Up for sale for a cool million, although it might need a few oddjobs doing... it’s a home licenced to thrill homeseekers, and designed by the real-life Goldfinger.
Aspiring arch villains in search of a lair could find what they are looking for in Henley-in-Arden.
Sadly, the house called Whitley Piece isn’t packed with bullion or bristling with lasers (useful for torturing interfering agents on tabletops), but is a rather appealing six-bedroom home boasting some fine views, available for just shy of a million pounds.
The property was designed by the Hungarian-born architect Ernö Goldfinger, who is best known for his brutalist tower blocks built to combat Britain’s post-war housing crisis.
But he achieved literary infamy after Ian Fleming used his unusual and wonderfully descriptive surname for the Fort Knox-robbing Auric Goldfinger in his seventh book. It was originally called The Richest Man in the World, with the idea for the character said to be based on flamboyant American industrialist Charles Engelhard.
However, Fleming used Goldfinger’s last name after the two had crossed swords over Ernö’s demolition of a period terrace in London to make way for his own house at Willow Road, Hampstead.
Goldfinger was known as a humourless man with a fiery temper. One of Fleming’s golfing chums, a cousin to Goldfinger’s wife, Ursula Blackwell (of the soup-making Crosse and Blackwell family), and no great admirer of his cousin-in law, further fuelled Fleming’s desire to take revenge in print.
Goldfinger was, perhaps predictably, unamused by being immortalised as an evil-doer and called in his lawyers.
Fleming hit back by threatening to change the name to “Goldprick” but the issue was settled when his publishers agreed to pay Goldfinger’s costs and gave him half a dozen copies of the book.
The owners of Whitley Piece, Frank and Judy Mackay, were unaware of its heritage when they bought it 30 years ago, attracted instead by its large, south-facing rooms.
“We found out some years after we bought it when, out of the blue, we were visited by a Colonel Fletcher who had commissioned Goldfinger to design it in 1947. He asked to have a look around and he told us of the connection.”
There were no dens filled with weaponry to be discovered when they moved in, although they did find some other Goldfinger signatures.
“A particular feature is a curved fireplace that is also in the house he built in London which is now a National Trust property,” he said.
“We haven’t had any visits from fans of James Bond but we have from architectural historians. For us this has just been a fantastic family home.”
Whitley Piece is for sale for £950,000 through John Shepherd.