Castle left to charity by tory donor sells to mystery buyer for £15m

Grade-I listed 17th century Kent castle that gambling tycoon Stuart Wheeler left to charity instead of his three daughters sells to mystery buyer for £15 million

  • Chilham Castle, near Canterbury, comes with 16 bedrooms, swimming pool, shooting grounds and a vineyard
  • Built in 1616, it was purchased by Stuart Wheeler in 2002 after he sold £7.3 million worth of company shares 
  • Wheeler and wife Tessa, a society photographer, carried out extensive restoration work to bring it back to life
  • It is part of local community but residents fear new mystery buyer will sit on investment and ‘lock the gates’ 

A £15million Grade-I listed castle which comes with its own vineyard has been snapped up by a mystery buyer just four months after being put on the market. 

Built in 1616, Chilham Castle was left to charity by late tory donor Stuart Wheeler – in a move which stunned high society – and boasts a swimming pool, shooting grounds and 16 bedrooms. 

The final selling price for the sprawling 300 acre estate in Chilham, near Canterbury, Kent, is not known – but estate agents Knights Frank was encouraging offers in excess of £15million.  

Gambling tycoon and founder of IG Index Mr Wheeler, who donated £5 million to the Conservative Party, shocked family and friends when his will revealed he would not be leaving the castle to his three daughters – model Jacquetta Wheeler, Sarah Wheeler and Charlotte Wheeler – but would instead be putting it up for sale, with the profits going to a charity.

Built in 1616, Chilham Castle (pictured) was left to charity by a late tory donor and boasts a swimming pool, shooting grounds and 16 bedrooms

The stunning Jacobean home was completely restored by Stuart and Tessa Wheeler after they bought it in 2002 (Pictured: A living area) 

A formal dining room transports guests back to 17th century England – albeit with a more up-to-date fireplace 

The gorgeous home, sitting ona 300-acre plot, has been snapped up by a mystery buyer (Pictured: Reception room)

Locals fear the new buyer may not continue the traditions of the Wheelers which have seen the home form part of the local community, including allowing a local school to use its swimming pool (pictured) 

The enormous property comes with an incredible 16 bedrooms (Pictured: One of the rooms, with a poster bed and cosy fireplace) 

Gambling tycoon Stuart Wheeler died at the age of 85 (Pictured: Wheeler with his daughters Jacquetta, Sarah and Charlotte)

How Stuart Wheeler made his millions by inventing a whole new gambling industry

Stuart Wheeler made millions as the pioneer of spread betting in the early Seventies and lived in the magnificent Chilham Castle in Kent with his wife, a society photographer, and three glamorous daughters.

One is the supermodel Jacquetta Wheeler, who has worked for the likes of Burberry and Versace and who was named Model of the Millennium by The Face magazine in 1999.

For decades, Wheeler has moved in the most elevated of circles. A dedicated bridge player, he has counted Omar Sharif and Lord Lucan among his partners.

And in 2001, he gave £5million of his multi-million-pound fortune to the Conservatives, becoming the party’s largest single donor. 

The future tycoon was born with a club foot on January 30, 1935, in a hospital in Harrow, North-West London.

He was adopted just before his second birthday by Alexander Wheeler, a 55-year-old former Army officer and heir to a banking fortune, and his young wife Betty, daughter of a baronet, Sir John Gibbons.

The couple also adopted a little girl, Susan, on the same day – January 4, 1937.

Due to the wealth of their adoptive parents, Stuart and Susan initially enjoyed a privileged upbringing, living in a country house in the village of Manaton, Devon, where the family employed five servants.

He studied at Oxford University and left with a degree in law and worked as a barrister and merchant banker. 

In 1974, aged 39, he had taken out a £5,000 loan to set up the company IG Index, which allowed investors to speculate on the price of commodities. 

In doing so, Wheeler had created the new industry now known as spread betting. 

This allows people to bet not just on a fixed result but on a set of variables that can include anything from the price of gold to the number of corners awarded in a football match.

He met Tessa Codrington, a society photographer, at a dinner party. They married on July 14, 1979 and would go on to have three daughters – Sarah, Jacquetta and Charlotte.

For another decade he worked furiously at expanding his business

In 2002, Wheeler sold IG Index shares worth £7.3million so he could buy and refurbish Chilham Castle. 

Tiring of the day-to-day business, and intending to spend more time playing poker and bridge, he later sold his remaining stake in IG Index for £33million.

