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Very British protest sees off the Yanks

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: July 24, 2012

  • Halswell House

  • Stella Bond

  • Graham Bond

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t.rowe@bepp.co.uk

Feisty grandmother Stella Bond has forced an American bank to rethink its strategy to repossess her son's magnificent stately home, by staging a sit-in in the library.

The bizarre protest saw Mrs Bond, 78, camping out for three days in the panelled room at Halswell House, near Bridgwater, while security men waited outside ready to lock up the house if she ventured out of doors.

She said she would not leave unless Citi Private Banking provided evidence that it had a legal right to take possession. The stand-off continued with Mrs Bond sitting calmly in an armchair, while a young carer remained by her side, and Halswell's caretaker continued to walk his dog in the grounds.

It ended when the security men were suddenly withdrawn. But the future of the 300-year old Grade I-listed pile is still unclear.

Graham Bond bought Halswell House for £1.94 million and spent £800,00 restoring it as an upmarket wedding venue. At one time helicopters were almost as frequent arrivals as cars, as well-heeled couples flew in wedding guests, but the house also hit the headlines when it inadvertently staged a swingers' party.

Mr Bond's company, Dunster Properties Ltd, has run into financial problems and insolvency specialists Moorfields has confirmed that Robert Rick and Simon Thomas have been appointed administrators, and are looking to sell the house, which has temporarily closed as a venue.

Last week's stand-off took place after an official drove up the long drive, which snakes through a field of golden wheat, and sought to take possession.

Mr Bond was not at home, so his mother, who normally lives in a separate stable block which she owns, stepped in.

"I would have left the house if I had been shown paper work which proved that they had the right to take possession, but there was none and that is not right," she said.

Yesterday Mr Bond praised his mother's stand. He said: "She was part of the company in the 1990s and only retired five years ago. You try to keep financial difficulties from your mother but she has said, 'no' she wants to be involved and she has found this quiet strength to absolutely take on my case.

When she heard what was going on with Citi Private Banking she absolutely took on the cause."

Mr Bond added: "We have some real difficulties but Halswell is only closed temporarily."

Mr Bond is also in dispute with the bank over a five-bedroom mansion in Glebe Place, Chelsea, which he has in the past rented out to celebrities, including David and Victoria Beckham. He has a £4.1 million mortgage and wants to refinance the house and sell it allowing him to pay off his and his company's debts, which he says add up to around £11 million. But he says the bank will not supply a redemption figure – the final sum to be paid when clearing a mortgage – to allow refinancing.

The bank did not comment yesterday.

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  • siarad2  |  July 24 2012, 3:16PM

    Good on her seeing the bullies off

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