire as “suspicious.” In the press, it became a major story. “In 32 years it’s one of the most intense fires I’ve ever seen,” said Beaminster fire commander Mark Greenham.
Treichl was arrested for arson, telling the media, “The restoration of Parnham has been my life’s work and it is insane to think I could have destroyed it.”
Two months later, while on bail, Treichl was found, drowned, in Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Legal authorities then closed the investigation of the fire.
The sale is somewhat urgent. A report from the government concluded that stabilization work should be carried out soon to prevent “likely” collapses of the walls.
Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at *Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone*, and *InStyle*, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com.