The move came despite the three sisters spending much of their time on the estate in the run up to their father’s death, with model Jacquetta documenting her love of the castle on social media after moving back there in winter 2020, following her break up with her hedge fund manager husband, Jamie Allsopp.

Sources previously told the Mail on Sunday the bold move left the siblings feeling ‘stressed’.

A family friend said: ‘Jacquetta is stressed at the moment – I think it is a tense time for all the girls.’ 

Jacquetta had documented her love of her family home on Instagram since she moved there for a time last winter, after splitting up with her husband Jamie. 

They married in 2012 at Chilham, and the wedding featured in Vogue. 

She described the property on social media as ‘misty and beautiful’, ‘crazy beautiful’, ‘like Narnia’ and ‘magic’.

Her father, who previously said he wanted to leave money to anti-torture charities, once mused he could leave nothing to his daughters but declared before his death: ‘I have given and will leave them rather a lot.’

Estate agent Will Matthews of Knight Frank said at the time: ‘All three girls use it all the time, they were there together this week. 

‘It truly is a really usable residential home… and an absolutely amazing party place. I’ve rarely heard of a sale like this, where proceeds from the sale of a private home are going to charity.

‘We’ve had a lot of interest from interesting people.’ 

The Jacobean home is described as ‘one of the finest houses in south-East England’ and was only put on the market in April following Mr Wheeler’s death. 

And locals now fear the Jacobean estate, which has become an integral part of the local community, could be snapped up by a Russian oligarch who will simply sit on his investment and ‘lock the gates’. 

It comes after Mr Wheeler and his wife, photographer Tessa Wheeler, performed a lavish restoration of the site after purchasing it in 2002 – bringing it back into full use and reopening it to visitors.    

Charismatic Tessa soon won over the hearts of villagers by hosting an annual Christmas party for children and letting the local school use the swimming pool for lessons.

A keen horse rider, Mrs Wheeler also developed the estate as a centre of equestrian excellence.

Tessa passed away at the age of 72 just before Christmas in 2016 from cancer.

Estate agents, Knight Frank, are keeping tight-lipped about the identity of the castle’s new owner, but it follows weeks of massive interest from well-heeled prospective buyers.

On a listing on the estate agent’s website, the castle is described as ‘a truly magnificent property in a landscape of extraordinary beauty.’

Parish councillor, Dr Geoff Meaden, said he hoped the new owner would follow in the footsteps of Stuart and Tessa Wheeler by getting involved in the local community.

He told the Kentish Gazette: ‘Chilham Castle is such a dominant feature in the village and the Wheelers did an amazing job of restoring it.

‘With a property like this there will always be rumours that it’s been bought by a rock star or some celebrity but we just haven’t heard anything yet.

‘I think we would all rather hope that it’s not some Russian oligarch who will rarely be there and keep the gates locked.

‘It would be nice if the estate remained part of the village and its life.’

Tiffany Jordan, 25, barmaid at The White Horse Pub in Chilham said at the time the property went up for sale: ‘We were wondering if the National Trust were going to take it.

‘Depending on who the new owners are, we were worried whether it was going to change the village aesthetic.’

Another villager added: ‘I thought maybe a company might buy it and use it as a hotel, a boutique hotel and spa.

‘It’s in a nice setting and there are not that many nice big hotels in Kent.

‘You just hope that a footballer or Russian doesn’t buy it and ruin the village.’  

Stuart Wheeler, a gambling tycoon, shocked high society when he left the sale of Chilham Castle (pictured) to charity

The Knight Franks website was updated saying the property had been sold subject to contract.

Stuart Wheeler made millions as the pioneer of spread betting in the early Seventies and lived in the magnificent Chilham Castle with his wife, a society photographer, and three glamorous daughters. 

He studied at Oxford University and left with a degree in law and worked as a barrister and merchant banker. 

In 1974, aged 39, he had taken out a £5,000 loan to set up the company IG Index, which allowed investors to speculate on the price of commodities. 

In doing so, Wheeler had created the new industry now known as spread betting. 

This allows people to bet not just on a fixed result but on a set of variables that can include anything from the price of gold to the number of corners awarded in a football match.  

He met Tessa Codrington, a society photographer, at a dinner party. They married on July 14, 1979 and would go on to have three daughters – Sarah, Jacquetta and Charlotte. 

For another decade he worked furiously at expanding his business

In 2002, Wheeler sold IG Index shares worth £7.3million so he could buy and refurbish Chilham Castle. 

Tiring of the day-to-day business, and intending to spend more time playing poker and bridge, he later sold his remaining stake in IG Index for £33million.

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